Archive for June, 2015

As You Like It

June 17th, 2015 by Julia Dunn

“And why wouldn’t I like that line?” It’s an honest question, and I can practically hear the quizzical note in his professorial voice, indicating that he’s raising an eyebrow at me. It’s as though what he’s really asking is “Now, Julia, is there anything WRONG with having an emotional response to your letter?” I don’t respond right away trying to formulate the right response. No, it’s not that he had an emotional response, that’s what every writer wants to hear, but what he had an emotional response to. The thing is that whenever you create what ever form of art is your forte, you expect it to have a certain effect. You start to think that part a might cause the reader to roll his or her eyes, the notes on page four will make him or her laugh and maybe even that this line on page 8 will provoke a tear or two. When things don’t follow your emotional outline, it makes you pause. It’s odd that things can have an effect that you didn’t anticipate. It almost doesn’t make sense, but it also makes you feel proud that you could have an impact that you didn’t anticipate. And, this was the second time this week that I’d experienced this reaction.

The first instance: in my living room a few days after we returned from Argentina. I was cataloging trip photos that I’d received from various members of the choir. As more and more emails came in and pictures started to fit into neat categories, I paused over one set of them. Written in broken English was an email from one of the adults who helped the orchestra of underprivileged kids we’d worked with one night.

It was a simple message. Translated it essentially read: “Here are the pictures you wanted and thanks for working with us. We had fun. Good luck in the future.” The grammar wasn’t perfect and the email was simple enough that it shouldn’t have marked me in any way. And it didn’t. Nor did the pictures that accompanied it. In fact, at the time I didn’t think much of it other than it’s pretty cool to communicate with someone living in Argentina.

So what changed my mind?

Well, after hours of cataloging pictures, uploading the decent ones to Facebook so that the rest of the choir could see them, and tagging all of my friends, I started to notice something. The pictures that got the most likes were the ones featuring the kids. And the people who liked them, weren’t just the choir people but actually some of the kids that added us to their “Friends” list on Facebook. Through this simple action, it dawned on me that we really had become a part of each others lives.

To be honest, there is a part of me that questioned the idea of the service aspect of our trip. I’m not saying that working with the kids wasn’t a worthwhile experience, but going through it, I wouldn’t have paused to say “wow this is moving,” or “we’re definitely helping these people.” Yes, we could see the poverty. Yes, we knew that in some small way that we helped to make them forget some of their personal hardships. Yes, we even knew that they were not financially well off and subsequently relied upon the generosity of Argentina’s socialist party for the small room they currently rehearsed in. There was no doubt that this group was one that deserved to get something special out of the evening. But really, was what we brought them all that special? Were we more than just privileged Americans looking on at what life is like for those living in a developing nation?

Realistically, all we’d done that night was a round of vocal improv and tried to get the kids to feel comfortable with singing a few verses of John Mayer’s aptly pointed song “Waitin’ on the World to Change” with us. Both activities came from a genuine desire to do something positive with these kids. Our goals as a choir was to forge a connection, both within the music and with the students. We knew that due to budget concerns, the loss of the music they so enjoyed could be a reality for them in the near future. Our joint rehearsal and performance for and with each other was moving, but I couldn’t say that I felt like I had really made a difference or inspired any of the students.

When these same students showed up at our formal concert the next night and “Friended” some of us on Facebook, however, I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrow. They had come from hours away to see us. Us, a choir that they’d met yesterday, whom they had already heard perform, and they still came, (some spending their own meager allowances to take a long bus ride to see us). Having made an impact on them was undeniable in that respect.

Thinking back on the meal which followed out experience with the Arranque Orchestra, this should not have been a surprise to me. The voice of Holy Cross’s Study Abroad coordinator hung in the air over us: “You don’t know what you’ve done for them,” he said. “You have no idea how long the impact of something like this will last.” At first it sounded like the typical Holy Cross speech: we can all change the world if we try by living the Jesuit mission. It’s a nice thought, but it’s one that we hear so often that almost seems routine. As he continued, however, you could see that he genuinely believed in what he was saying. Maybe it’s because he looked like Jesus that I wound up buying into his speech by the end of it and remembered it a day later. Maybe it’s because on some level, I did feel moved. To be honest, I’m not quite sure. But, I will say this, whatever small thing we did for these kids, he was right, it made a difference to them. I might dread vocal improv and be less emotional than your average volunteer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see just how much this sort of thing can mean to someone else.

So, in the present, when my friend says things like your words “were touching,” with a subtext of “Julia this really meant something. Get over it.” I’m forced to concede that while I may not have intended for him to respond the way that he did, that my gift of words, much like the choir’s gift of music, did have some sort of deep and unforseen emotional impact. Both “gifts” brought us closer to the people they were given to. It might not have been what I personally thought I had given these people, it was what they felt I did – that something small and innocent and human gave them a moment to feel loved and connected to something outside of themselves. It’s crazy how any form of “art” can have an this unforeseen powerful effect.

In the present, I put my phone aside to answer him later and instead glance at my laptop. It’s still open to the tagged picture of HCC and El Arranque in that small one room practice space. Of course, as usual, this particular friend is right. “Have whatever emotional response you want to Argentina, I’m glad that the choir I am a part of has inspired you in some way.” I for one might not cry over it, but if any of them are so moved, by all means they can cry (or don’t) for us. Argentina, we, as a choir, have given you all we had to offer either way.


– Julia Dunn '16

Thank You, Argentina

June 5th, 2015 by arouel16

If you’ve ever come to one of our concerts throughout the academic year, you’ll know that the Holy Cross College Choirs have quite the following. Whether it’s Lessons and Carols or Family Weekend, the College Choirs can always count on a responsive and excited audience; but of course, this is not something we take for granted. As chair of the choir for next year, I understand that the quality of our performances is what helps ensure a high audience turnout. In the end, we are incredibly blessed and grateful to have such a supportive, enthusiastic community on Mount Saint James. However, when we came to Argentina, I wasn’t sure if we would receive the kind of love and feedback from our Argentinian audiences as we always get back at home; after all, we were traveling to the other end of the world where we didn’t have our solid base of friends and family. But when we had our first concert at the Stock Exchange Building in Buenos Aires, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the concert sold-out, but the audience was extremely active and supportive; I could see many audience members grooving in their seats to “Uptown Funk” and some were even singing along to “Brindisi” from La Traviata. Our second major concert at the Cordoba Cultural Center received the same level of enthusiasm and response. Apart from a standing ovation and even an encore, several audiences members took the time to come up to us following the concert to commend our performance. For example, one gentleman came up to a group of us and said that our performance helped put a smile on his face after his father had been in the hospital that week. Another audience member, a voice teacher from Paris, France who had just happened to stumble upon our concert that evening, complimented our technique and praised our performance. Overall, everyone in the tour choir would agree with me that the Argentinian audiences were some of the best audiences we have ever performed for. However, it wasn’t their cheers and “bravos” that made them the “best” — it was the genuine love and happiness they displayed towards us. Thank you, Argentina for being such an appreciative and loving audience. 

-Adam Ouellet ’16

Still Day One

June 3rd, 2015 by Julia Dunn

It started off as a typical day: we all woke up in a sleep deprived haze, ate our now daily bread and cheese breakfast, boarded a bus to the sound of Paige’s headcount and ventured to the token church of the day, this time one in a famous Jesuit Mission. Oddly enough, despite how moved David felt, as we sang from the choir loft, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of routine. This sort of thing is who we are and what we do here and now: we visit churches and we offer some sort of impromptu performance each day (today in a choir loft, others in places like the local Starbucks). That’s not to say that the church wasn’t beautiful and that our performance didn’t impact the people who heard it. On the contrary, both of those things are true. Wherever we had gone and performed we were met with the smiles and laughter of the Argentinian people. But my point, is that as great as this sort of thing was, this beauty, had come to feel like part of a routine: get up, travel, sing somewhere slightly obtuse, repeat at least once daily – essentially be the traveling Von Trapp family.

The beauty of yesterday, however, stems from an interruption to this routine. We knew in advance that this performance in the Cultural Center of Córdoba was our last show of the year and for many of us, it was the last time we’ll ever sing together or maybe even see each other. I had to fight back tears knowing that our “core four Chamber Singer altos” will never sing together again: Nina will be abroad next year, Hannah’s switching to soprano and I’ll have graduated before Nina comes back from her year abroad. The feeling of loss from knowing that things would never be the same hung over us. We took pictures, we smiled, we pretended it wasn’t goodbye, knowing full well that in some ways it was. But the thing of it is, this sadness inspired us.

Knowing that it was our last moment as a part of this particular group, we poured all that we had into the performance. We smiled under the stage lights and danced to “Uptown Funk” for the last time, each of us allowing our motto (“Altos: we have fun”) to echo through our minds. We let our feelings inspire our performance. We said goodbye through song.

At the end of the show, at dinner in a gorgeous restaurant, we toasted our successes. “I almost cried after Soneto!” “We actually got that note right!” “That was the best we’ve ever been.”

I wrote earlier of something different in the air here. At the time, I had no idea of what that was. As the days ticked by and we joked about it still being “Day 1,” I came to realize that the “something” I’d been feeling was a tremendous amount and love and inspiration for the group I’ve led for the past year. We’ve never had a better performance. I’ve never been so proud.

– Julia Dunn ’16

Mass and Travel to Córdoba

June 2nd, 2015 by rmfusc17

Yesterday morning, May 31st, we had the opportunity to sing at mass at a local Jesuit church in Buenos Aires. The church was beautiful. It was filled with many beautiful statues and paintings. It looked like the ceiling was going through some construction because there was a sheer cloth covering it up. However this did not take away from the beauty of the church. It was fascinating to see churches in Argentina. They are so different from churches in the U.S. They are full of rich detail and color with gold embellishments. The architecture is amazing. It was also interesting experiencing a mass in Spanish. The choir has many different levels of Spanish skills ranging from native speaker to no Spanish at all. For me, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I understood. It was very interesting to go through a mass service, something that I have done every week of my entire life, and at some points be completely lost and at other times completely able to follow what was going on. It was a great learning experience.

The church was the oldest Jesuit church in Buenos Aires. During the homily the priest thanked us for our presence at the mass. He told the congregation that although we come from different places we are all connected by the same faith, the same Jesuit bond, the same vocation and the same original sin. Even after we leave Buenos Aires and Argentina, we will still share the connection with the people of the congregation because of this shared experience. We will always have ties to the church in Buenos Aires because of our shared vocation.

Following mass we enjoyed a few moments of American bliss in Starbucks where we indulged in iced coffees, bagles and other American favorites that we have been missing over the past few days. The baristas asked us where we were from and what brought us to Buenos Aires. When we told them we were a choir they asked if we would sing for them. Once everyone had received their orders, we sang Waitin on the World by John Mayer. The baristas loved it and even gave us a thank you note on our way out. Following Starbucks we embarked on our 10 hour journey to Córdoba by bus. We arrived around 11 pm and ate dinner at a local restaurant and all promptly went to bed. We were so tired from our long ride. We can’t wait to explore Córdoba Monday and Tuesday!

-Rose Fusco ’17

Exploration and Tango

June 1st, 2015 by rmfusc17

Yesterday, May 30th, was our long-anticipated free day to explore Buenos Aires. To some a free day to decide what to do in a new city might seem overwhelming, but we had the opportunity to meet up with HC study abroad students who showed us their favorite places. Their four months of Buenos Aires experience certainly came in handy for us newcomers of five days! We had a delicious lunch of Argentinian cuisine at Cholita (introduced to us by Monic    a of study abroad fame) in Ricoletta, one of the neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. We had empanadas and steak among other traditional dishes. Afterwards, Michaela (also of study abroad fame) took us to Havana, a coffee shop. This was prime because we got to try Argentinian coffee and see more of the city.

Following our coffee, Michaela and Monica took us a street fair in a park in Ricoletta. The fair was stunning. The park was bursting with booths full of hand-made jewelry, clothing, paintings and other trinkets. There were many musicians playing in different locations in the park. The atmosphere was great and we had so much fun.

Following our day of exploration, we all met up for one of the best cultural events of the trip so far. We had the opportunity to take a tango class at La Ventana – un barrio de Tango. At La Ventana we took an hour-long class where we learned the basic steps of the tango. We partnered up and got to practice our newfound skills.

The best part, though, was the tango show that followed dinner. We were treated to two hours of tango and Argentinian music. The dancers and musicians were amazing. I did not know how beautiful tango could be until we saw the incredible dancers. The show was very patriotic, especially when they sang Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina (No llores por mi, en español) – the dancers came through the audience waving Argentinian flags. Everyone was blown away by the show. To end the night, we were all presented with certificates to commemorate the beginning steps of our tango careers. It was a great day!

Rose Fusco ’17