YPO Triumphs in Tour of Argentina
Prep Orchestra Makes New Friends, Impresses Listeners with Virtuosity
Just back from an eight-day, four-concert tour of Argentina, Leslie Wu Foley, Dean and Executive Director of the Preparatory School sent this exhilarating report on the performances and experiences of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Hugh Wolff. She not only shares her observations but also some of the comments of the clearly delighted students who made the trip.
On Monday June 17, a merry band of 100 students, chaperones, and staff gathered at Logan Airport for the 2013 Youth Philharmonic tour to Argentina. Spirits were high, even in the face of a 20-hour journey to the bottom of South America. For some students, this was their first flight; others were seasoned travelers. Regardless of age or experience, however, everyone was excited to land the next morning in Buenos Aires!
The next eight days were filled with rehearsals and concerts; exploring the beautiful cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario; spending time with old friends and making new ones; and immersing ourselves in Argentinian culture through food, music, dancing, and shared experiences. Thousands of pictures were taken, an infinite amount of laughter was heard, not quite enough hours slept, and enough memories were created to last a lifetime.
Musically, each of the four performances, under the direction of Hugh Wolff, was a completely unique and thrilling experience. The first concert was given at the Teatro Gran Rex, as part of the prestigious Mozarteum series. The audience of 1,500 included three schools, with students from the Sistema program in Buenos Aires, and all showed their appreciation with a standing ovation that resulted in several encores. After the concert, YPO students were greeted by their elated Sistema counterparts seeking autographs and photo opportunities. Even though they hadn’t shared a stage together, the musical connection that they felt with each other was instantly clear.
YPO then traveled to the city of Rosario to perform at the beautiful, historic Teatro El Circulo, an opera house with a long tradition and outstanding acoustics. Again, the distinguished and discerning audience of approximately 1,500 was enthralled by the performance – snippets of overheard conversation revealed the audience’s astonishment at the young age of our students, and the quality of their playing, which was described as “fantastico!” As in the Gran Rex, YPO again played to standing ovations and multiple encores; the students were thrilled by the palpably warm and appreciative response of the audience.
The orchestra’s third concert took place at the Facultad de Derecho, as part of the University of Buenos Aires’ concert series. This performance was generously sponsored by the Cabot Corporation; 150 Cabot employees, vendors, and guests traveled from throughout South America to join the enthusiastic audience of over 1,000 people, who rewarded our students with a roaring standing ovation. NEC Provost and Dean Tom Novak impressed the local crowd by thanking Cabot in flawless Spanish!
YPO’s final, and perhaps most moving performance occurred in the town of Chascomus, home of the Sistema de Orquestras Infantojuveniles de Argentina. Eighty students from various Sistema programs throughout Argentina traveled to Chascomus – some rode in a bus for 18 hours—to rehearse together in preparation for the shared concert with YPO. The stadium was austere and the temperature was downright cold; but when the students sat down together all was forgotten as they formed instant bonds with their stand partners and section mates. After a shared lunch, the students got together to sight-read music, talk about their practicing habits, and jam.
That night, the stadium was packed with well over a thousand audience members, including hundreds of young children. The Mayor of Chascomus honored President Tony Woodcock with the medal of the town, and the Sistema orchestra welcomed YPO with performances of local music and dance, led by their three music directors. YPO, in turn, performed Symphonie fantastique for the last time as an ensemble. The heartfelt, thunderous applause led to an encore of Bernstein’s Candide Overture, performed by the combined orchestras; at the conclusion, the students from each orchestra exchanged gifts from their home countries. After the concert, everyone gathered for homemade empanadas, which quickly turned into a joyous jam session and dance party. Amid tearful goodbyes, YPO left to prepare for the trip home.
Our last day was spent at the beautiful Estancia Santa Susana, a traditional Argentine ranch, where everyone had a chance to ride horses and admire an authentic gaucho show. A last meal of Argentine cuisine, and then we made the long trip back to Boston realizing that we had left eight days earlier as an orchestra, but returned as a family.
Here are some excerpts from students’ blogs and Facebook posts:
Yi Hsuan Chiu (bass):
“Missing ya, Argentina and YPO people!! Feeling like I just dreamed a beautiful dream.
Flying to Aspen tomorrow!! See you in two months, Boston!!”
John Minor (percussion):
"YPO, even though my time with you was short, what you've given me has changed me. You've made me a better musician and a better person. I love all of you so much, including my flock buddies from that AMAZING tour: Harrison Honor, Kate Arndt, Drake Driscoll, Samantha Bottom-Tanzer, Ella Duncan, Juree Kim, and Brian Wendel. And mama flamingo Leslie Foley for being so awesome. I send many salmons and candies to you all."
Juree Kim (flute):
"I will miss every part of the tour. This whole trip was just amazing, a life changing trip. Even though it will be a memory from now on, I will never forget about this trip. It was just PERFECT. Thank you YPO for EVERYTHING, and I love you alllll! I even miss Argentina bathrooms, that's how much I loved it! (and I'm so excited for next year!!!!)"
Kate Arndt (violin):
"YPO, thank you for 4 amazing years and a fantastic tour to top it all off. And a shout out to the flock for being the best! Love and miss you all!"
Kez Gorevic-Fisher (cello):
“Back home from the most amazing musical experience in Argentina. YPO, thank you for making that the best trip ever! You are all such wonderful people and talented players!”
Ju Hyun Lee (cello):
“Today was just amazing. Simply incredible. Our concert for today was the last one and I'm so glad we ended it this way. The kids in the El Sistema program were really good, and also really patient in communicating with me in Spanish. I improved what very little Spanish I know by 400%, with the occasional help of a few who were just really good at speaking English. The concert, the food, the music, the people, and the after party with the kids playing music were all excellent. This was quite a beautiful ending to our YPO concerts on tour this year.”
David Flournoy (bassoon):
“We entered the Chascomus Stadium without any ideas or expectations for our afternoon with the musicians from the Argentina sistema. But, as soon as we heard the first rings of their opening piece, we knew we were among friends. Traveling from all corners of the country, the chicos and chicas of the sistema orchestra gather multiple times a week to rehearse classical, popular, and native tango music. Even though some of them ride the bus for more than 10 hours at a time to reach their meeting point, they all showed an incredible enjoyment in performing together – a trait we young musicians all share.
After setting up my bassoon, the first thing I did was look to find my Argentinian counterparts. As it turned out, so did they! One glance and a wave was all we bassoonists needed to kick start our great experience as a 7-part section. A simple “Hola. Como estás?” turned to bursts of “Mi amigo!” and hugs with Francisco, Alé, and Andres, who hardly spoke a word of English. I realized then that an obstacle in spoken language was no match for the bonds of musical collaboration. “Muchas gracias” to all of the sistema musicians. It was truly “un gusto!” “
Paul Bergeron (cello):
"Visiting Argentina was the trip of a lifetime. It was a privilege performing in magnificent concert halls alongside talented musicians and to experience the unique Argentinean culture. Touring Buenos Aires and seeing the fascinating sights such as "Cemeterio De La Recoleta," "Floralis Generica," "Rio de la Plata," and many others all added to the already wonderful experience. Thank you to everyone who made this trip truly special. I am looking forward to our next concert season! Thanks!”
HaeSoo Yoon (viola):
“’It is not often that you see life and fiction take each other by the hand and dance.’”― Lawrence Thornton, from Imagining Argentina
“Thank you everyone in YPO for Tchaik 6, Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, Copland’s Hoedown, Candide, Pictures at an Exhibition, and all the others. We truly connected with the audiences in Buenos Aires, and Rosario. Whether it was at a stadium filled with kids, or a formal stage filled with middle-aged and old people, we were always greeted with long optimistic applauses at the end, demanding encores. GO WOLFF!"