Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thank You and The End

The journey home was long and emotional for many of us. Members broke off from the group at each step, some leaving us as early as the Lisbon airport, where they caught flights to other European countries to conduct research or visit friends, and others peeling off during our layover in Newark, choosing to fly straight home. Those who made it back to baggage claim in Atlanta gave hugs and tried to stretch out goodbyes. Eventually, emotion gave way to exhaustion, and after 10 days spent sharing this incredible experience, we headed our separate ways.

            For me, the journey of this tour didn’t begin just 10 days ago. It didn’t even begin this semester, when we received our tour repertoire, or in the fall, when this year’s new members first joined our ranks. Instead, it began over two years ago, during a dinner conversation with Dr. Nelson. I had just been invited to be vice president (and subsequently president) of the ensemble, and our conversation had turned towards long term planning. Dr. Nelson brought up Concert Choir’s rich tradition of international tours, and how the economic downturn had put that tradition on hold. And then he said the magic words: “I think it’s time for us to go again.” I was beyond excited, and stayed up late into the night browsing tour companies and potential locations, crunching numbers in my head to figure out how we could ensure that all members could afford to participate, and dreaming about what this tour might be like.

            Throughout the years of planning, I struggled to articulate clearly exactly why we needed to go on this tour. I knew that this tour would help us, that it would define our iteration of this ensemble in a way that nothing else could, and that we would come home as better musicians. I never had any doubt of what the tour would do for us, and could feel in the core of my being why I personally needed to go on this tour, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to phrase it in a way that everyone I spoke to, musician or not, would understand.

Now that I am home, I realize why this was so hard to articulate. There was not just one reason why this tour was so important. Each singer found their own “why” each day of the tour. They experienced moments that would not have happened anywhere but on this tour, had realizations that they could not have had singing back in Schwartz, and learned things they could not have read in a textbook. The “why” was too complicated for me to explain, because there are as many reasons why as there are moments on the trip and members in the ensemble.

That said, there are a few of my personal reasons “why” that I think many other members share:

1.     Singing music in the spaces for which it was written has made me a better musician

       After singing in some of these cathedrals, pieces that I was barely invested in at the beginning of the semester became some of my favorites. I finally understood what they were meant to sound like, and felt a visceral connection to them that was absent during rehearsals and performances in Schwartz. Subtle changes had to be made to each piece as we adjusted to the echo and acoustic in each room, and we could feel what it must have been like to sing there centuries ago. In the cathedral in Jaen, the echo lasted for so long that monophonic chant sounded like harmony, as each note remained in the air long after the next note was sung. As these harmonies appeared around us, we could feel the influence of the monks from centuries ago, who first laid the groundwork for the music that we make today. Actively singing and simply being in these spaces made us better musicians than we were 10 days ago.

2.     Experiencing another country and culture has made my life more interesting.

       In between our incredible rehearsals and concerts, we found time for both guided sight-seeing tours and individual exploration. Visiting cultural landmarks in Spain and Portugal helped the history of those countries jump out of the textbook, and ignited conversations about religion and politics that were fascinating and rewarding. But even our little individual adventures had a huge impact. We got lost in the cobblestone alleys in Granada, danced with locals on the streets of Seville, and went to traditional guitar concerts in Faro. We ate incredible tapas and less than incredible flamenquín, and grabbed drinks with flamenco dancers. I realize that as a tourist here for only 10 days, I could only experience the tiniest bit of Spanish and Portuguese culture, but what I did experience impacted not just my perception of those countries but of my own.

3.      Watching music transcend cultural boundaries made my heart soar.

     When we embarked on this tour, we had no idea what our audiences would be like. We braced ourselves to sing for five or six tourists who happened to be wandering through the church at the time of our concert, and wondered if those who did come would have an appreciation for what we did. We in no way expected to sing each concert to a full house, and to receive standing ovations and effusive praise after each performance. Audience members snuck videos during our more lightweight songs, and cried when we sang of grief and loss. Back home, we so often sing concerts for an audience made up mostly of family and friends, who appreciate a decent concert just as much as a phenomenal one as long as their relative or friend is up there making the music. Here, we sang for strangers. They connected with us, despite our different backgrounds and languages, because they could connect to the music we made. Their reactions will stick with me forever.

4.     Making music and sharing these experiences with the other members of Concert Choir has made me a better person.
  I was reminded each day of this tour how incredibly blessed I have been to sing alongside these people. I am lucky enough to make music with some of the most accomplished, brilliant, thoughtful, and kind people at Emory, who have chosen to put aside any pursuit of individual gain or recognition in order to create something more beautiful than we could create alone. This tour gave me the opportunity to get to know members who I had not spent much time with before, to hear their stories and learn about their lives. As I looked at everyone’s face during our last concert and tried to absorb our final moments as a choir, it struck me that there was no group of people who I gave more of myself to, both as an administrator and as a musician, over my four years at Emory. If I could do it again, I would make that exact same decision.  

            As tour ends, and my time as choir president ends with it, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. Before we end this blog, there are a few thank you’s that must be said:

First, thank you to every choir member who contributed to this blog. By taking time out of the tour to write your post, you have not only allowed us to share our experience with those back home, but have given us the opportunity to one day go back, reread your words, and relive this experience.

Second, thank you to Dr. Nelson for challenging us as musicians, for caring about us as people, and for giving us this once in a lifetime experience. We are all forever in your debt for the impact you have made on our lives. On a personal note, thank you for giving me the chance to help coordinate this tour. Working with you has shown me the kind of leader, musician, and person I aspire to be, and getting to cap off our time together with this tour was such a gift.

Next, thank you to each and every member of Concert Choir. It has been an absolute honor to share the stage with each of you. You made music that touched people around the world, brought the work ethic, intelligence, and heart that define Concert Choir to each performance, and helped to restart a tradition that will shape the lives of future singers who pass through our program. Returning members, it is now your responsibility to continue to push this group further, to strive each and every day to make the best music you are capable of. These 10 days have shown us just how much we can grow when we throw our hearts, souls, and minds into the music we create. Never forget that, and continue to grow each time you sing, stateside or abroad.

Last, I want to thank all of you who supported us throughout this tour. Whether you helped fund a student, attended one of our concerts stateside as we prepared this repertoire, or simply followed along through this blog, this experience would not have been the same without you.  

With more love and gratitude than I can put into words,
Samantha Frischling
Concert Choir President, Class of 2017

Tour Summaries

Cana McGhee -

     Like many members of the group, I had never left the country before this tour through western Europe. I was surprised with my lack of anxiety about visiting countries with languages I don't speak and to be singing in foreign spaces. But upon landing in Malaga, the questions that I had not asked myself before leaving Atlanta flurried through my mind And this snowstorm followed me during the entire the trip: how would we American choir geeks, who rarely perform in glorious centuries-old churches, be received by these new audiences? Would they love us? Would we love them and their hometowns? How would the love between us as choir members change?

     The answers to all of these questions, at least according to me, are undoubtedly related. Each concert was unique both because of the space, and because of the heightened exhaustion that comes with nine days of adventuring. Though, we always felt love, perhaps more of it as the tour wore on and thus became more emotionally bonded as an ensemble. I was amazed that every audience cried along with us during those special moments in the Ave Marias or the set of Kirchner pieces. What was equally amazing was how close we had become during those moments of really listening to each other's voices, both musical and otherwise. I believe that I speak for many choirmates when I say that that is something new and special. We all shared the joy of warm applause, adoration, and support from the local community members. We had come to feel so comfortable with sharing our emotions that many of us grabbed hands during the last two concerts, relying on each other as we tried not to crumble under the gravity and awe of how beautiful our sound had become.

     As the incoming vice president, I wondered about the timing of this trip. Why now? Why are we here at this transition point in many of our lives? This tour connected many people together, including the international communities for whom we performed in addition to the fifty of us. As I write whilst hovering in an airplane above the Atlantic, I am reminded of one of my favorite song lyrics which happens to somewhat rncapsulates the trip. The hook of a song by indie artist Fink evokes a sense of why leaving people is important. He sings: "because our paths have crossed, yesterday was hard on all of us." That is to say that because we have connected with one another, the departure becomes that much harder. To me, this reminds me how difficult it is to leave people one has quickly come to love so deeply. But that feeling of missing people is also as beautiful as the rooftop views from our hotel in Faro, or as beautiful as the spinning lines of Alonso Lobo's Versa est in luctum. The beauty of missing people is that it demonstrates that we have been able to allow others to affect us and shape parts of who we are. As I begin my new role in choir, I want to remember this feeling. I want to foster an environment, a home even, that promotes this feeling of freedom to live with, laugh with and love one another, because not only are we better musicians as a result: we are better human beings.


Cana McGhee is a rising junior double majoring in Music and French.

Jeff Haylon -

A theme of our journey, as my predecessors on this blog have so aptly noted, has been old buildings: The Alhambra and the Alcazar, Córdoba’s Mezquita and the cathedrals of Seville, Jaen, Faro and Lisbon. All these are master works, amalgams of different architectures, religions, histories, and styles. They supplement their landscapes to create formidable monuments to art and civilization, the ultimate culmination of human pride and natural splendor.

Conveniently for my point, choral music works in a very similar way. The body of choral work formed from within and without, new influences and old traditions comingling into vocal marvels. We are blessed to have sung a selection of these. In Dr. Nelson’s words, there is something fundamentally holy about singing a selection of three Ave Marias, composed in different eras by different Spaniards, in front of a statue of the Virgin and her infant son. Like those old buildings, choral singing is a conglomeration: voices atop voices as stones upon stones, the rise and fall of lyrical phrases mirroring arches and vaults. To sing in these spaces is to build them, and I think to have built them was to have sung their songs.

As musicians, there is no greater privilege than to experience these sacred spaces in song. Choral singing is intensely vulnerable, requiring a complete trust in the forty-some other voices surrounding you. The fulfillment and reciprocity of that trust is as warm and touching as the music itself, and forms an incomparable bond. Without mortar, the Catedral de Jaén would be an impressive pile of bricks, and without our bond, our choir would be an impressive pile of voices. The creation of the seamless whole, in both cases, is what makes the entire exercise worthwhile.

Our choir is a family, one perhaps tested by a week of no sleep and constant companionship (my roommate James, for instance, stole my deodorant and on some level, I haven’t forgiven him). That said, no matter our fatigue, our aching feet, our headaches and allergies and mental woes, whenever we sing we can create beauty without parallel. In a land so generous with its magnificence as the Iberian Peninsula, our small contribution may be dwarfed. In the hearts and souls of this choir, our experience stands taller than all else, like a cathedral on a mountain.


Jeff Haylon is a rising senior double majoring in History and German.

Joseph Kim -
     This concert choir tour, personally, became a life-changing event where I not only experienced sacred music at its finest, but also shared that experience with “friends and kindred dear”. We began unknowingly, stepping into each cathedral, slowly opening our eyes to our surroundings. As our eyes adjusted to the often dim, introspective lighting, we began to see just how ancient yet timeless these spaces were. The music spoke for itself; perfectly tailored for the space, our repertoire, both modern and old, was very well received by the audience. As we began singing, the time began to slow and each piece began to take shape, providing a beautiful euphony that, once finished, left something within us that could never be taken away. 

     As each concert began and ended, we started to understand the gravity of time, and how ephemeral our moment in Spain was despite the immortality of the legacy that we left behind in each space. Near the end, as our beloved brothers and sisters from our choir family felt their futures calling, beckoning for them to seize their destinies and their identity as Emory graduates with pride and honor, many tears were shed, and each piece that was sung held a new meaning for each and every one of us. This emotion seemed to carry into our voices, as the music touched our audiences even more than before. Many of us saw grown men and women crying or weeping, often not just with the nostalgic memory of a loved one, but what seemed like awe of the beauty and sound that some of us thought was not possible in this world.
     As the final chord hit on Dawson’s arrangement of “Soon I will be done”, we knew, deep down, that this would remain etched in our minds for the rest of our lives, and that truly, we would meet again, whether in this life or the next, together, in harmony, singing the divine with the divine.


Joseph Kim is a rising sophomore majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology

Malik Alexander -


     So let me start this by saying that never in my life did I think I would have an amazing experience like the one I had on this trip. For me personally, this was my first time in both Spain and Portugal - and all I can say is "WOW". Upon reflection, there are many many thank yous that need to be made.  

First, to Dr. Nelson: 
     As a senior, I have had the pleasure of being with you for many years. These 10 days were not only a perfect graduation gift, but a perfect accumulation of our relationship. Thank you for trusting us to navigate cities, to bring beauty to the spaces in which we sang, and most importantly for dealing with our daily shenanigans. After a year of planning and what I assume included much stress, we all made it there and back in one piece! 

To Marianne, our phenomenal ACFEA ground guide:
     This trip literally would not have been possible without you. You have become an extension of the Emory Concert Choir family (Bienvenidos!) and we hope that you loved us as much as we love you. Your knowledge, your wit, and your dedication to excellence carried us through sleepy bus rides, mishaps with catering, the buses, museum entrances, etc... we could not have had a better ground guide - it's simply not possible. PS: If you see this, please tell Rafael & Tiago that we say hello and thank you! They were the absolute best drivers I've ever seen. 

To Mrs. Susan Nelson:
     You are the "unseen" glue that holds this choir together. Your snacks, constant smile, and wit were a shining star throughout the entirety of this trip. I am SO happy that you came with us, and hope this gave you many stories to tell (more than just getting trapped under the bus). 

To our newest fans abroad:
     As I said during our performances, these two countries are BEAUTIFUL. Lisbon, Granada, Seville, Faro - all had their own unique flavor that made me fall in love over and over again.  For the choir overall, that love translated to how we made music, and I hope that it came across to you. For 5 nights we poured our hearts into venues like Iglesia Santo Angel and the Sé. We were received with open arms, packed houses, and more love than one ever could have imagined. For a choir all the way from Atlanta Georgia to have performed for over 700 people across the Atlantic Ocean is surreal. Thank you for attending and engaging with us. We love you.

Lastly, to my peers in the choir:
     As I sit on our plane back to Atlanta, I am reminded that takeoffs are a product of choice - but landings are not. Each and every one of us decided to embark on a journey that included historic landmarks like the Alhambra, cathedrals like the Jaén,  waterfronts like those in Faro & Lisbon. We decided to, in many of these spaces, take off the layers that so often hinder us from creating music in its most vulnerable form. We decided that although we were often annoyed with each other, we would keep enjoying this otherworldly experience that now only we can say we shared. All of the late nights, early mornings, long bus rides, tourist sites, deep conversations, spurts of fear, hours of laughter - all of this made the past 10 days into something none of us should ever forget. As a senior headed into the "real world," having the opportunity to create and experience beauty like this with all of you was the perfect way to graduate Emory. It reminded me of the importance of landing. As I said, landing is not optional (because what goes up must come down). But who is to say that we can't decide where and how we land? This trip was not only a vacation, but a challenge to raise the bar, to take this choir somewhere completely new. It is my deepest hope that the underclassmen accept this challenge and provide experiences like this to all who come through the doors of Schwartz back home. If we do that, this tour does not end here. It's impact has the potential to last for at least 4 more years. Fall in love with each semester's repertoire, and always sing with the grandiose, cathedral-esk conviction that I saw us have on this trip. 

     To those who have followed this blog, we hope you have gotten a sense of the how this trip changed lives. There is a clear importance in experiences like this - experiences that we hope to pass on to future choir members but can only do with your help. Your continued support is crucial, and as always, forever appreciated. 

- With MUCH love,
   Malik Alexander, c/o 2017


     Voy a empezar por decir que nunca por mi vida pensé que tendría una experiencia asombrosa como ese viaje. Personalmente, era mi primera vez conocer España y Portugal, y solamente puedo decir "WOW."  Al reflejar, hay muchas personas y grupos que son dignos de un gran gracias.

Primeramente, a Dr. Nelson:
     Como un estudiante en mi año final, me da feliz haber estado contigo por muchos años. Esos 10 días no solamente era un regalo perfecto para graduación, pero una acumulación perfecta de nuestra relación también. Gracias por confiarnos navegar las ciudades, cantar con belleza en los espacios que visitamos, y más importante por soportar diariamente con nuestros "shenanigans." ¡Después de un año de planar y mucho estrés, nos fuimos y volvimos en uno pieza!

A Marianne, nuestra guía fenomenal del ACFEA: 
     Ese viaje no hubiera sido posible sin ti.  Ahora eres una extensión de la familia del Coro Concierto (¡Bienvenidos!) y esperamos que nos amas como te amamos. Tú conocimiento, ingenio, y dedicación a excelencia nos llevaron por desafíos con la comida de catering, los autobuses, visitas a los museos, y más. No sea posible que tengamos una guía mejor que ti. (Y también, si los habla, diga un "hola y gracias" a Rafael y Tiago. ¡Eran los mejores conductores de los buses que he visto por mi vida!)

A Señora Nelson:
     Tú eres el pegamento "invisible" que conecta este coro. Tus snacks, tú sonrisa constante, y tu ingenio eran una estrella brillante por todo del viaje. Me alegra muchísimo que viajó con nosotros, y ojalá que la experiencia te dio muchas historias decir (más que estar atrapado al bajo del bus). 

A nuestros aficionados nuevos del mundo:
     Como os dije por nuestros conciertos, los dos países son tan hermosos. Lisbon, Granada, Seville, Faro - todo tienen un sabor único que me enamoran una y otra vez. Para el coro en general, este amor transformó como cantamos nuestra música, y ojalá que podríais sentir el cambio. Por cinco noches, dimos nuestros corazones a lugares como Iglesia Santo Angel y El Sé. Éramos recibidos con brazos abiertos, casas llenas, y más amor que alguien podría imaginar. Para un coro de Atlanta Georgia - a través del océano - cantar para más que 700 personas es surreal. Gracias por venir y por comprometernos. Os amamos. 

Y finalmente, a mis compañeros del coro:
     Mientras me siento en nuestro avión para Atlanta, estoy recordado que los despegues son productos de elección - pero los aterrizajes no son. Cada persona de este grupo hice la decisión embarcar por un trayecto que incluyó hitos históricos como el Alhambra, catedrales como el Jaén, frentes Del Mar como de Faro y Lisbon. En esas lugares, decidimos removimos las capas que normalmente nos obstaculizan crear música en su forma más vulnerable. Decidimos que a pesar de seríamos estar irritado con nosotros, seguiríamos disfrutar esa experiencia increíble que ahora solo nosotros podemos decir que lo compartimos.  Todos de las noches tardes, mañanas tempranas, paseos largos por bus, sitos turísticos, conversaciones profundas, momentos de miedo, horas de risas - todo de eso creó algo que nadie va a olvidar. Como un señor que va a estar en el mundo "real," tener la oportunidad crear y experimentar belleza como eso con todo de ustedes era la manera perfecta terminar mi tiempo con Emory. Me recordó de la importancia de aterrizar. Como he dicho, aterrizar no es opcional (porque todo lo que sube tiene que bajar). Pero creo que podemos decidir donde y como aterrizamos. Este viaje no solamente era una vacación, pero un desafío subir la barra, llevar el coro hacia un lugar completamente nuevo. Es mi esperanza profunda que los de sus primeros por terceros años aceptan ese desafío y proveer experiencias como eso a todos que llegan por las puertas de Schwartz en nuestra casa. Si lo hacen eso, el viaje no va a  parar acá. Su impacto tiene la potential continuar al menos de cuatro años más. Se enamoran con la música de cada semestre, y cantan con la convicción grandiosa con que cantamos durante de este experiencia. 

     A todos que han seguido este blog, esperamos que han comprendido el sentido de este viaje y como lo ha cambiado nuestras vidas. Hay una importancia muy clara en experiencias como eso - experiencias que deseamos pasar a los miembros futuros del coro, pero solamente se puede hecho con su ayuda. Su apoya seguida es crucial, y como siempre, apreciado.

- Con mucho amor,
   Malik Alexander

Malik Alexander is a graduate from the Class of 2017 who majored in Business.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lisbon Part 2

The last full day of Concert Choir has been one incredible ride. From a beautiful and historical sightseeing tour, to our last glorious walk through the streets of Lisbon after our concert, we've had it all.

Chipper and excited, CC gathered into the dining room of the hotel and was greeted by a generous spread of various breakfast items. After a few cups of expresso, we met our tour guides and embarked on a sightseeing tour of some of the most treasured Portuguese monuments: the Tower of Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

Even though we had an opportunity to visit the monastery, I (and just about everyone else) made a beeline for Pasteis de Belém for some delicious egg tarts.
On the next leg of our tour we explored Alfama, the traditionally moorish quarter of the city characterized by narrow and airy corridors.
After the tour, we were free to explore as we looked for lunch and a good view of the city. My group and I decided to climb to the top of a large hill in town, but the view cost €8.5 so we settled for some lunch down the hill instead. 

After walking back to the bus, we returned to the hotel to grab music and before we knew it we were already headed to our concert venue. A gothic church with mighty stone corridors and a massive echo, the Sé of Lisbon lived up to all the acoustic needs of our choir. Because the church is open the public, we had acquired a large group of onlookers who were more than willing to take video as we performed even our simplest of warm-ups.

After returning to the hotel to change, we were free to find a late dinner before the concert. My group of friends and I decided to eat at Café Pit and we're greeted warmly with free vegetable soup and a bread course with the most exquisite olive oils.
Piling into the side room of the Cathedral, I could already tell that everyone was dreading the bittersweet minute of performing together for the last time. Tearful eyes watched happily around the room as the choral cooperation and synergy we had developed with each other would be utilized one last time. Dr. Nelson had us line up and before we knew it, we were standing in front of a packed house. Even through the poignant tears, Concert Choir delivered an incredible concert full of raw emotion and sentiment.
As we headed into the night, we simultaneously cried and laughed, wishing we could stay in such a beautiful city for just a few more days.

The memories we made in Lisbon will stay with me forever, and I'm immensely proud of this years' seniors. Equally as exciting, the underclassmen hold the responsibility of shaping the culture of next year's choir.

-John Graham

John Graham is a rising junior double majoring in History and Spanish

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lisbon Part 1

The day started with a beautiful rooftop breakfast in Faro with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. To make an amazing morning even better, Dr. Nelson was sporting a hot pink polo shirt. I had a few more senior letters to write for our farewell banquet later that evening, so I figured I'd write them on the roof while sipping a cappuccino (there are worse ways to spend a morning). After breakfast, we hopped on the bus to Lisbon. The 4 hour journey went by fairly quickly thanks to our tour guide Marianne's insightful commentary and the idyllic landscapes we passed along the way. A perfect view of the Atlantic welcomed us to Lisbon:

We were all delighted to spend a couple of hours roaming the streets of the bustling city upon our arrival before heading to our hotel. It was also exciting to see our concert posters on almost every corner!

Our farewell banquet in the evening was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Everyone looked so lovely that Dr. Nelson was inspired to take his first selfie! It was a revolutionary moment in Concert Choir history.

We all look very happy in this photo because it was taken BEFORE we realized we left Ashley at the hotel (oops). But all was well! We went back to get her and never went anywhere without counting off for the remainder of the trip. 

We were greeted at the banquet venue with local port wine before sitting down for dinner. In an unfortunate turn of events, Jon Easter made me laugh mid sip, causing me to spray him with my drink. I then proceeded to knock over a couple of glasses with my bag...just a few minor blips!

The private room we had reserved for the banquet was a stunning. The ornate ceiling scaffolding and chandeliers were a slight upgrade from the decor of our usual banquet venue (no offense to the Maggiano's in Buckhead). 

The way the rest of the evening unfolded is difficult to fully capture with words. As Eric handed each graduating senior their packet of handwritten letters from members of the choir, we each said a few words about what Concert Choir has meant to us over the past four years. Needless to say, there were many tears. 

Personally, I talked about how choir has served as my sanctuary throughout college; a sacred space in which my only obligation for the duration of rehearsal was to sing every note to the best of my ability. Although I'm in disbelief that it's all ending, the lasting relationships I formed because of this ensemble are irreplaceable, and I could not be more grateful. 

- Leila Varzi

Leila Varzi is a recent graduate from
the class of 2017, who double majored in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


     Greetings from Faro! Today was a travel day from Spain to Portugal, so we started the day on the bus. We stopped at a little restaurant/pit stop before actually crossing the border; as it turns out, they had both a swingset and a foosball table, so... Well, just look. 

    Anyway, after arriving at Faro we had a hot minute to grab some lunch and relax. Initially my plan was to grab food and then check out the pool; however, once I found out there was a restaurant at the pool I thought "uh... yes, please." A whole bunch of us ended up eating by the pool and then taking a nice hour-long dip before our rehearsal. Oh, and did I mention that the pool was on the roof? Check out this view!

     Later we went to the Cathedral we were singing at - this one was much smaller than the first few (though it was just as gorgeous). We spent some time warming up (and correcting some pitch issues. Don't worry, we fixed them) before heading out to dinner. 

     Dinner was great, but it took forever for the food to get to us, so for the first hour the choir was just munching on bread. So. Much. Bread. We half believed the entire meal would just be bread ("for your entree, toasted bread, and for desert, bread en flambé"). 
   Our actual desert was a cake for our choir president, Sam, who turned 22 today (or depending on when this post goes up, yesterday). We celebrated her birthday at midnight in Spain and then again tonight in Portugal. You know, casual. Happy Birthday Sam!!! 

     Back at the venue we had a fantastic concert; in fact, it was probably one of the best so far in our tour. It was also surprisingly emotional, so I can't wait to see what a mess some of us will be the day after tomorrow in Lisbon... It'll be great. We'll all cry and everything will be just fine. I'M NOT SAD, YOU'RE SAD!

     Once our late concert ended, several of us went up to the rooftop poolside bar to relax and enjoy the nice cool night in Faro. When everyone headed back in, I went exploring a bit with my roommate Jerry and a few other friends. We hunted for candy/ice cream in the city before settling down next to the Faro sign beside the harbor to spend some time looking at the stars (wow, look at us, such sensitive souls). If you're ever lost at sea, you'll probably want Jeff beside you, because he knows a good deal about constellations and stars. Probably not much about navigation or piloting a boat, though... Anyway, that's it for me! Hope you enjoy the other accounts of our tour!

- Tom Zhang

Tom Zhang is a member of the Class of 2017 who graduated with a double major in Theater and Music

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


We woke up bright and early for our first full day in Sevilla! A lot of Emory students have studied abroad in Spain, and a lot of our friends have said that Sevilla was one of their favorite cities, so we were all excited to see what the city had to offer.
The morning started out at the Plaza de America. The plaza had beautiful buildings and fragrant flowers surrounding the area but, I think everyone's favorite (or least favorite) attraction was the crazy amount of birds. We were unaware of how, more or less, friendly these birds were. All I wanted to do was throw seeds at the birds, but little did I know these birds weren't afraid to perch on the people who were holding seeds. These birds had us all laughing and screaming because as I grabbed a handful of seeds and began to toss them, the birds flew towards me and ate the seeds right out of my hands. As you can see below, I really enjoyed my time with the birds.

From the Plaza de America, we walked through some gardens to get to the Plaza de España, which was a huge palace that stretched for what felt like miles. The architecture was absolutely stunning and our tour guide let us explore the plaza for a while.

No one wanted to leave the plaza, but after our tour guide begged us to get back on the bus, we finally made our way to the next destination.

Our next stop was to see the main Cathedral in the heart of Sevilla. There were a lot of monuments and picturesque streets along the way, so we wandered through many alleyways to get there.

When we made it to the city center and the cathedral, we had some free time to explore as well as eat lunch.

For lunch, we walked down the main road and found a tapas restaurant. The restaurant had decorated the walls with music related items, so it only felt right to have lunch there. I might have spent more time taking photos of my food than eating it because the food was amazing. Below there are some photos of the tapas my roommate Gracy ordered, consisting of salmon tartar, Iberian meats, and an avocado stuffed with seafood. I ordered a seafood paella which was gone before you could say "delicious."

After lunch we returned to our hotel for some downtime and to get ready for our concert in the evening. A lot of students went to the rooftop pool and had a relaxing break before our concert. As for me, being the resident grandma of the group, I napped for my break! (I call myself the grandma being that I am one of the older students in the group that values sleep and treats all the younger students in a motherly way. No disrespect to all the grandmas out there.)

We left later in the afternoon to walk to the cathedral in which we were to sing our concert.

The space was smaller than the other places we had sung in, but the acoustics were beautiful.  Although we loved the huge cathedral in Jaén, I could tell we all really liked being in a small, intimate space as well. The video is of us singing the Busto Ave Maria during rehearsal taken by Leila!
After rehearsal we had some free time, so we walked to the gelato shop we passed earlier. The young woman working was so sweet and let us practice our Spanish as she practiced her English. Now that I'm writing this, it probably wasn't the best idea to eat gelato before singing a concert... but it was still a great concert! The Emory Spanish Study Abroad program started today so there were many Emory Students who came to our concert tonight, which was a fun surprise!

After the concert, the 3 priests of the church said that in the 20 years of this tour company coming in and arranging for different choirs to sing in the church, we were the best group they've ever had! Everyone was in a great mood after that comment. 

A lot of us are sad about leaving Spain for Portugal because we have a lot of amazing Spanish speakers that have been helping the groups out when we're out in the city on our own. Guess how many people speak Portuguese in the choir? I'll give you a hint: none. Nonetheless we're all excited to explore a new city and new country tomorrow! 

I just wanted to say thank you for following our tour blog!! Hope you're enjoying the posts :) Stay tuned for tomorrow's post about Faro, Portugal!

-Jenny Jiang

Jenny Jiang is a graduate from the Class of 2017 who majored in Film Studies.