The singer and the navigators


The Menomonie High School Concert Chorus recently performed in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, directed by their music teacher Audric Buhr.

Pam O’Meara, along with daughter Kate and son-in-law Scott enjoy a clip-clopping carriage ride through New York’s Central Park.

Little Italy, within New York City, is a fun place to walk for a little Italian flavor.

Chinatown is like a foreign city within New York City and has lots of shops and restaurants.

St. Paul’s Chapel dates back to 1766, and President George Washington once worshiped there. Later, this Episcopal chapel across the street from where the Twin Towers crashed down, offered a respite for the 9-11 firefighters.

The choir performed in the plush old concert hall. Photos were not allowed during the performance.

I had always hoped that someday I would get to New York City and attend a concert at Carnegie Hall, but I never expected that the time would finally come because my teenage granddaughter was performing on the renowned stage.

This teen loves performing in public but for reasons of privacy, requested that  I not use her name in this story.

She has a lovely voice and radiates enthusiasm for singing so when I heard her Menomonie High School choir director, Audric Buhr, had arranged the trip, I was delighted when my daughter Kate invited me to go along.

Buhr explained that a few years back when he took the Menomonie Concert Chorus on tours around neighboring states each spring, one of his former college professors at Luther College asked if he would consider bringing his ensemble to a choral festival at Carnegie Hall.

  “That experience was absolutely everything I hoped it would be to challenge and inspire my ensemble, “Buhr said. “I have been taking groups back every other year since.”

So after much fundraising and practicing, the choir flew to NYC and enjoyed a few days of sightseeing interspersed with practices before singing six different pieces in the 125-year-old red-velvet-decorated concert hall as part of the National Festival Chorus — about 250 high-schoolers from around the country. It was ever so exciting and I was close to tears as they walked on stage.

 My granddaughter had a great experience, her mother said. While she had been in NYC before, the freedom of going with a school group and not her parents was pretty exciting. “She loved working with students from other schools and practicing for and singing at Carnegie Hall.”

The following day their choir of 20 performed at St. Paul’s Chapel, which dates back to 1766 and is the only colonial-era church left in Manhattan. Once the tallest building in New York City, the chapel was built on land given by Queen Anne of Great Britain. It survived the great fire of 1776 when a third of the city burned down. President George Washington worshiped there.

More recently, this Episcopal chapel across the street from where the Twin Towers crashed down, was a respite for firefighters, offering pews for naps, food to restore their energy and massages for their weary muscles. We browsed around the 9-11 displays of photos, clothing and other memorabilia and then looked at the old markers in the cemetery behind the chapel before going to see the choir sing with their lovely, strong voices

Buhr said the individual performance at St. Paul’s was a highlight for many of his students, and he added that several tourists who just happened to hear them said they were quite impressed. 

 

Enter the navigators

 My daughter, Kate, and son-in-law, Scott did an amazing job navigating for the three of us all around the city while my granddaughter was practicing and sightseeing with her choir.

My first impression of the New York City was how noisy and busy it was  — cars honking and sirens blaring — and full of people of every shade of color speaking many languages. That made it so interesting and amazing

In the subway, the black steel girders support the somewhat grimy subway system. It was built in 1904 and is the largest rapid transit system in the world by the number of stations and one of the world’s longest. The subway is used by people of all ages, though more are young than old — maybe because of all the colleges nearby — and a few homeless people. Most riders had earphones plugged into their devices or typed away on them with their thumbs so the subway was quieter even with the clacking of the cars and frequent announcements of stops.

We bought two-day bus passes for the double-decker buses where we could get on and off at our leisure, We saw Wall Street, Harlem. Downtown, Uptown, Central Park, where we took a carriage ride, Times Square, China Town, NoHo and Soho, Washington Square and many other noteworthy places like the Trump Towers. Though it was the week before the New York primary, we didn’t see any candidates.

We stopped at the Guggenheim and saw an Impressionist exhibit and some clay sculptures in the building that wraps around in circles — no stairs needed to ascend to each level. 

Our bus pass included a boat ride past the Statue of Liberty and a stop in Brooklyn where we picked up the bus again. It was less congested and the buildings, not as tall. Back in Manhattan, we took the subway to the last stop to Coney Island, the famous ocean-front amusement park. Only a few restaurants were open but we ate a hot dog at the famous Nathan’s on the wide boardwalk and looked at the  amusement rides that were not yet operating so early in the season.

We had such a great time in NYC. Seeing my granddaughter perform in Carnegie Hall and St. Paul’s Chapel was the best part but there were plenty of other highlights as well. Kate and Scott were great navigators and the best travel buddies — fun to hang out with, helpful, cheery, interested in everything. I Hope to get back to New York City soon because it’s such a diverse and energetic place with lots more to see.

 

Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or  at 651-748-7818.

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