Wales, Rugby, and Roman Baths!

Musicians at Stonehenge spelling out “YOSA!”

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From Darian Thomas:

            I’m really glad I’m a part of this orchestra. Both of the performances we’ve put on have been some of the most impressive performances that I’ve been a part of up to date. The concert we performed at Covenant Presbyterian back in San Antonio was more of what I was used to, and it was still a good performance. But the second we played the Walton in Liverpool… I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. By the end of the concert I was having the time of my life playing as well as I could to make sure that we could leave a powerful taste of America here in England.

            I have noticed a pattern, though: we tend to have an exciting and mobile day full of sightseeing and interesting meandering before our rehearsal (which is before our concert). The rehearsal then ends up being this very tired process in which everyone feels like they’re only focusing on notes. We sound good at rehearsal, but it’s not exciting. Then we go eat dinner and rest. When we get to the stage afterwards and start the first piece: vibrancy, warmth, humanity, excitement, joy; pure, unadulterated, visceral emotions. There are moments where I have to look up at the orchestra to make sure I’m still in the same group. YOSA has come so far from when I started the Philharmonic four years ago!

            So all of that’s great. In addition to this: I’m pretty sure I need to live in England or Wales. Cardiff is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to, because the people and buildings are all so amazing. And I got to share a wonderful lunch with Joe, Vivien, Ben, Alexis, and Sinead at a really cool pub called The Cottage! Also wandering around the mall in the evening with Vivien, Chris, and Samantha was a fun adventure that led to getting Ice Cream from Cadwallader’s and pastries from a nearby café. Cardiff easily turned into one of my favorite cities!

            After that was a tour around Bath, which turned out to be just as beautiful as the other cities we’ve visited. The way the wind winds through the streets, and the sound of the Church bells traveling in a sunny but cool air (that I can only properly describe as the feeling of a sunny day near Thanksgiving) was so serene… I wish I had brought manuscript paper along with me so that I could at least attempt to sketch how these cities feel, because no photograph will be able to accurately portray it. Even still, I’m getting closer and closer to having a thousand photos, and I’m trying my hardest to capture the essence of this amazing country through film/iPhone! Regardless of whether I succeed or not, I’m definitely going to try to go to school and/or live here at some point in my future. Everyday feels like a weeklong dream, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be here. I’m so glad I got to be in this trip, and I LOVE YOSA for giving me this opportunity!

From Gaby Barera:

England has really been spectacular!  Yesterday, the group was in Cardiff, I was especially excited for this day because we were visiting the famous MILLENIUM STADIUM!  It was amazing.  We toured the locker rooms and listened to a recording of a coach giving his rugby team a speech, and got to take pictures of signed jerseys, my personal favorite being the Barcelona Jersey signed by some of my favorite players, Puyol, Ronaldinho, and Xavi!  Then, the tour guide, fooling us with her nonchalant behavior, opened up a door and stunned us by letting us walk down the players tunnel to some REALLY epic music.  I will probably never be closer to a professional pitch than I was yesterday.  As for you Facebook lovers, you can understand that I now have the most amazing cover photo for my profile of the stadium.  We also got to pose with an actual rugby trophy and sit in a private box where the Queen, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Charles have previously sat.

After our rehearsal that afternoon we were released to go have dinner.  I decided to head off with Sophia, Armando, and Alexis to go get some Papa Johns.  The pizza box was conveniently used for an umbrella as England gave us a taste of its much-warned-about rainy weather.  The concert itself went very well, and everyone played with a lot of enthusiasm even though our audience was small (about 15 people).  I feel that even though we didn’t have the large crowd we were hoping for, we did bring some musical joy into the hearts of the audience.

            During the concert, something quite unexpected happened: the bus got broken in to!  At first, two of the students thought that their stuff had gone missing, but they later discovered that it was all actually in their hotel room.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the bus driver, who had all of his items stolen.

            After a good night’s sleep, Sophia and I went down to breakfast, where we were greeted by a very nice lady, who we later learned from the hotel concierge that she was actually a “he” and was a cross dresser!  I probably had the most interesting breakfast of my life as the “lady” enthusiastically talked to us about how she had been out clubbing all night and that she didn’t even belong to the hotel.  She then proceeded to try to convince me to get my “money’s worth” out of the hotel and take all the mini muffins (don’t worry, I didn’t).

            Once on the bus, the group proceeded to the beautiful town of Bath.  As you may or may not know, the town’s name originates from the historical remains of the Roman Baths that were created years ago when the Romans discovered hot springs coming from the earth.  The waters are said to have mineral properties that can cure ailments by either drinking or bathing in the water.  We also had the chance to tour the Roman Bath houses and even drink some of the water from the spring.  Sadly, I was unable to drink any of the water since I (due to my terrible sense of direction) could not locate the pump.

            After Bath, we visited the place I was looking forward to the most: Stonehenge!!  The rocks were all that they had lived up to in the countless photos and documentaries I had seen on them.  My own photos don’t even seem real to me as the whole experience was very surreal.  One highlight (besides the AMAZING monoliths) was when Bond, Mikey, and Tommy convinced Mr. Peters to let them try to hoist him up on their shoulders.   Lets just say it didn’t go very well, but you may find some photos or videos of the incident appearing on Facebook sometime soon! We were able to visit the souvenir shop, where I got a necklace with ring of blue stone on it.  What was significant about the rock was that even though the ring was not made of actual Stonehenge rock, it came from the same quarry filled with the rare rock that Stonehenge came from.

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            At the moment, we are siting on the bus on our way to London, and I’m thinking that I would like to catch some sleep on the long ride ahead.  England, so far, has lived up to all of my expectations.  Even the street signs are a lot of fun.  I’m serious when I say I saw a yield sign with a bowler hat in it.  I’m glad that I’m not up front giving directions because when I see rectangular signs with just random dashed lines in them, I panic.  Besides the signs, I love learning the new terms they have here.  When I visited Starbucks, the cashiers unsuccessfully tried to explain what “brown sauce” to me was, but when I tried it, all it ended up to be was Bar-B-Q sauce!  From “take-away” (take out) to “trousers” (pants) and “jumpers”(jackets) to “trainers,” (shoes) Englanders may speak our language, but it really is another country!

            Tonight after dinner, I hope to meet up with a couple of friends to watch the England game and just wind down after a long day.  I miss my home in Texas, but when the trip ends, I’m definitely going to miss this wonderful scenery, weather, and incredibly nice people of England and Wales!

A shot from our group dinner:

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