The first month of my summer is given to Arts in London, one of the Conservatory’s two alternating “Wheaton in the World” summer programs. Eighteen students, including me, and a handful of faculty chaperones will spend just under four weeks primarily in London but with excursions to nearby locales and also a weekend in Paris. I will post about a week’s worth of commentary and reflections at a time.
Monday, May 10 and Tuesday, May 11
Arts in London 2010 formally began when the whole group, with various family members, friends, and professors, met at the Conservatory on Wheaton’s main campus. The AiL group itself received final handouts from Susan Brinkman (one of the department secretaries) and Dr. Tony Payne (the program director). We departed for O’Hare just after four, arriving in plenty of time to check-in, check baggage, and have dinner. The ash cloud from the volcano eruption in Iceland several weeks previous was still affecting air travel in and to Europe, so our flight was delayed well over an hour. We finally departed Chicago at about nine thirty PM, and had a very comfortable flight to London.
After arrival, we proceeded through immigration and customs without incident and transferred to our hotel in Central London’s business district via motorcoach. After check-in, we had a couple of hours to rest before meeting in the lobby with the trip leaders, Dr. Johann Buis and Dr. Carolyn Hart, for instructions for the next day (the first day of class). A free evening before us, Andy, Ethan, Riley, and I wandered the area for an hour or so, stopping at a quiet café for dinner.
Wednesday, May 12
After breakfast at the hotel, the whole group met up and Drs. Buis and Hart escorted us to the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, which was providing classroom space for us for the month. The verger (caretaker), Philip Stewart, met us at the door. Drs. Buis and Hart had been surprised to learn the previous evening that Philip was a 1969 alumnus of the Wheaton Conservatory! Philip proved to be such a blessing to our group, from making sure we had what we needed in our classroom to offering tips for local inexpensive dining options.
After a brief tour of the church, Dr. Hart and seven of us students gathered in the classroom for the first session of Musical Theater London. The two topics for the day were the posing of some questions we would be considering through the course, and then a lecture on the origins of the genre of musical theater.
That night we were all planning to go see Les Miserables, so while the Art Survey class was in session, Taylor and I went to Queen’s Theatre in the West End (via the London Underground, figuring out the route for that evening) to get tickets. We found ourselves a fantastic deal, and returned to our neighborhood to relax for a while.
Late in the afternoon, we all attended an Evensong service at St. Bart’s and then headed straight back to the West End. Les Mis was a great experience for me. I am familiar with the music from the show, but had never seen it performed before, and I really enjoyed it.
Thursday, May 13
I had two classes today. In the morning I again had Musical Theater London. We finished our discussion of origins of the genre and moved on to discussing a landmark work, Showboat. In the afternoon was the first session of World Music with Dr. Buis; the day’s agenda included a guest presentation of Northern Indian Music by a tabla (a set of hand drums) and sarangi (a bowed melodic instrument) team.
The evening was dedicated to seeing a performance of Oliver! at the Drury Lane Theatre, which technically was a field trip for Musical Theatre London but was a very fun evening nonetheless. We had great sets for the show, too. I was impressed by many components of this show – set design, talent of all the children in the cast, the choreography, and the singing.
Friday, May 14
Most of this day was given to a World Music field trip to the Open University in Milton Keynes, about a forty-minute train ride from London. We had a series of three lectures at the University’s Ethnomusicology Lab: “British Black Jazz,” “Interaction and Entrainment in Musical Performance,” and “Bhangra.” My favorite lecture was the second one – it involved a lot of theory and math, two areas where I excel and always enjoy connecting to music performance. When we returned to London, as I had been out the previous two evenings, I decided to relax at the hotel.
Saturday, May 15
Today the group took a day trip to Cambridge, about an hour and fifteen-minute train ride from London. We arrived just after midday, and had a few free hours to wander the city. The small group I was with visited a street market and then walked along the River Cam and through a few parks. Late afternoon, we met at the entrance of King’s College to meet with Jeremy Begbie, a Christian theologian-musician with some connections at Wheaton College. He talked to us for twenty minutes or so about Cambridge University and his work. Immediately after, we attended the Evensong service at King’s College Chapel (Dr. Begbie had reserved seats for us near the choir). It had been a fun day, but exhausting, so I was glad to return to London.
Sunday, May 16
After a later breakfast, Emily (M), Hilary, Riley and I headed in the direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was overcast that morning, but still clear enough for a perfect first view of the cathedral’s magnificent dome. We still had over an hour before mass, so we crossed the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian-only crossing) to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to get tickets for our group for a performance later in the week.
We re-crossed the river and returned to St. Paul’s, finding seats in the cathedral under the dome. This morning was the first time I had been to an Anglican mass, and what a place for a first time! This particular service used Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, led by a fantastic men and boys choir (we estimated that the reverb inside the cathedral to be about six or seven seconds).
After mass, Andy, Ethan, Hilary and I went to Baker Street, near Regent’s Park, to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It was a hands-on museum: guests could actually touch some of the artifacts in the recreated house on which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his stories. We had a late lunch of fish and chips at a nearby restaurant, and returned to our neighborhood to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing among friends.
More to come!
This is Rubio, over and out.