By Curtis Wu
On December 27th, the Harvard Glee Club (HGC) will begin its 2016-2017 New Year’s Tour of East Asia with a flight from San Francisco to Taipei. The tour, which comprises stops in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, will be the first extended international tour for the Glee Club in over a decade, and we couldn’t be more excited to travel to countries with such rich choral traditions. The tour team has been diligently working on this tour for the past year and a half, keeping in mind our goals of achieving excellence in performance, promoting rich cultural exchange, and advancing the tradition of choral music. It is our hope that over the course of this tour, the HGC members will share, with each other and with the countries we are visiting, connections and lessons which can only be gained by first-hand experience.
The tour team has had an enormous amount of assistance from our contacts in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, and we’re excited to meet them in person after so much electronic communication over the past year. We’re also looking forward to performing with our fellow choristers at the Korean International School, the Gunsan Civic Chorale, and the Yonsei, Kyoto, and Waseda University Glee Clubs. According to Kenneth Shinozuka, ‘20, “I have sung with many different choruses since I began singing..., but the Harvard Glee Club has by far performed at the highest level and harmonized the most beautifully.” Even so, we are looking forward to sounding even better by the time our tour concludes with a performance in Koriyama which will be broadcast over the national public television network, NHK.
Of course, we will be doing more than just singing on this tour! Among other sites, we will visit the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the DMZ in South Korea, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” in Japan. To inform our visits, we have held culture sessions throughout the fall on each country. Tag Murphy, ‘74 taught us about the history of choral music in Japan. Phillip Gant, doctoral student in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department, taught us how Korea’s past informs its present, and Professor Jimmy Hsu from Academia Sinica, Taiwan, gave us valuable lessons on Taiwanese culture, food, and convenience stores. Armed with this information, HGC is looking forward to exploring the culture and history of these countries.
A three-and-a-half week tour is a substantial undertaking, and it would not be possible without the logistical and financial support of the Harvard Glee Club Foundation. The tour team has consistently been encouraged and advised by the Foundation through the entire process, and we are grateful for the dedication of our alumni. As Desmond Green, ‘17, said, “Having grown up with not a lot of money, I never thought I would have the opportunity to see places like Tokyo until I was much older. The Glee Club Foundation is giving me the opportunity to see a world and culture that I otherwise would have been ignorant to.”
We’ll be sharing our experience on tour through the HGC tour blog, and we are so excited to bring back the music, friends, and experiences that we’ll gain on the tour! When I asked Michael Horton, ‘20, what he was looking forward to, he said, “I hope that we can showcase all of our talent and make an impact on the communities we perform for… I can't even imagine what singing on tour will be like. All I know is that it's going to be amazing.”