Reflections on RCS's Tour of Indonesia

October 17, 2016
By Christie Cheng '17 (RCS)
 
Salam semua!
 
This past June, the Radcliffe Choral Society (RCS) embarked on a groundbreaking tour to Indonesia, traveling to four cities on three different islands. This tour was both the first time RCS had traveled to Southeast Asia since 1967 and the first time any American collegiate chorus had toured Indonesia. One of the main goals of our tour was to learn, grow, and facilitate cultural exchange and understanding with local communities. In doing so, RCS extended beyond their comfort zones to fully embrace and learn from the multi-faceted nature of Indonesian society.
 
RCS singers and Meg Weckworth, resident conductor, learning the choreography to "Janger" with Manado State University Choir singers.
 
The decision to travel to Indonesia was inspired by the opportunity to create an experience that would allow RCS members to stretch themselves to new heights, both musically and culturally. The idea of creating rather than simply presenting served as an influential principle for the group during tour. Touring to experientially share, to explore, and to learn life lessons that can never be fully articulated in the four walls and one hundred or so seats of a lecture hall.
 
Even though tour began with a thirty-hour delay in the Boston airport, nothing could diminish the high spirits and enthusiasm of RCS! After an overnight layover in Dubai, we finally made it to our first tour stop, the town of Ubud, Bali. We visited and held workshops with two schools in the area, Pelangi and Green School. This was a great chance to get involved with local community members, work with elementary and middle school students, and learn about Balinese culture. On our last day in Bali, RCS donned traditional temple clothes and visited a Balinese temple in the mountains. Though our time in Bali was brief, it was an incredible three-day introduction to Indonesia.
 
RCS at Pelangi in Bali.
 
Our second stop was Manado, North Sulawesi. Here we met the Manado State University Choir (MSUC), a mixed student and alumni choir that performs throughout the world under the direction of Dr. Andre de Quadros. Dr. de Quadros, a Boston University professor, was an enormous help in the tour planning process. During rehearsals with MSUC, RCS explored singing with movement, adding choreography and interpreting and physically conveying the meaning of each composition being performed.
 
Another facet of our tour mission was to share music with those who may not typically have access to it. This motivated RCS to create and participate in outreach visits to the Manado community. During these visits, RCS and MSUC formed into four separate groups, each visiting different community sites: a men’s prison, a pediatric cancer unit, a school for the blind, and a nursing home. The groups spent the morning interacting, singing with, and getting to know these communities. Many RCSers revealed afterwards that this time to share and connect with people in a different culture and circumstance from their own was one of their tour highlights.
 
Collaboration with Maranatha Christian University Choir at the Symposium on Church Choral Music.
 
After Manado we ventured to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city. There we had a rooftop dinner with the Harvard Club of Indonesia and a breathtaking view of the city. The next evening, we performed with Paragita Student Choir from the University of Indonesia. Following our brief two-day stay in Jakarta, we departed for Bandung. There we participated in the 5th Symposium on Church Choral Music, organized by the Bandung Choral Society. This event hosted dozens of choirs and choral conductors from around the world. It was a fantastic opportunity to see others perform and learn even more about the Indonesian choral music tradition.
 
Although we were sad to see our time end in this beautiful country, RCS experienced a vastly enriching tour – making music, meeting new people, exploring different cultures and cities, snorkeling, and visiting temples and monkey forests. Most importantly, we had the chance to grow as a choir, a community, and members of the musical world. We are so grateful for the opportunity to have visited such an amazing place, and we hope many other groups will also have the chance to experience the beauty and richness of Indonesia!
 
Post concert with the Manado State University Choir
 
For more information on RCS's tour to Indonesia, and to read their tour blog, please visit the Radcliffe Choral Society Tour website.