Christmas in July

Note:  This is the first post from the 2014 Choral Music Institute at Oxford blogger, Allie Griffiths, a Westminster Choir College student and member of the Westminster Williamson Voices.

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June 30, 2014

We’re almost there! One week away and counting…

As the excitement mounts and the Facebook statuses about Oxford become more frequent, we find ourselves racing toward our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

For the returning members of the choir, who know what Oxford is all about, the memories of their magical experiences from last summer fuel their anxiousness. For rookies, like me, the anticipation and the myths we’ve heard motivate our excitement. For me personally, as someone who has never been across the Atlantic, my eagerness is matched only by my nervousness.

As a kid growing up, I lived way up in Northern New York State, about an hour south of the Canadian border. Quick jaunts into Ontario were commonplace, and it never really occurred to me that I was traveling “abroad.” In those days, you just brought your birth certificate, and you could get across (today, of course, it’s a different story). All those summer picnics in the land of Tim Hortons never seemed like anything out of the ordinary; now as an adult, being faced with my first actual trip abroad, I’m not quite sure what to expect. All I know is that everything is going to be really old and that Harry Potter was filmed there. Needless to say, the image in my mind is one that includes Elizabeth I and Draco Malfoy.

I’ve heard from all the returning choir members that Oxford will blow my mind–and I’m sure it will! So, over these past few weeks I’ve been trying to imagine what this journey will be like and, most importantly, what to pack. Do I need my Elizabethan ruff and my wand? Or maybe some sort of evening gown and gift for baby George, should I meet Kate and William? I guess I’ll settle on my Williamson Voices polo and maybe a Gryffindor scarf, just in case.

In all seriousness, though, I really couldn’t be more excited for this journey. As the daughter of a high school history teacher who specializes in European history, you can imagine that a love of all things historical is in my blood. I literally cannot fathom what it will be like to witness buildings, icons, and customs that are older the Shakespeare–Shakespeare! I’ve read about all these incredible things many times, but the thought of actually walking in the footsteps of storied academics, monarchs, and more, gives me goosebumps! How did I get so lucky? I’ve only dreamed of these places–I’m from Northern New York, for goodness sake! How did I end up with the chance of a lifetime to study in one of the most sacred academic temples in the world?

I suppose my whole journey to and within Williamson Voices has been a bit like that, though. When the call-back list was announced I was utterly shocked to see my name on it–I was only an itty-bitty sophomore, after all. Then came the first day of rehearsal with the choir, when again I felt like, “wait, did they get the right ‘Allie’?” Since then, being welcomed with open arms into the choir family and being given the immense privilege of performing at Lincoln Center, I’ve come into my own within the choir a bit more, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been given a rare, invaluable gift.

And that is what Oxford will be as well–a precious gift. I literally cannot wait to rip open the wrapping, untie the bow, and open this amazing present–it’s like Christmas in July!

About choralmusicinstitute

Presented by Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Oxford University's St. Stephen's House, the one-week institute provides instruction to all levels of conductors.
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