Well, considering that two days have now passed, it looks like I’m a little behind! Luckily, there has been a lot excitement within these first two days already, starting with the day of our flights until now as we prepare to have our first night off!
Monday morning seemed to move slow as we all anxiously awaited our 10:30 p.m. EDT flight. Many of us going on the trip were relaxing and wasting time on campus, or printing out the last of our travel documents and music. The day included double and triple checking our passports, and more importantly our choir folders, as we hoped to remember everything we need. Even now we are still hoping no one has forgotten their tuxedo pants, considering we’ve had prior occurrences.
Once 5:15 p.m. rolled around, I luckily found a ride to the train station with the Trave family, and we awaited the train that would take us to Newark Airport. Meeting up with some of the other choir members was nice, as we enjoyed seeing one another and beginning the fun and laughter that would only continue through the next week and a half. Everything ran very smooth getting to the airport, and we had no problem checking in.
The large group of us taking our group flight into Heathrow Airport in London finally all met up once we were in the line through security. No problems there thankfully!! We all went through very easily, and then the real waiting game began. Some members of the choir went to grab some food at small restaurants or bars in the airport, others exchanged money, and the rest of us tried to find ways to pass the time. After spending about two hours passing time, we spent our last minutes in the airport and prepared to board our flight, we made our final phone calls, said our goodbyes, and set off on our flight!!!
I had no idea what to expect from the flight flying over seas, but I was very impressed! The flight attendants and crew were very kind and helpful, providing us with beverages and other items we would need to settle in and get comfortable. The dinner was also quite nice, as they offered three different options. Choosing the Teriyaki Chicken was definitely a good choice J. At each seat, we had our own screen to watch movies or listen to music, which really helped pass the time for most of us. I barely slept at all, only catching some Z’s during the movies I was watching and waking up shortly after, as many others struggled with as well. We all seemed very anxious and excited to arrive, so sleeping was not exactly the easiest thing for us to do.
At long last, after our seven-hour flight, we arrived at 10:30 a.m.!! Remember though, compared to Eastern Daylight Time, we are now five hours ahead!! I’m sure the jetlag will hit all of us either tonight or tomorrow!!! The sun shined bright, the landing was easy, and we could barely wait to get off the plane! After getting off the plane, we made sure we had everyone with us, and travelled through the airport, going through security and more, picked up our luggage, and found some more of our friends in the airport. Thankfully, James Whitbourn had personalized letters that helped us get through customs and all, making our trek much easier.
We found the bus that would take us to St. Stephen’s House, where we would finally arrive for the Institute. I wish I could tell you more about the scenery on our way from London to Oxford, but being as tired as I was, I fell asleep so quickly, and woke up to see us pulling up to our destination! Now I’ll have to stay awake on the way back to the airport to see a little more of the country! The bus emptied out faster than I’d think was possible with the little sleep we had, and everyone felt excited as we had finally arrived. The new members tried to figure out where to go, where our rooms were, while the veterans instantly knew where to go for lunch.
After our lunch break, our first meeting commenced at 2:30 p.m., where James Whitbourn began by describing the history behind St. Stephens, as well as Oxford University itself. Dr. James Jordan then followed by describing the Westminster Williamson Voices briefly, as well as thanking the previous accompanists and those who have supported the choir for all they have done, as they have furthered our choir in ways that cannot be put into words. Without them, the Williamson Voices would not have the opportunities we have had with the blessings and gifts they have provided over the years.
Following the brief meeting, we took a short break and enjoyed the famous tea time. The tradition has been passed on throughout the years and everyone enjoyed the time to spend together discussing various subjects both musically and not, and from what I saw, slowly starting to create bonds that would extend the family we call the Williamson Voices. I have heard that the choir grows through this experience and the Institute, but I can see in the way that students interact with the conductors and others how welcoming the choir is to all, and how the environment of friendliness and family constantly reaches out to all participating the Institute.
At 4:30 our time in Oxford, we held our rehearsals where both James’ (Jordan and Whitbourn) were able to work with one half of the Williamson Voices to rehearse and refine the music before the conductors participating in the Institute will conduct us. Singing with the choir felt incredible, and it was something I missed dearly over the summer thus far. While singing with my friends in the choir, I began to feel the emotions we felt during the year all over again. The happiness and joy, and the sadness and misery, while getting the goosebumps on my arm from hearing the sound that inspired me originally to want to be in the choir. Singing with the Williamson Voices is like no other experience. I truly believe you cannot replicate that feeling anywhere else, where each person is connected to you constantly. Where you feel that you understand each person, their emotions, their thoughts, and their feelings, while singing through the music. The connection that we have developed is truly remarkable, and I am so glad that I am able to experience that again this summer during this program. I have missed this feeling of joy while singing with my friends so much, and there is not one second that I will take for granted.
We will start again tomorrow, bright and early at 8:30 for breakfast, and have some lecture time as well as more rehearsal, and I am already extremely excited. It doesn’t matter how tired I may be, or how drained I have been from the travel and long day that followed, because the feeling of being together with everyone again and sharing time with everyone at the Institute provides all the energy I could ever need. So for now, I bid you good night!!! I will need the rest for another long eventful day, where I sure I will only grow not only as a better musician but also as a better person.