Chapter 3, The East Coast Mother-Son Odyssey

First full day in New York with the Chamber Choir. We started the day with 32 people ordering bagels from New York Bagels on Times Square. $120 worth of bagels. 32 people going underground, trying to buy week-long subway passes at the same time. 32 people eking through the turnstile and heading downtown on the C train to West 4th Street. The kids had a two-hour singing clinic with two master teachers from NYU who were amazing with them. And the chamber singers, having Drew as their conductor and teacher, are amazingly primed to learn, to respond, to sing beautifully. It was such an honor to sit in on their session. I only wish I had recorded their singing.

After the clinic we explored the village in small groups and had lunch, then took the train down the site of the World Trade Center. We went into St. John the Divine, a Tribeca church that was instrumental in ministering to the workers at the World Trade Center site after 9-11. The whole church is set up as a shrine, with video archives, displays, artwork, narratives and exhibits.

People come and sit and cry and visit the church as a memorial—to remember, to bear witness. After a half hour or so of walking around the church, stunned by the artwork and the sentiments expressed on the walls, Drew called the chamber choir up to the front, in their jeans and sneakers and street shoes and they formed a rough semi-circle up in the front. He introduced them with a sentence and then led them in a slow ballad called Requiem, the perfect song for the occasion. All of us listening were crying—the chaperones, of course, after all, those were our kids up there, but all the passer-bys and the mourners, and the tourists cried, too—caught up in the depth of the music, the appropriateness of the song, and the sweetness of these kids from California singing their hearts out for those who died in New York.  It was really something.

Some of our group went back to the hotel or off to a music store. I went with a few of the other moms and 16 or so kids up to Canal Street and Soho to shop. It was freezing cold and a number of the girls had chosen style over warmth. Thin stockings, slip on shoes, short skirts, not even a sweatshirt. I had on a fleece sweatshirt and a big wool pea coat and gloves and a scarf and was wishing for a hat!

We all met for dinner at the Stage Deli, where I ate half a pastrami sandwich in memory of my father who loved them, and a half dozen sour dill pickles to honor my mother, who taught me to eat them. We had a quick time back at the hotel to change and then walked over to see Memphis, a great musical about the evolution of rhythm and blues and the recognition of black music in the white music scene in Memphis. We were up in the nosebleed seats, but it was still a fabulous show.

Now I’m on late-night chaperone duty, which means sitting here in the hallway with my laptop, as I sit on a chair I dragged out of my room. I’m wrapped in a gold and green pashima scarf I bought for 5 bucks on Canal Street, as I wait for a dozen or so kids to get back from the M&M factory store by their midnight curfew.

New York is fun. Even with 20+ teenagers, it’s a blast. I think everybody is having a good time. Tomorrow is their day to participate in the Heritage Festival, a big music competition for a lot of high school groups. Another day of listening to the angels sing.

P.S. Couldn’t upload the pictures here. If you want to see them, you’ll have to come to my Facebook page:

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