Monday, January 31, 2011

Giovanni Begins - Lyric Opera of Kansas City - Kansas Arts Rally

Don Giovanni work has started at the Conservatory.  We began last night running the many recitatives.  For those who do not know, a recitative is sort of like speak singing.  It is important in many operas, especially Mozart, as most of the plot events occur during recitative.  Here is an example of recitative in Don Giovanni:




As you can see, after spending several hours with it, recitative can be very tedious to learn.  This week, we are mainly going through the music of the opera and we'll get that down and learned before we begin staging.  From what we've already done, our ensemble has done very well preparing, so it should be a very fun time working with this group.  One of the singers, Amanda Frederick, just won our region in the National Council Auditions for the Met and will go to New York to compete in the Grand Finals.  I will give you more information on that at a later time, but we are all very excited and proud of her!

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City announced their plans for the first season in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and once again, I am very excited.  They are beginning the season with the largest production in the history of the company with Puccini's Turandot.  I am confident that you all know its most recognized aria:



They are also planning on Cosi fan tutte by Mozart and one of my favorite operas - Nixon in China by one of my favorite composers, John Adams.  It is about Nixon's visit to China as you might suspect, but it is very important in music history as one of the first great achievements of Minimalist Music.  I will go into detail on what that is at another time, but here is the iconic first scene of the giant Air Force One landing in China and President Nixon being greeted by Chou En-lai.



And they will end their inaugural season with the Barber of Seville, which is forever immortalized thanks to its iconic music and in part to Warner Brothers.  And just in case you don't understand the end, the Barber of Seville is the prequel to the Marriage of Figaro. 



I am really excited as well about next year's Lyric Opera season because I will be auditioning for the company in late February.  I would love to be in some of these first performances in the new opera house and sing with Samuel Ramey, Kansas native, and the world's most famous Bass.

But back to the week at hand.  I am planning to have several coachings this week, one with George Darden who is a retired conductor of the Metropolitan Opera.  Last year I sang on a Masterclass that he gave and I worked with him in New York in 2009.  He is a great person, and I am very thankful for the opportunities that UMKC has provided for us.  

Also this week, I will be competing in the Kansas City NATS competition.  It is on Super Bowl Sunday, but thankfully, it should not conflict with my TV schedule.  It will be sort of weird compared to other competitions, because I only need to perform once and then they decide the winner.  There will be so many singers, I do not know how they plan to pick a winner, but it should be exciting.  I will let you know the results next Monday.

Last and certainly not least is a little heads-up about what an organization called Kansas Citizens for the Arts is doing to protest the Kansas Governor's proposal to eliminate the government's public funding for the arts, public radio, and public television.  They are having a march in Topeka on February 10.  CLICK HERE TO GO TO THEIR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RALLY.


This week also marks the 150th anniversary of the State of Kansas and to help promote activism in supporting Kansas arts I have beeen naming a weekly Incredible and Artistic Kansan.  This week's Incredible and Artistic Kansan is Stephen Stucky. Steven is a composer from Hutchinson who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Music after composing his Second Concerto for Orchestra.  His first Concerto for Orchestra was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1989.  The arts in Kansas are thriving and many artists, authors, and musicians have made enormous impacts in the collective culture of our world.  For those who live in Kansas, now is the time to contact your representatives.  And for those who do not live in the Sunflower State, the most important thing you can do is to attend concerts, operas, plays, art museums, and don't forget to spend time learning something new and enjoy being entertained.  This is our world, our history, and our expression - cherish it all!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicago, Here I Come! - Kansas City Symphony - Politics of Art

Holy Smokes!!


Earlier last week I was sitting in front of the TV, my wife on the couch next to me and received a phone call.  It was an unknown number, and I thought it would be someone trying to sell me advertising space for KCVI because I seem to get those all the time, so I just let the call go to my voicemail.  When I went to listen to the voicemail, the message I got was from the artistic director of the Sugar Creek Opera Festival inviting me to be part of their production of the Daughter of the Regiment.  As soon as I heard the word "invite", I turned to Dusti and without saying a word, held out my hand, palm facing her face, and waited for a high five.  Ok, perhaps that was awkward, but she put her hand up to mine, tilted her head, squinted her eyes and wrinkled her eyebrows, so as to say "what in the world is happening?".  I finished listening to the voicemail, forgetting that my hand was still reaching out to her face because I was trying to concentrate on the details.  I hung up the phone and slowly lowered my hand ending an awkwardly long high five.


I never really planned out how I would react to something like this, but I'm sure if I did, it wouldn't involve a Heisman stiff-arm.  Nevertheless, I was very excited to win an spot as one of the apprentice artists for the Sugar Creek Opera Festival.  If you remember, I was very happy with how my audition went for them.  Here is a link to my post about my audition in New York for their company.  I do not know too many details yet, only that I will be playing either a small role or covering for a lead role.  The opera festival is just south of downtown Chicago in Watseka, IL and I will be there from July 20 through August 7.


Like I said earlier, I will be in La fille du régiment (the Daughter of the Regiment).  This is particularly important for tenors because of a little aria called Pour mon ame.  If you don't know already, it is famous for its 9 high c's and has been the signature aria for several of the world's most famous tenors including Pavarotti, and currently the world's biggest tenor superstar, Juan Diego Florez, who became the first person in 74 years to sing an encore at La Scala, one of the cathedrals of opera, after he sang this aria.  Take a listen to why this aria is such a big deal.



Also, I can't help but be excited for the upcoming KC Lyric Opera season and especially the KC Symphony season.  Both are going to be having incredible events for the inaugural season in the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.



It will be one of the world's largest performing arts centers including a state of the art opera house and symphonic concert hall.  The Kansas City Symphony recently released their performing schedule for their first season and I am SO excited. It will feature Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, and Joyce DiDonato.  They will be performing Respighi's Pines of Rome, Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 using their new pipe organ, Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, and Dvorak's New World Symphony.  These alone would make an incredible season, but that's not even the best part. I was on the fence about auditioning for the Symphony Chorus, but now I absolutely have to do it.  The symphony will also be performing several pieces with choir, and they are beasts of symphonic rep.

Messiah


Mahler's Resurrection Symphony
(YOU MUST WATCH LEONARD BERNSTEIN GO CRAZY WITH THIS!)


(Oh my gosh, I'm getting more and more excited............)
Brahms German Requiem
The sixth movement of this is undoubtedly one my favorite pieces of music of ALL TIME!
I don't really know what would top it.


WHAT!?  NO WAY!
BEETHOVEN SYMPHONY NO. 9
I have had this entire thing memorized since I was in middle school!  I can hum all 90 minutes of it from beginning to end.  If anything can beat Brahms German Requiem - probably the only thing that can is this.  If you have never listened to it, you will recognize it for sure when you hear it, but please take your time and listen to the finale.  Can you believe that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote this and it just happens to be one of the most important pieces in music history! Incredible!




Just listening to these makes me so happy. I don't know how anyone would not get emotional, waiting to hear the chorale explode from near silence.  What an incredible moment!  I hope I am able to be part of their programs from the next season, because many of these pieces are ones that are on my bucket list, let alone all in one season.

Ok, I have to settle down now, but I'm really excited to see the opera schedule for their inaugural season in the Kauffman Center.  I am sure it will be a spectacular season as well.

I have also been working extremely hard preparing for the 33rd Summer Choral Institute.  I was in Manhattan last week for a meeting and I had a great time seeing all of my friends.  I have also been working hard on preparing Don Giovanni in March.  I will have much more to talk about when rehearsals start, but I am anxious to begin piecing things together.

On a final note, I would like to let you all know who I have been talking to in Topeka recently.  I am thrilled that so many of you have shown your support and have been writing letters to representatives and joining others on facebook, voicing your opinion.  If you don't know already, the Governor of Kansas is poised to cut public funding for the arts, for no apparent reason besides "budget concerns".  Unfortunately, it is a very partisan debate, but thankfully, many legislators on both sides of the isle have been showing their support for the arts, however I am told by one that it may be a close vote.  Earlier today I heard from John Vratil who is the State Senate Vice President and he acknowledged my concern with eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission.  He said that he does indeed support public funding for the arts and thought that continuing to fund them was important for Kansans.  Unfortunately, he didn't make any promise to support the KAC and said that when the topic is discussed in the Ways and Means Committee, that he will be fair in their decision.  If you haven't already, please click here and take just a couple of minutes to contact your representatives and voice your support for funding the arts, public television, and public radio in the state of Kansas.  Now is the time to get involved.  It just takes two minutes!

And to give just a little more light on the importance of the arts in Kansas, and since the Sesquicentennial of the state of Kansas this week, I am going to start a little segment highlighting Kansans who are or who have been influential in the greater artistic world.

This week's Incredible and Artistic Kansan is Clare Vanderpool from Wichita, KS who last week was awarded the Newbury Medal for her first novel "Moon Over Manifest".  The Newbury Medal is awarded to the "author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".  Clare has lived her entire life in Kansas and undoubtedly has benefited from public arts programs and education.  Kansas has lot to be proud of!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Arts Crisis in Kansas (Updated)

What terrible news!

I know most who read this blog do not live in Kansas, but I must talk about something that I am so passionate about.  But first, I would like to give a little update before I talk about that.  I have heard from Sugar Creek Symphony and they have informed me that I am one of their 30 finalists after hundreds of auditions for only 10 spots in the summer season. (UPDATE:  I just received an invitation to be cast in the Daughter of the Regiment at the Sugar Creek Opera Festival this summer in Chicago.  More information to come on Monday's update) I should find out sometime this week about their decision.  Also, in a bit of fun news, I have asked the Kansas City Royals and Sporting KC (MLS) if I could sing the National Anthem at some of their games.  I am a huge sports nut, so this would be a lot of fun.  I will keep you updated on these, but I have to spend some time on what has been on my mind in recent days.

Kansas recently had a Gubernatorial election, and to no one's surprise, former Senator Sam Brownback won the Governorship.  Governor Brownback is a Republican and has taken over after the previous two Governors were Democratic.  As a result, there were some changes, obviously triggered by the motives of what one party favors over the other.  One always expects this to happen in these situations.

Well, Governor Brownback recently released his proposed budget for the year.  He is wanting to make significant cuts to balance the budget.  Unbelievably, he has proposed to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission by the middle of the year.  The Kansas Arts Commission provides millions of dollars in grants to local communities to help foster the artistic culture of the state. This move will also likely eliminate state funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and cancel all public funding for public radio and public television stations in the state.

All that can be done now is to help educate our representatives about why this is important to retain.  Without public television, I would have not been introduced to opera - with the three tenors programing.  Organizations like the Wichita Grand Opera introduced me to the art form and allowed me the amazing chance to see Pavarotti in concert (one of the greatest thrills of my life).  I have been a public radio member for seven years and that is now the only station I listen to.  Public school educators will see a $103 million cut in their operating budgets, even as the Governor increased teacher pensions and building projects.  I suppose there will now be more new schools, but sadly a greater chance of fewer music, dance, art, and drama teachers.  I have been a recipient of public school music education for twenty years and I owe all of my gratitude to my wonderful teachers.  All of these were public sources of education and all of which have led me to where I am now even as I am beginning my own music charity.

I am so saddened that this would occur in my home state.  It is full of gracious and loving people, none of whom zealously attack education and all that is noble in this world (as it may appear, between events like this and other infamous debates of the past).

However, we can do things to help.  Here is a very simple way to send a message to your local representatives.  Just fill out your information, send it, and forward another email to more friends who are sympathetic to our cause.

No matter where you are from, please show your support by joining the facebook group - Protest Phasing Out of KS Funding for the ARTS!!  The group has grown 6 fold over only the last 3 days.

I have asked to meet with my representatives and hear where they stand on the issue.  I have not heard a response but I will post it and let you know if I will be heading to Topeka.

Many artists including myself have had to live a life in which we struggle to find respect in our profession - even the painful and ego-crushing debates with family and friends combating the purpose and necessity of what we do and who we intimately are.  Art is not entertainment.  It is an expression of what it is to be human. And it educates us in passion, tolerance, reason, and love.  Striving to be elite, to be the best, to learn all that is possible to learn, to express all that can be expressed, to understand all that can be understood - these are not enemies of humanity.  This is what defines us.

What better way to end than this?  Dramatically, of course!  Just like an opera, with my favorite aria of all time - so meaningful and passionate.  It is sung by one of my very favorite singers Renee Fleming at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert.  This is Vissi d'arte (lyrics included below) from Puccini's opera Tosca.  The aria is sung by Tosca before she allows Scarpia to have sex with her as a bribe to release the one she loves from being wrongly executed.



I lived for art, I lived for love,
I never did harm to a living soul!
With a secret hand
I relieved as many misfortunes as I knew of.
Ever in true faith
My prayer
Rose to the holy shrines.
Ever in true faith
I gave flowers to the altar.
In the hour of grief
Why, why, Lord,
Why do you reward me thus?
I gave jewels for the Madonna's mantle,
And songs for the stars, in heaven,
That shone forth with greater radiance.
In the hour of grief
Why, why, Lord
Ah, why do you reward me thus?

Monday, January 10, 2011

And the home of the...

It is snowing!

Today, is the first day of the new semester at the Conservatory of Music at UMKC.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, most of the teachers were not able to come to school today, so I am able to sit in one of the commons areas and watch the beginnings of what could be a blizzard later on today.

As I am waiting, literally, for the next semester to begin, I can't help but be amazed at what has happened since the last semester began only five months ago and I am so excited for what the next few months have in store.

These last five months have been hectic but very exciting.  I began work on my Doctorate (I still cannot believe that I am this far along already!) and Dusti and I moved to a wonderful neighborhood in Overland Park.  I got all A's (except for one class that awarded me a 3.7!? - I thought an A was 4.0 and B was 3.0).  My life last semester was spent preparing for many concerts and events including auditions in New York, covering the Conservatory's opera in November, several solo concerts and competitions including finishing second in Missouri NATS and singing the tenor solos in a production of Messiah.  I also had one of the most exciting performances of my "early" career as soloist for Monteverdi's Vespers with the Conservatory Singers and a couple of professional ensembles. My music education project, the Kansas City Vocal Institute, has been a great success raising scholarships for children, creating professional ties to performing artists, and offering great programs, lessons, and events - like the celebrity auction which was mentioned on USA Today's website.  And thanks to you all, this blog is currently ranked number 32 by Wikio in their list of the Internet's Top Classical Music blogs - thank you everyone!

On the lighter side of life, I learned how to ice skate and still haven't fallen.  Someone accidentally nose bled on me at a football game.  Dusti and I were able to see #3 K-State play #1 Duke among many other sporting events.  I got a new leather coat as a gift to replace the one that was peed on by a white Bengal tiger, which I took on a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and to the 2011 Ball Drop in Times Square, where I also sprained both ankles.  I also visited the Met for the first time where someone had a heart attack during Melisande's death scene - oh, and the tenor cracked. What a crazy semester!

As I am writing this, I have received warning that the University is closing due to the weather, well hopefully it won't lock me in the music building.  I guess that wouldn't be the worst thing.

Now, on toward a great 2011.

This first week of the New Year began with large amounts of free time.  My wife can attest that I am horrible at relaxing.  Fortunately, there was some great excitement during the week in that my parents-in-law gave us some tickets to the Kansas City Chief's playoff game versus the Baltimore Ravens.  Check out the video featuring my pointer finger (sorry the sound is a little off).

video


video


video

The highlight of this coming semester will certainly be my role as Don Ottavio in the Conservatory's production of Don Giovanni.  I am planning some neat things leading up to the dates March 17-20, similar to the (evidently) widely popular Weird and Ancient instruments segment that ran the last several months.  But here is the current upcoming schedule.  Please come and visit me or see my performances any time, and if you are making a special trip to Kansas City, please let me know because I always will love to see you when you are in town.

January
Trip to Salina, KS to sing at University United Methodist Church (tba)
Conducting the North Central Kansas Youth for Music choir in Concordia, KS (still in the process of confirming this) - 1/29-1/30

February
Submission Deadline for Carmel Bach Festival YAP (California) - 2/4
Kansas City NATS Contest - 2/6
Super Bowl Party - 2/6
Opera North Auditions (New Hampshire) in Lawrence - 2/8
Conservatory Singers Concert of Bach Cantata No. 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" and the World Premiere of An American Requiem by William Averitt - 2/22
Kansas City Lyric Opera Auditions - 2/26

March
Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5
Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20

April
Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23

Summer
Hopefully an opera program somewhere
Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute!
KCVI Summer Music Camp (hopefully)
Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions

Monday, January 3, 2011

New York New Years, Met Heart Attack, Pinstripe Bowl, & Sprained Ankles

What an incredible last two weeks.  Christmas came with lots of family and presents, who could want anything else?  Dusti and I had our personal Christmas on Festivus Eve (Dec. 22).  Dusti got a surprise and elaborate poetry adventure to discover her gifts - almost 30 pages of poetry.  Perhaps I went a little overboard...

After that we went to Great Bend to see my parents and brother for a few days, also with homemade games (as you will discover is a crazy family tradition).  I was able to attend the St. Patrick's Church Christmas Eve Mass.  I had a lot of fun seeing Connie Schneweis, my mentor and teacher for so many years, and to see all the children sing.  I was part of the Mass for 17 years starting in 1991 when I was only six.  This was the first year I could attend without being part of the production.  It was very sad for me in a way, but I genuinely love the music and the joy in the kids.  Sometimes all the pre-professional students or professional singers I am around get really bogged down with their studies and the business of singing, you cannot find the joy of it all.  I genuinely love to sing and love artful music.  Seeing these kids belting away, purely enjoying what they are doing, really makes me feel great about life.  I am very serious at times and have an extreme work ethic, but I am so glad that the things that I am passionate about are still pretty primitive.  There is so much more depth to the world seeing things in black and white than just a wash of gray.  Of course you need moderation at times, but when it comes to something you are passionate about, go all the way and don't be afraid to fail!  

After Great Bend, we saw my Grandparents and my Dad's extended side in Salina.  My brother Brent brought a friend from China as he has done in recent years.  We always enjoy pampering his friends with the Christmas experience.  And again, also included was a game, which eventually paired Dusti and I against each other playing the Oreo game where we place Oreos on our forheads and without using our hands, have to slide the Oreo down our faces and into our mouths.  After Salina, we spent two days in Wichita with Dusti's family and celebrated Christmas and Dusti's birthday with her parents, sister and her boyfriend, and extended family.
Me playing the Oreo game - with Grandpa in the background
Then it was off to New York.  I had made plans to go to the bowl game earlier in the year when it looked like we were going to be able to go to one.  I have been a lifelong fan of K-State but have never been to a bowl game.  This year, K-State was invited to the first Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium in New York.  K-State would play against Syracuse on Dec. 30.

Our flight left the day after a huge winter storm hit the East Coast.  Flights were being canceled all day and our flight was to leave in the evening.  Amazingly we were able to make the flight and the connecting flight to Newark without any delays.  It was a miracle!

I went with one of my very best friends, Evan.  We landed and checked into the hotel in New Jersey and didn't get into town until the next morning.  Once we got to Penn Station, we went all around town, looking at the sites.  We had the whole day to do whatever we wanted.  I have been to New York four times in only a year and a half and this was the first time that I didn't have any business or auditions to worry about.

We went to the Empire State building, Times Square, Macy's, Rockefeller Center (with the big Christmas tree), Central Park, ate at a local pizza place, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and one of my favorite new places - Pop-Tarts World!
One of my favorite places.....POP TARTS WORLD!!!! They even served pop tart sushi...it's wrapped like sushi but it is raw pop tart dough and frosting. I had an ice cream s'more thing - it was great!

 Now since they had a huge snowstorm, there was slush and snow all over the place.  I was hopping all around on the piles of snow and sometimes accidentally stepping in a freezing slushy mess, freezing my foot.  Later in the day, we went to Grand Central Station and my foot was hurting really bad.  I took my shoe off and adjusted my sock and shoe, tied it up, and took a step.  There was a sharp pain going from the arch of my foot all the way up my leg.  Unfortunately, every single step of the tens of miles we walked I would feel the sharp pulsing pain.  By the next morning, both feet were in pain, however I only admitted that one foot was.  There was no way I was going to skip going to a bowl game and the Times Square New Years.

That day we were trying to get tickets to see a show.  Unfortunately, as you might expect, everything was sold out except for some very expensive seats.  We eventually went to the Met and got standing room only seats for the night's opera Pelleas et Melisande by Debussy.  I have never seen nor heard the opera before, but I know Debussy's music very well.  I have been wanting to see an opera at the Met for such a long time, and I finally was able to see one.  This was also the final performance of the opera before the Met retired it for another season of productions.

View from our standing room only spots

Now the Met is the center of the opera world.  The best of the best perform here.  I was so excited!  Every seat and the standing room railings all had personal displays to give the subtitles in any language so you can understand what was going on.  Debussy is an impressionist composer, so much of his music is very sentimental and sexy, very beautiful.  He wrote the piece without any arias, and in a way that was more like continuous recitative - similar to other French composers like Poulenc.  In other words, the singers have melodies that are written in a way that is more like continuous speech instead of in separate songs.

The staging was immaculate!  It was one of the more beautiful operas to watch.  The stage rotated around entirely to give several simultaneous settings.  The singers were even more brilliant.  The detail was amazing and I very much appreciated the delicate singing, which can be hard to find in a bombastic art form.  One of my personal favorite attributes in a singer is the use of vibrato as an ornament.  This was brilliantly shown by Melisande, making use of the beauty of vibrato and the tension in straight tone.

But here is where the critique gets a little weird.  The tenor, Pelleas, had a difficult segment of about 4-5 minutes long, which included several high leaps.  I could not believe my ears, but in my first Met opera, the last production of it at the Met, and recorded live on National Public Radio, the tenor CRACKED!  It was short, but very surprising.  In any other theatre or opera company, maybe it is not a big deal, but this was the Metropolitan Opera.  There have been tenors, very very famous tenors, booed offstage in other opera houses like La Scalla for cracking.  But this was not the end.

A person near us also had an annoying cough.  I usually can control my anger about coughing during live performances, but it is just not acceptable.  Don't get defensive about it, many in the audience are entranced and concentrating on the performance intently, and coughing ruins it, especially if you cannot cover your mouth.  This was especially annoying because the cougher coughed making a vocalized sound!  It sounded like "hoohph".  He literally made a vowel sound when he coughed.  Try it, it's weird.  It was particularly annoying because a vowel sound has pitch and when listening to live music, it makes people a little frustrated.  This went on for 10 or 15 minutes.

The cough and the crack were not even the most amazing part.  During the last act of the opera at the same time that Melisande dies, at the exact moment when she dies - a person stands up in the audience and yells "DOCTOR!".  Later a person runs up the aisle, whisper-yelling to the usher that "she's having an attack!".  Several people run up and down the aisle, and at one point an elderly couple trudge their way slowly to the back. No medical people interrupted the show, and the performers continued.  The only noticeable distraction was to the conductor who took a brief look back.  Otherwise, the show ended as scheduled.  What an incredible experience!

Unfortunately, the libretto was quite boring and made little sense.  The only musical surprises were with the boy soprano role, offering a little humor.  The staging and music were equally elaborate but both progressed slowly, almost as if in slow motion - the opera was four hours long by the way.  I very much enjoyed my first experience, however I do not think I would have enjoyed this particular opera outside of the Met.  I was however completely impressed by the perfection of the orchestra and singers.  I am excited to go back for another experience.

When we left my feet were hurting so much and by the next morning, I was in immense pain.  My right foot had a bruise all along the right side of it.  I later found out that I had sprained BOTH of my ankles!  I was in a lot of pain, but that would not keep me from New York.

We went into town and were jam packed on the train - smashed together like sardines.  We went to a small diner near Grand Central Station and I got an incredible chicken pot pie.  We then took the Subway and left for Yankee Stadium and the Pinstripe Bowl.
View from our seats at the Pinstripe Bowl

Unfortunately, K-State lost in part to an egregious call by one of the referees.  K-State scored in the last minute attempting to tie, and after the receiver ran into the endzone, he gave a salute to the crowd.  The referee penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Thanks in part to my love of being a fan, I - very resonantly - gave my disapproval, as did 20,000 K-State fans.  The game was very exciting and I loved that it was at Yankee Stadium.  Oddly, even though we lost in a very ugly way, I have no bad memories about it - it was a lot of fun.

That night we ate an Irish pub and I had an excellent meal of pasta with clams and oysters, mushroom and spinach soup, rhubarb pie, and a guinness (pictures can be found on my facebook page).  The next day we went to Ground Zero, and we looked at the new World Trade Center Freedom Tower still being built (it will be bigger than the old World Trade Center - take that terrorists!) and we saw the Statue of Liberty.  We then ate at a nearby Cuban restaurant and I had one of the best meals of my life:  Oxtail Soup, Moro Rice with Beans, and Fried Sweet Plantains.

My favorite meal! Oxtail Soup, Moro Rice w/ Beans, and Fried Sweet Plantains
  
We took the subway to Times Square and got there at 1:00 or so.  The police were to close off the streets at 3 and start securing the area for the ball drop.  Well, there were so many people there, that they started corralling them right as we arrived.  I later found out that over one million people attended!  We decided that we were in such a great spot, right up front, that we would go in right then and wait for 10 and a half hours for the ball drop.  We weren't allowed to leave to go to the bathroom and keep in mind that I am still wobbling along on two severely sprained ankles.

View from our spot in Times Square!
We waited and waited.  At one point it was so packed that I couldn't take a full breath.  We had to move to the middle of the gated area to avoid being crushed up against the railing.  It was beginning to become something we regretted - I was in pain, Evan had to pee (we all had to).  In our heads we each were thinking about leaving until Nivea passed out all kinds of free stuff and hats and the live concerts began.  One person from Korea who was standing right behind us had to pee so badly, somewhere like seven hours into our wait, that he took a balloon that we were given, untied it and relieved himself in it while everyone circled around him and laughed.  Thankfully, he was able to tie the balloon back up without some inadvertent pee-splosion.  I do not know what happened to the balloon though.
Evan in Times Square

Me, with my Nivea hat, dancing in Times Square


We all danced for hours and hours.  It was a lot of fun - I will never forget it.  We saw New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, Ke$ha, and many other live performances.  There was a big ceremony to hoist up the ball to the top.  Once this happened, we were so excited and began to forget all our problems with the long wait in the crowd.  Shortly before the ball drop, a performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" was performed, and then the ball drop.  Watch the video below to see the view from where we were and the reaction afterward.

video

video

video


So, now I am at home and have been sitting for many consecutive hours resting my severely sprained ankles.  I loved the experience so much, but Evan and I decided that we probably won't ever do it again.  Next week school begins and I will update everyone with my future schedule.  This will be an exciting semester, life is so fun and new; I am looking forward to what lies ahead in 2011.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!