Aloha Friday Message – March 28, 2008


I’m a little slow in getting this out this week. It’s been nearly a week since we returned from NYC, and we’re both still off-schedule. I’ll give you a brief sketch of the week:

Left 3/14 at night on the red-eye to Phoenix. Very uncomfortable ride because we were so packed in, but still a happy time because of all the excitement. The trip from Phoenix to JFK airport on 3/15 was also cramped, so by the time we got there we were ready to stretch our legs. Good thing. We would be walking nearly everywhere. Saturday night we settled in after a few little hiccups at that Holiday Inn Midtown. Some folks had to be moved because of some formidable fumes from some construction at the hotel.

Sunday we participated in the Palm Sunday service at St. Paul’s. It was a very moving. St. Paul’s is literally across the street from Ground Zero. Being there really brought it home for many of us. The scope of that tragedy, the size of the site — — impossible to describe adequately. It is more than we can imagine; it must be seen to be fully comprehended. Miraculously, St. Paul’s chapel sustained NO DAMAGE and served as a site of refuge and safety for many feeling the attack and for the workers thereafter. Sunday night we went to the first of five Broadway shows: “The Little Mermaid.” It was enchanting, and a technical masterpiece of staging.

Monday was St. Patrick’s day, but we were very busy with the Chorus Director of the New York City Opera. The students had learned several opera choruses, and the idea was that they would sing the chorus parts with performers from the NYCO cast. We also had a former student from Kaua`i High who is now signing professionally in NYC (amazing operatic soprano!!) join us. It was an exciting time and the kids worked hard. The performance – invitation only – was stellar.

Tuesday we were at the CBS Early show. It was very, very cold. We were provided with a pastry and a cup of coffee which did little to take off the chill. We did finally get a chance to do our thing on the air, and one of the parent/chaperons members of the group got interviewed. All in all it wasn’t worth the effort, and most of us retreated to the APPLE (Macintosh/Apple gear store) located on the property. Lunch was at Planet Hollywood. Let’s just say the experience was good. We toured Manhattan that afternoon seeing sites where films and TV shows were made. Took a nice group picture on the front porch of the Cosby House – the brownstone used to show the exterior. The filming was of course done in a studio elsewhere. Finished up a John’s Pizzeria for genuine NY pizza. We all enjoyed it. Our second show was “Curtains.” It was really fun! Sort of a comedy-musical-murder/mystery story. David Hyde Pierce (from Frasier) was the male lead and he was fabulous.

Wednesday was the best. We took a tour of Harlem. Amazing. Beautiful, Such history!! The tour guide was very informative and gave us lots of information about the cultural and musical history of that area. We stopped at a church in Harlem and listened to a Gospel presentation. We did a number there, too, and Crucita got to help translate a public testimony. She was awesome! Then it was lunch at Sylvia’s! As we say here in Hawaii: “BROKE DA MOUTH!” Fried catfish, collard greens, southern-Fried chicken, corn-bread, Cajun rice and all of it you could eat! YUM! After lunch, we sang at St. John the Divine church. This is the second-largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter’s in Rome is first). There is an eight-second delay – that is a sound echoes for 8 seconds – and our choral music really rang out beautifully. The women’s chorus was especially impressive here. We finished up at Mars 2112. You should check that out online. Weird place, but the kids had a lot of fun there. The food was mediocre but the themed atmosphere was well presented. We finished up with “Mama mia!” Gosh! That was a fun show! We were literally cheering and dancing during the curtain calls.

Thursday, 3/20, we toured the UN. I distinguished myself by taking a header at the top of the escalator while trying to take a picture of a mosaic at the bottom of the escalator – waited too long. No harm, no injury, no foul. That took longer than we expected, so we skipped lunch and went directly to La Guardia High School – that is the scene of – and the subject for – the movie and TV show “FAME.” Our chorus had a musical exchange with their women’s chorus – they sang one, we sang one – and it was magical. We then zipped back to the NYCO and a backstage tour and lecture about Madama Butterfly, the opera we would be seeing that night. Dinner was at a place called Dallas Barbeque. You know that commercial about Pace Picante Sauce? They don’t know how to barbeque in NYC either.

A bit of extra space here for our visit to NYCO and the season Premiere of Madama Butterfly. The students knew the story very well, had been on the set (first time on a Broadway Stage for some of our future stars), and the production was remarkable. Vibrant! The voices and the acting were exceptional. Crucita and I were smack-dab in the center-orchestra section, third row. We were surrounded by our eight excellent, well-behaved students and a host of frequent opera patrons who told us this was the best presentation of this particular opera they had ever seen – including productions at the nearby Metropolitan opera! We were all just thrilled by the performance, and it was also broadcast live on “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS and then rebroadcast Saturday night (most of us missed that broadcast; just too tired). To cap off the evening, we ended up getting a ride back to the Holiday Inn in a Big Black Limo! Couldn’t get a taxi, but Crucita managed to snag us a limo. Our students were ecstatic.

Friday we took a cruise around one end of Manhattan, saw, but did not visit, the
Statue of Liberty, and finished up the morning with lunch at Bubba Gump’s. We were chilled to the bone that day (and every day in fact), so getting inside for lunch sort of overrode any reaction to the quality of the food. It was OK, though, and we had a good time with the staff. We had a bit of free time, and of course the kids went shopping. Our students wanted to join friends in other groups, so that left Crucita and I a chance to visit several churches, including St. Patrick’s. We were joined by our Assistant Director for those self-guided tours. I have a Moon Shot from that week, but we haven’t downloaded it yet. Dinner was at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The main feature was the very talent “singing waiter” staff. Here were folks with excellent voices and performing skills, living in Manhattan, but still not on Broadway. Just another view of the rigors of the performers’ lives. You’ve really got to bring it all if you want to make it. We finished the evening with our fifth and final show, Altar Boyz. I wasn’t much impressed, but the kids got a good laugh at the caricatures of religiosity presented in the show. They started off by filling the stage – and theater – with smoke, and that triggered my COPD and started an episode of Reactive Airway Disease. Still, it was a well-staged and energetic performance.

The flight home was torture. We were tired, sick, still partially frozen, and the plane was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable vehicle I have ever flown in. We got into Lihu`e about 2:30 Saturday afternoon and I think most of us went to bed as soon as we hit the door.

In all it was a wonderful trip. Crucita and I found New York to be clean, safe, beautiful, and a place we’d like to visit again – just not when it’s so darn cold!

So there’s a long story, but only about a third of all the wonderful things that happened. We are so proud of our kids, so grateful for all the support hey received, and so appreciative of all the hard work they did – along with the leadership and guidance of Mr. David Conrad the Chorus director and his Assistant Ms. Nina Saraos. It will be an even the students will tell their kids and grandkids about with great fondness.

That’s more than enough for today. Peace be with you. Remember, love one another as He as loved you.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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