Last night in Montreal

Today was our last full day in Montreal as tomorrow we hit the road and head back to Fredericton.  This was the day that we went shopping, much to the delight of many of the students.  Luckily for me, a group wanted to go to Archambault, a fabulous music store, so I got to take them.  We took the metro down to Berri-UQAM and the students were excited just seeing the outside of the store.  So much bigger than anything we have in Fredericton for sure!  We spent quite a bit of time there looking around and then headed back toward where we were to meet the rest of the group.  Lunch was a stop in a little place where I had both a smoked meat sandwich and poutine.  What else could a person really want?  Our next stop was at HMV down on Ste-Catherine’s.  Also and experience you can’t get at home! 

Our afternoon included a tour of Old Montreal on an amphibious bus, so not only did we drive around the streets a bit to look at the architecture, but we also went out on the water.  Our bus driver was 71 and our tour guide was in costume.  I am not usually a really panicky person, and I love being on the water, but as soon as the bus was in the water I wanted to turn around and head back to land.  It could be that the ceiling around the skylights was leaking.  Our tour guide joked that as long as the leaks were above us and not below that we were doing ok.  I actually think that it was the fact that the bus did not feel like a boat when it was in the water.  The tour was pretty neat other than that.  We saw some condos (or at least they are now condos) that were built for Expo 76 for the VIPS.  The condos were designed by an architect who wanted to mimic homes perched on the side of a mountain, and I think he succeeded.  Sadly, it was a very rainy day today and the windows fogged up quite badly in the bus.  We were allowed to go out onto the back step to take a look around, so I spent a fair amount of time out there. 

Dinner was at the Upstairs Jazz Club.  We had the place to ourselves and had entertainment during our meal.  The entertainment was Sara Latendress who was accompanied by a fellow playing 7-string guitar and a pianist.  The music was great and in fact I thought she could give Carol Welsman a run for her money.  One of the nice things was that she and the other musicians interacted with our students and actually had two of the percussions go up to play on a song with them.  They also got another student to go up and sing with them for a song.  It is always nice for the students to have that sort of interactive experience.  Just so you know, the sign looks like it is upside down, but Upstairs is actually in the basement.

The end of our day was going to a third concert at the Festival Musique de Chambre.  This concert featured the extraordinary competition winners; three highly accomplished young musicians.  Before the concert we met Conrad Tao who played the piano.  He was a lovely young man of the age of 16 who will be attending Columbia in the fall.  He was great at interacting with our students telling them a bit about his life and then fielding questions.  Also in the concert were Timothy Chooi (violin) and Mehdi Ghazi (piano).  The highlight of the concert for me was the final piece (Menhelssohn’s piano trio #1 in d minor, Op. 49) for which Dennis Brott (cello and organizer of the festival) joined Conrad and Tim.  They were all fantastic, although Tim’s playing did capture my attention the most.  He has absolutely incredible bow control!  It was very nice for me to end the concerts off with a concert of classical music. 

 Now we are back at the dorms and the students are in the process of trying to fit all of their new purchases into their bags.  Tomorrow will be a long day of traveling!

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We are still all here!

As mentioned yesterday, I know live in the country.  That fact was emphasized to me last night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep.  Even though I used to live in a basement apartment in the McGill ghetto and sleep through the partiers heading to and from St-Laurent, I am now used to my quiet rural existence: very few cars, no drunken revelers and no streetlights.  Given these factors, I awoke not quite so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to begin day 2 of the LHHS band trip.  I should clarify that even though I keep using the term “band trip,” this is actually a music department trip that includes the string ensemble as well.

After breakfast we broke into small groups and headed off toward the Musée des Beaux-Arts.  We were early, so we had a chance to do some window-shopping on the way.  It had to be window-shopping (much to the chagrin of my group) as none of the stores opened until 10am, and we were due at the museum by 10:15.  We went to see the Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor.  We went on a guided tour through the exhibit, and I have to say that the exhibit was fantastic!  If you are in Montreal, definitely check it out!  The warriors are these amazing full-sized figures.  Apparently there were 8000 of them and 1000 have been excavated.  In the museum display they included a warrior, a bowman, a charioteer and a general.  These figures were created from the feet up for the legs and torso.  The head and the arms were created separately and then attached to the rest of the figure.  Also included in the display were some horses.  They were fantastic!  I wish I had been able to take a picture of them as their faces were delightful.  The horses were full of whimsy and you almost felt like they were laughing!  Also interesting was that the tomb of the emperor has never actually been entered.  It was booby trapped when it was created, and the engineer responsible was put to death right away.  They have done some scans of the area, so they do know what is present in the tomb, but is has not actually been seen.  The terracotta army was discovered in a separate area that was not booby trapped. 

In the afternoon we headed out to the Montreal Tower and Biodome.  During my years at McGill I visited the Biodome on several occasions, but had not actually gone up the tower.  We took the funicular up to the viewing platforms at the top.  The view on Montreal was great!  We were really lucky that the weather was nice as it was supposed to rain all day today.  Students never cease to amaze me:  one of them approached me to ask why were there.  Was it just to look at the view?  I told her that yes we were.  When traveling I don’t need a purpose to go do something that is really neat.

Our next stop was the Biodome.  This was a lot of fun.  We did not take any sort of guided tour and were able to wander through the area as we wished.  It was hard to know which animals to watch as we went…  the ones from the biodome, or the ones brought with us from home!  It was a lot of fun to see the students react to the different displays.  That is of course one of the beauties of traveling with children:  you not only get to enjoy the displays, but also their response to them.    Should I never give birth to children of my own, I figure that I will have had hundreds anyway.  I went through the exhibits twice before heading out at the end.  My favourite display has always been the penguins, so I was disappointed that the display was under repair.  You could still see the penguins, but they were not as close as usual. 

After dinner we went back to the Festival Musique de Chambre for another concert, tonight featuring Carol Welsman.  This concert was another excellent concert, although I personally did not enjoy it as much as the concert last night.  Carol in an excellent jazz singer and pianist who sings in a lovely effortless way.  I really enjoyed the fact that her singing was not forced in any way.  Having said that, jazz is not my favourite style of music and I was worn out by a long day of activity.  You can check her music out for yourself at:  http://youtu.be/XfbvjzUupUw.

Another great day on the road with the kids.  We have managed to survive with all 29 students still with us and all 4 chaperons still present.  No one has jumped ship just yet, so I figure the trip is a success!  On to more adventures tomorrow!

Montreal, here we come!

I am currently on the road with my Leo Hayes High School students.  We gathered at 6am this morning in order to hit the road by 6:30.  That was early!  I must say that I really enjoy a good band trip.  I was at least as excited as the kids, especially since I went to university at McGill.  This is a trip back to a familiar city!  A lot of the trip was quit quiet since we were all still tired, but there was that fantastic buzz of excitement that you get when you have 29 high school students headed off on an adventure.  I love the drive along the St. John River Valley.  There is some fantastic scenery. I also enjoy the scenery once you cross over into Quebec as it reminds me of all the trips to McGill.  My aim was to knit a complete sock on the way to Montreal, but as you can see, I failed.  Close, but not quite!

We arrived in Montreal by about 4:30 local time.  This gave us time to settle into our new home in downtown Montreal.  We were able to spend a bit of time outside just hanging around as well as unpacking and moving in.  Given the location of our accommodations, we were able to walk to dinner and then walk to St. George’s Church.

I live in the middle of nowhere and sometimes see moose near my house.  Image my surprise to see two in downtown Montreal!

Ok, so they weren’t real moose…  But they amused me none-the-less.

The big excitement of the day was getting to go to a concert by the Swingle Singers.  As a matter of fact, that is why we had to get up and leave so early in the morning!  I was really excited about this concert as I always enjoy a cappella groups.  I was surprised that every time I told someone we were going to hear the Swingle Singers that I got a blank look in return.  This is a group that has been around since the 60s, although the current singers are not the original members.  The concert was amazing!  It was actually part of the Festival Musique de Chambre Montreal.  (www.festivalmontreal.org) We were greeted by the organizer of the festival, Denis Brott, and granted VIP entrance to St. George’s Church.  None of the students had heard of the Swingle Singers before, but they were entranced by the concert.  The music and harmonies were great, and I always love good beatboxing: these guys can make the sounds of a drum kit with just their voices.  Highlights of the concert included Corelli’s Concerto Grosso No. 6, Rimski-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”  I love baroque music, the Rimsky-Korsakov was just plain cute, and the 1812 was a lot of fun with the sound of canons and the house lights flickering.  If you have never heard this group, you should check them out at http://youtu.be/CZo1_BDn8Ew.  This is a clip of the Rimsky-Korsakov.

We have now returned to the dorms, and the children are all in their rooms.  Time for me to pack it in too.  All in all, I must say that this has been a very successful first day to the trip.