Category Archives: Art

Final Adventures of Impromptu London

A bittersweet day. 

Today was my last full day in London and while I will miss this amazing city, I am looking forward to being back with my family, friends, and co-workers (yes, I do actually miss my co-workers). 

Despite wanting to catch some last minute sights before leaving tomorrow, I still had a bit of a late start to my day. But once I got going, I didn’t stop until now to write this blog. 

The Barbican Centre was established in 1982 by HM Queen Elizabeth to support and promote the arts of all mediums and also provide a space for conferences and meetings. 


The entire building feels very eclectic, from public art works in large spaces to a hidden conservatory (like a greenhouse) in the center of the complex. I spent over an hour going from floor to floor, exploring all this building had to offer. 


There were a lot of students in the cafe and lounge areas, because the Barbican works closely with (it seems) the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I didn’t get to explore the school, but it seems that this is yet another of the top performing arts schools in London. 


This city is so wonderful for the arts!

For a change of pace, I hopped onto the tube and headed to one of the most famous addresses in history–221B Baker Street. 

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is an interesting combination of fascinating and disturbing. 


Even though Holmes was never a real person, one could be made to believe that he did exist from the way this many leveled house was set up. Period appropriate decorations and doodads that were mentioned in the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle such as Sherlock’s violin, Watson’s writing table, and, of course, the hats. There were some people in period costume as well who helped encourage the atmosphere of the home/museum.


What made it disturbing, at least for me, were all the life-size figures of  Holmes, Watson, Moriarty, and several other characters from various books. 



I don’t like dolls, or anything that resembles humans too closely but aren’t actually alive. Something about them creeps me out, and being in a house full of them was rather challenging. However, I was able to set my “fear” aside and still enjoy being in the “very place where Sherlock Holmes lived.”

Speaking of, is anyone out there a fan of the BBC rendition with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? I missed seeing the first episode of the fourth season on New Year’s Day, so please don’t tell me anything. I’m looking forward to seeing that soon. 

After inspecting the home of the sleuth, I hopped on the tube once again to head to the Tate Britain Museum, a museum that features British artists from across time. A new acquaitance I had made during my visit here suggested that I go to see a painting called Hope by George Frederic Watts because of how emotional and touching it was. 


It truly was an amazing painting to behold. The blindfolded figure clinging to a lyre that only has one single golden strand remaining. It is dark and sad, yet does inspire hope-there is still another chance.  Very inspirational. 


I loved it so much a bought a postcard with it. 

There were many other wonderful and famous paintings in the museum which I will show below. 


Finally, as my last wish for my stay in London, I actually treated my AirBnb host, Pandora, to dinner. 

She has been such an amazing host. Lovely, through and through. We didn’t always get a chance to talk because our schedules didn’t always match, but it was so nice to get to just sit and chat with her tonight about all sorts of things. I hope that from my time staying here, she can consider me more than just a guest, but now a new friend. 


I have made so many new friends and acquatainces during my time here in London. People met through current connections and others just via happenstance, I truly believe God was at work and will continue to work in my life. 

Coming to London had been impromptu, but it turned out to be an amazing blessing. 

Thanks, London, for being so wonderful. Here’s to the next time we shall meet. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

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A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 



We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 




We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 


That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 


One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 



While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!


It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

A Day for New Friends

What an interesting and exciting day!

A good friend of mine told me that a friend of his that he had met while studying abroad was going to be in London the same time as me and decided to connect us. 

Today I met Bruno, along with Barbara and Jennifer, for an amazing whirlwind of a day.We met at the National Gallery and got to know one another a bit as walked through the exhibits. 


There were fantastic paintings from well-know and not so well-known artists. Probably my favorites were Paolo Veronese’s “The Adoration of the Kings,” and Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”



After seeing what we wanted at the Gallery, we decided to head towards the British Museum. Except… I lead us in the wrong direction, and with plans later in the day, we wouldn’t have had the time to do everything we wanted. Thankfully, we ended seeing things that some had not had a chance to see yet. 

We crossed the Waterloo Bridge and then around to the Eye, back across on the Westminster Bridge up into Leicester Square. It reminded me very much of New York City, with all the lights and enormous stores, including four stories of M&Ms! Such a ridiculous amount of chocolate. 


Our group began to dwindle a bit as we began a walking tour. Not even 10 minutes into the tour, the three of us left decided we would rather spend our time doing other things. So we headed to Piccadilly Circus. 

What a gorgeous, expensive, and very busy area of London! If I thought Leicester Square was like New York City, Piccadilly Circus was even more so. The tight, constantly shifting crowd, the bright lights (including Europe’s largest LED screen, smaller only than the one in Times Square), and the shopping were all so reminiscent of the Big Apple. 




It’s this kind of thing that I don’t mind experiencing once in a while, but also makes me never want to live in a large city. There is simply too much going on all the time, and I know I need to relax my senses once in a while. 

After helping another of our friends get home, Bruno and I were left together to meet with Pr. Vili, the director for media ministry of the Southern England Conference and a pastor at Newbold College. 


Pr. Vili absolutely spoiled us by taking us to the largest mall in Europe, a Westfield, no less, for dinner. The shopping center was stunning and the food was fantastic. After spending some time together getting to know each other, Pr. Vili left for home and Bruno and I were left to wander the halls of the mall. 

A macaw made from tiny Havaiana flip-flops!


We popped into some stores and watched people skate in the indoor ice rink, but probably the most memorable moment was at the Sky TV kiosk. They have a machine that showed some well-known characters from children’s films (all of which I know, of course) in different poses that you had to match. It was too adorable not to try, and they had pictures from Zootopia (known as Zootropolis here), so I had to do it. 

On my first round, I had 100% success at matching the poses and the salespeople running the kiosk were so impressed that they decided to buy Bruno and I tea. We were so taken aback, but completely appreciative. 

We ended up hanging out at the kiosk for several minutes just chatting and left feeling like we had made new friends. What a blessing!


Getting home late several nights in a row is starting to get to me, but I am just so thankful for all the wonderful things God has blessed me with and used me to be a blessing to others. I pray that the rest of my time here in London will continue to be the same. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Westminster and Leicester

I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday. 

Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting. 

With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded. 

The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station. 

As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben. 

However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later. 

I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey. 

I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case. 


The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer. 

Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there. 


Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey. 

Residence in the Abbey of an Abbey staff member. I wonder if all clergy and worship leaders are required to live there.

To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.  

In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do. 

Taken with my iPhone 7, thank you very much.

I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building. 


The surprise from my Kinder Egg!

Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned. 

Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards. 

There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons. 

It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time. 

The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building. 

Westminster Hall – at the time it was completed, it was the largest hall of it’s kind in Europe. It’s ceiling/beams are very special and unique.

St. Stephen’s Chapel

Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films. 

I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!

After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!



Forget the cinema, I instantly decided I was going to see a musical. 

I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it. 

All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End. 


If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.

I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂

A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette

-Wandering Minstrelette

Colorado Adventures

Hi all,

It’s been a while, huh? Just a short post tonight. 

My mom is a forensic nurse (she deals with rape, domestic violence, and human traffiking victims) and was invited to come to an international forensic nurse convention in Denver, Colorado this week. I decided to join her. 🙂

  

Over this next week I’ll be posting about my adventures in the metro Denver area.  

  
Today we arrived in Denver about mid-afternoon and after settling in to our hotel, wandered along 16th street to enjoy the quaint atmosphere, the painted pianos, and some shopping. The discovery of the soup and salad shop, Zoup!, was a real treat.  

 
   
 

The greatest impression of the city, however, was not necessarily a positive one. 

There are tons of homeless people here. Many, many more congregated in sections and wandering around than I have ever seen in DC, NYC, LA, or even Niagara, NY, which looks much more destitute than Denver. Of course, there are many homeless people in these cities, but the sheer quantity of people we saw on the streets the moment we crossed into the border of Denver proper was shocking. 

If my mom wasn’t already going to have her days filled with events from the convention, I know she would be going around trying to see what she could do to help the homeless. It’s just… So sad to see so many people dealing with homelessness. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Mason Pride

It’s hard to believe that my time at George Mason has officially come to a close.

I somehow managed to extend my stay for a year longer than most full-time graduate students, but I am thankful for every moment that I have had on this vibrant, robust, growing campus.

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My first day of graduate school. 🙂
Things have changed a lot since I first came in Fall 2013. Firstly, I started off as a masters in flute performance student, studying under the amazing Julianna Nickel. She was the main reason I chose to come to Mason, despite opportunities to attend the University of Oregon and the University of Akron (with a full ride to the latter). Never before had I been with so many flutes in one place, and I was honestly surprised at how nice and supportive everyone was. For an instrument where competition is high to get a minimal amount of positions, this studio only showed love and encouragement to each other. I’m confident to say I rather blossomed during my time in Nickel’s studio. IMG_6935

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Prof. Julianna Nickel coaching a fellow flutist, Fall 2013.
Besides the flute studio, I had some amazing experiences that fall. My music in research class had the opportunity to handle old, original manuscripts from the Middle Ages.

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I also made some great friends and together we created wonderful chamber music – oh, and survived graduate level music analysis class. Those who suffer together, bond together, haha.

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Poulenc Sextet

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A typical day in analysis class
But what would change my life forever was joining the Mason Symphony Orchestra. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for a lot more than I ever imagined when I came to that first rehearsal to play piccolo.

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About halfway through the semester, people started asking me what my plans were for the future. When I told them about my dreams of starting a youth ensemble or opening a conservatory, the question I kept getting was, “Then why are you in performance?”

The first time it shocked me and I didn’t know what to say (very unusual, by the way). After I got it several times, I came up with some half-baked answer that I didn’t entirely believe myself. It wasn’t until I was leaving class one evening and discussing this situation with a classmate that I realized that God was telling me something.

I was in the wrong program.

After much prayer and discussion, I decided to drop my masters in music performance and applied to be accepted into the Arts Management program at Mason. Spring semester of 2014 was a fresh start, with new faces, new classes, and a whole new campus.

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I actually found it harder here to make friends, because most people came for class and left directly afterwards, but eventually I connected with some individuals that have now become dear to my heart. Together we went on field trips to places like the National Portrait Gallery and NPR. Some of us volunteered at the Association for Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in a frigid New York January. A whole squad attended the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University to attend panels and experience art ourselves as a reminder of why we chose this field. Our Special Event class took us outside of the classroom as well by encouraging us to participate in events near us so we could have the experience of what working as an arts manager feels like in the real world. And of  course, who could forget our culminating Capstone projects!

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I was also blessed with the opportunity to do not one, but two international internships  during my program: Summer 2014 in Niterói, Brazil and Summer 2015 in Berlin, Germany. I have written about both experiences in previous blog posts – be sure to check them out!

 

What I will always cherish the most, however, was the surprise of when I was hired to work for the same orchestra that just a couple of semesters ago I had been performing with. The previous orchestra manager had to leave suddenly in the Spring semester of 2015 and of all the candidates interviewed, I was chosen.

It felt like going back home, not only because of having once been part of the ensemble, but because I had worked for my orchestra in undergrad and felt comfortable in this supporting and managerial role. What I learned over the year and couple of months of my service to this ensemble and its director, Dr. Dennis Layendecker, will be carried with me for the rest of my life. The frustrations and joys, the tensions and celebrations, the overwhelmingly, ridiculously “proud parent” feeling I had at the end of each performance – I’m really going to miss that.

Managing this group not only became my job but my joy. I wish each and every member, especially those who are graduating, the very best in the future and many blessings from the Lord.

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Speaking of graduation, I actually graduated in December, but stuck around to continue working with the MSO until the end of this semester. I had my sister do a graduation photo shoot to celebrate since I couldn’t attend commencement, and boy did they turn out nice. Check our her online portfolio to see some of her great work.

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But now I feel like things are really over. The orchestra had it’s last concert, everyone’s done with finals and presentations, and then yesterday was a celebration of Fall and Spring Arts Management graduates. Once again, I was shocked, surprised, and honored to receive the Erin Gaffney award which, according to the GMU Arts Management website, “is named in honor of Erin Gaffney, MA in Arts Management in 2007, who was instrumental in advancing new programming within the College of Visual and Performing Arts, graduated with High Honors, and was the first recipient of the Dean’s Award. Erin Gaffney passed away on July 10, 2008. The award is presented to an outstanding student who exemplifies Erin’s respect for self, for others, and for the power of the arts to transform.”

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I am pictured here receiving the Erin Gaffney Award with Erin’s parents, brother, and niece.

Truly, I am overwhelmed. God has truly blessed me during my time at Mason and I could not be more proud to call this school my own.

Thanks for the memories, Mason. Now onward to the future.

PS – Keep in touch over the next several days as my mom and I will do a victory tour of Ontario, Canada in celebration of my graduation from GMU. We’re bound for some exciting adventures!

-Wandering Minstrelette

El Monumento a la Revolución

My time in Mexico City was short and sweet, with the obvious highlight of the wedding for which I came. I was, however, able to get a little bit of sightseeing in the morning following the ceremony.

With only a few hours to spare, a distance restriction due to afternoon plans, and all the museums being closed on Mondays,  Paulo (who had, at this point, been designated my tour guide for the day) decided to take me to a important landmark of Mexico City.

The Monumento a la Revolución is located in the Cuauhtémoc borough of the nation’s capital and is a significant icon of Mexico’s cultural and social history. A French architect named Émile Bernard was selected to design the building, which was originally conceived to be a parliament building. Construction was interrupted in 1912 by a lack of funds, due in part to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, and was not resumed until 1936 when Mexican architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia decided to build over the existing frame in a Art Deco and Mexican socialist realism style and re-purposed the structure as a monument to the Mexican Revolution.

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Sculptor Oliverio Martínez was selected to create sculptures that would embody and symbolize the work of the Revolution and also what Mexico as a new nation held dear. His four sculptures are found at each corner of the monument, each dedicated to a different set of laws that would make Mexico great: “The Independence,” “Reform Laws,” “Agrarian Laws,” and “Labour Laws.” All the figures were completed in 1938 and fit in perfectly with Santacilia’s style for the monument.

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The pillars of the monument also serve as a mausoleum for the heroes of the Mexican Revolution, including Francisco “Pancho” Villa and Lázaro Cárdenas.

As a whole, the monument is striking and impressive, towering over the Plaza de la República – indeed, it is considered the tallest triumphal arch in the world at 67 meters (220 ft). It’s height is one of its main attractions, because visitors can take an elevator to an observation deck that provides a 360 degree view of Mexico City and a close up look at the statues of Martínez. There is the possibility of going higher, up into the dome, and also underneath to a recently added art gallery, but that costs a little more money.

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A view of Mexico City from the Monument, facing north.

The plaza itself is also beautiful, decorated with colorful trees blooming in spring and a fountain that at night is lit with different colors. Sadly, when I was there the fountain had been turned off due to some event taking place at the base of the monument, but it was still a pleasure to be able to enjoy this slice of history for a few hours.

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Soon, Paulo and I were back on the bus for home. It had been a interesting and educational morning and I wish we had had more time to explore other parts of the city but was glad to have been able to do this.

If you are ever in Mexico City and enjoy learning about history and culture – I definitely recommend the MRM, as the locals call it, be on your list. You won’t be disappointed.

DETAILS:

Elevator to Panoramic Observation Deck: 50 MEX, 30 MEX with student ID.

REvoluciónArte (art galleries, wax figures, summit, and observation deck access): 110 MEX, 90 MEX with student ID.

Information Brochure: 20 MEX

Gift Shop and Cafe on premises

 

Happy travels!

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Continue reading El Monumento a la Revolución

Star Power

It’s not often that one gets to share a space with a living legend, but on Thursday night last week I was in a room full of them. 

  
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphonic orchestras of the world, and is most certainly the most well-known. Their history is interwoven with pride and disappointments, but there is no doubt that they have managed to make themselves the golden standard by which nearly every orchestra measures themselves. 

I had heard the Berlin Phil once before at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. How cool would it be, I had thought, if one day I could see them on their home turf? 

   

One of the first things I planned to do when I knew I was coming to Berlin was to go see a performance. However, tickets tend to go fast, especially when you have well-known conductors thrown into the mix. 

Gustavo Dudamel, another living legend (and quite a young one, for that matter), was going to conduct this amazing ensemble in a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Serenade for Posthorn and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Dudamel is especially known for his remarkable interpretations of works by Mahler, so I’m pretty sure that everyone in town who cares about classical music (which is actually quite a lot of people here) knew and planned to attend. 

The performance was completely sold out, but I was able to purchase a standing room only ticket for €10 by waiting in line for about an hour and half just before the concert. There were plenty of others with me, too, hoping that they would have a spot for the concert. 

  
Never in the States have I ever heard of people scrambling to get a ticket to attend a classical concert. Do we even have standing room only options available? Of the entire Philharmonie Großer Saal, which holds 2,440 people, I saw 4 empty seats. Even those were filled in the second half by those who had originally been standing. I am pretty sure that the major orchestras in the area where I live – the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony – would love to have that kind of ticket available if the demand was high enough.  

Anyways, there I was at the very back of the hall, standing. The first musicians began to appear and the audience began to clap. They just showed up and they were being praised! This city truly loves their orchestra. 

I also was able to make out that the first flute player was Emmanuel Pahud, a brilliant performer and one of my musical role models. I totally fan-girled. I think the other people around me must have been wondering if there was something wrong with me. His playing was so beautiful, so effortless… There is definitely a reason why he is the principal flute of this renowned ensemble. 

Then Dudamel appeared. For a few seconds, I wondered if I was in a rock concert instead. This young conductor has nearly single handedly changed the perception of what classical music can be and every one loves him for it. 

First, the Mozart. It was instantly recognizable as a work of Wolfgang from it’s style and almost happy-go-lucky sound. Dudamel seemed to be barely doing anything, so as not to distract for the glorious work the orchestra was producing. The players seemed to me to work as one giant instrument – even from where I was standing, I could see that everyone moved together and even breathed together. The Posthorn soloist appeared only for one movement of the work, and did a great job at showcasing this unusual, and I am sure rather difficult, instrument. Overall, the entire work sounded like velvet to my ears. Smooth,comfortable, approachable. At the end, a great applause erupted – and it was only intermission!

The Mahler was absolutely glorious. Once again, Dudamel seemed to be doing as little as possible (which was a surprise, I expected him to be a bit more showy…) but was pulling amazing sound and emotion from the orchestra. It had been a long time since I had felt so moved and elevated by a live performance, but there was no way that anyone could not have felt something. Each movement was more wonderful than the last and the different sections all had a chance to be showcased throughout the work. 

Pahud sounded amazing (How I would love to play like him…) and his teamwork with the principal oboe player to make what we call the “floboe” sound was true perfection. Honestly, the whole orchestra was the sound of perfection. 

When the last sounds of Mahler faded away, the packed hall burst into cheers, whistles, applause, and shouts of “Bravo!” This lasted for at least 7-8 minutes. Dudamel had to appear three times (the last with the orchestra already off the stage) before people would subside and start making their way out of the hall. 
  
When a long-held dream of yours finally comes true, things can seem a little surreal. But it was true – I had seen the Berlin Philharmonic at their resident performance hall, with their principal flutist in the ensemble, performing amazing works, and being conducted by one of the greatest conductors of our time. Living legends with a ridiculous amount of star power – and I was there. 

I can actually say I was there…

What an amazing night!

Do you have a have an experience of encountering a living legend or another influential figure? I’d love to hear about it. 

Until next time – happy travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (German Orchestra Union)

Some may have been wondering what I’m doing in Berlin. Despite the pictures and stories so far, it’s not simply a pleasure trip of exploring the city and neighboring countries – surprise! I’m actually here to work.

I may have mentioned sometime back that I am studying Arts Management at George Mason University. Part of the program requirements are that I have to fulfill a certain amount of hours participating in internships. There are many ways that those hours can be accomplished, but with my love for travel and desire to one day move overseas, I decided to maximize on the requirements and complete my internship hours abroad. If you remember my blog posts from last summer, I was in Niterói/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for an internship (check out some of those stories here and here). There were still some credits I needed to complete and thus was born the idea to come to Europe. And boy, is it a different world from the US.

You see, in Germany, culture and the arts is viewed as an inherent part of its citizens’ identities. Thus, there is a strong point of view that permeates the nations arts and culture policies – the government should be responsible for supporting and promoting that which makes Germany German. Therefore, the vast majority of arts and culture organizations gain their primary funding from government sources, but not the federal government.

As a result of the two World Wars, there is a fair amount of distrust in the national level of government. The authority and responsibility, then, to disperse funds to arts organizations belongs to the state and local governments. In fact, when breaking how much level of government contributes, one can see that arts organizations tend to receive the greatest amount of their contributed funds from the local level of government (numbers are roughly: local-45%, state-43%, and federal-12%). This is beneficial in many ways, and lower levels of government would be more aware of the needs of a particular region and would have better knowledge of what to support and how. However, it’s not uncommon for some of these funders to feel overwhelmed or like they could use the money elsewhere.

Enter the DOV.

The Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (roughly translating into the German Orchestra Union), is a labor union that advocates and lobbies for the rights of orchestras and their musicians around the country. They work primarily with publicly (government) funded opera and symphony orchestras, although they also work with publicly funded chamber ensemble and radio orchestras/choirs. They act as the voice of the people in orchestras to orchestra management and funding government agents.

DOV Logo

When government officials threaten to shut down or merge groups in an effort to save money, the lawyers of the DOV come to remind them of the great cultural value these groups have to the region and the nation. These efforts were started in earnest especially after a study showed a 33% decline of publicly funded opera, concert, and radio orchestras from 1992 to 2010. Groups either have to seek ways to gain private funding (as arts organizations do in the US) or close their doors. The DOV’s position is that this is not good stewardship of these important cultural heritage. Remember, in Germany culture should be supported by the government. They have won many cases over the past several years and have dramatically slowed the decline of publicly funded orchestras around the nation. They were even responsible for helping the orchestral landscape of Germany to be recognized by the national chapter of UNESCO as an intangible heritage site this past fall and hope to achieve international status in the near future.

View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.
View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.

The new major battle they are now facing, however, is the potential trade agreement between the US and the European Union know as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Essentially, this pact would create the world’s largest free market sector between the world’s two greatest economic superpowers. ‘Barriers’ to imports and exports would be removed in order to increase commerce and standards of things such as health care, food, and energy use would most likely have to be leveled (meaning, they will end up being lowered rather than raised…).

This agreement could mean disaster for European cultures because, like Germany, the majority of EU member nation’s view culture as a government responsibility while the US is very much against that idea and chooses instead to have arts and culture funded by private donors and regulated by the free market. There is great fear that much of what is currently available to audiences would not be able to survive or be as easily accessible to the public if Germany had to put it’s arts sector on the open market.

Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de
Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de

Overall, TTIP doesn’t sound like a good idea for either party, no matter the side of the Atlantic. There’s a lot more to this idea and debate and I would encourage you to take some time to read about it and make your opinion known. Click here and here to learn more.

I’ve already learned so much from my time at the DOV about policy and international relations, as well as national support and promotion of the arts. I’m looking forward to what the weeks ahead have in store.

If you want to learn more about other things that the DOV is a part of or does, please check out their website which is mostly in German, but does have some English (part of my job is to expand on this).

So now you know – I’m not just here for fun. 🙂 I’ll be sure to write another update about the DOV or my wanderings soon.

Until then – bis später!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Gates of History

From the moment I started announcing to my family and friends that I would be going to Berlin, the single-most popular phrase I heard was, “You MUST got to the Pergamon Museum!” This past Sunday, I finally made the pilgrimage to this exalted space.

The Pergamon Museum, located on the Museum Island near the center of Berlin, specializes in artifacts and original-sized monuments and buildings from the ancient Near East. Some of the most popular items Byzantine mosaics, the Aleppo Room, and the Pergamon Altar. The pieces here are magnificent and truly bring the visitor back in time to ages long past.

My first attempt to visit the museum was in vain – I was rushing to the Island from the DOV office where I am doing my internship (more on that later) and was majorly confused by the distracting signs attempting to redirect the museum traffic due to massive reconstruction efforts. There seems to be construction every where in Berlin right now, but Museum Island was definitely the most concentrated. By the time I found the temporary entrance (around the back and by the Old National Gallery), they had stopped allowing visitors to enter. I also discovered that two-thirds of the museum was also under reconstruction, not just the facade, meaning that several of the exhibits were temporarily closed until 2019.

I was a little wary – the whole reason I truly wanted to visit was to see the Ishtar Gate, which were the beautiful decorative gates and entryway into the city of Babylon. Would they be in the part of the museum that was shut down?

Unsure of whether or not I would get to see the Gate, I decided to go ahead and try again to visit the museum on Sunday. Thankfully, there was no waiting line and I even was able to get a discounted ticket by showing my student ID (Tip: Always bring a student ID when traveling!) and was directed down a hallway into the exhibition hall.

Before I realized where I was, my eyes were filled with a dazzling blue and gold, flecked with green and dotted with white daisy-like flowers. Proud bulls and dragons seemed to strut mightily before me. They climbed ever higher in a towering facade that was obviously meant to intimidate as well as display the wealth and power the king of Babylon.

The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.
The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.

Gazing upon the Ishtar Gate, tears involuntarily welled up in my eyes. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed not only by the beauty and size of this magnificent structure, but by the sheer fact that through this Gate King Nebuchadnezzar had walked, and most likely so had the prophet Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. My eyes were gazing the same facade that people of ancient Babylon and the captives of ancient Israel had looked upon centuries ago. I felt a strong connection with the past at that moment, and suddenly history became very, very real.

Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.
Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.

When I was finally able to pry myself away from the Gate, I wandered around the adjacent halls to see the amazing artifacts from Babylon, Assyria, Asher, Mesopotamia, and Medo-Persia. Truly, I felt as if I was walking through the Old Testament. On the other side of the Gate was the original entryway to a Roman market, with artifacts dating back to the time of Emperor Justinian who ruled several hundred years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Even so, it was like stepping into New Testament times walking around in this “market square.”

What an amazing feeling…

Ishtar Gate Bull
Ishtar Gate Bull

Figures of a passage way Ancient Near East Text

Unicorns? Hmm...
Unicorns? Hmm…
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad - which I guess is also a tablet.
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad – which I guess is also a tablet.

Symmetrical Designs

Roman Market Entryway
Roman Market Entryway

There was also an exquisite exhibit on Islamic Art that did not cease to amaze. The detail, color, and quality of the rugs, paintings, dishware, clothing, architecture, and more was simply astonishing. Wandering the exhibit also helped me realize how much modern society has to thank the ancient Middle East for, because in many ways they were far more advanced than their European counterparts.

Muslim Ivory Carving Details of a Muslim art work Near Eastern Islamic Rugs

Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display India, early 18th century
Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display
India, early 18th century
The Aleppo Room
The Aleppo Room

One quirky example of something unexpected was the combination of blue and white in dishware. The Middle Eastern merchants were seeking to compete in the trade markets with the Chinese, who had created an excellent method of developing porcelain. Middle Eastern merchants decided to take the white porcelain and add designs in the deep, rich blue of cobalt to raise the value of their items. The Chinese were so taken by the simple and elegant beauty of the combination, they ended up copying it, developing what we know today as “china.” The Europeans, in turn, fell in love with the works from the Chinese and would trade and eventually learn how to manufacture their own fine china for a variety of things, not the least of which would be British tea sets.

Near Eastern Porcelain
Near Eastern Porcelain

Don’t you love history?

I’m so thankful to everyone who told me umpteenth times that I had to visit the Pergamon – it truly was not an experience to be missed. In fact, I’m thankful for museums in general because they truly are important institutions that help expose us to the new and the old, the familiar and the foreign, the past and perhaps even insights for the future. I wouldn’t be a true Washingtonian without recognizing this most important fact: Museums are the gates of history.

If you have never been to a museum, or at least haven’t been a while, make a point of checking one out sometime. Especially here in Berlin there seems to be a museum on just about anything, so search for something you’d be interested in and immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll be glad you did.

As for me, I hope to have the chance to visit some of the other museums on Museum Island at some point and will certainly make plans to return after 2019 to have the full Pergamon experience.

Do you have a favorite museum? Let me know about your experience.

Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette