Day 13: One Final Day in Moscow – Conservatory Visit & Heart Warming Final Concert!

One final day in Moscow

DSC02374After battling traffic this morning we finally got to the Moscow Conservatory. What an incredible building filled with character and history. As we waited to be let in we could hear students practicing from their practice rooms.What beautiful sounds coming out from their open windows.

The Moscow Conservatory is also officially known as the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in music performance and music research. It was co-founded in 1866 by Nikolai Rubinstein and Prince Nikolai Troubetzkoy. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was appointed professor of theory and harmony at its opening. Since 1940 the conservatory bears his name. It is the second oldest conservatory in Russia after the St. Petersburg Conservatory. When we went into the great hall – I had chills. The beauty of the hall was overwhelming and to see all the Russian composers surrounding the hall was incredible. There was an organist practicing in the hall getting ready for his concert. It sounded glorious.

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Triple encore again today for our last concert! We played Czardas, Scheherazade and Waltz No.2 again. The Russians just love that song!!!! Their heartfelt applause and cheers will be something I think we will never forget.

Blurb from Jessica – “Our concert tonight was so much fun. By the time we got to the end of our planned repertoire, everyone was sweating to death under the hot spotlights. The veterans were clapping so loud that Mrs. Morris decided we should do an encore, so we played Czardas. Because the girls were velvet shirts and long skirts and the boys wear tuxedos, we were all ready to faint from heat stroke at this point. The veterans absolutely loved Czardas, so we played yet another encore. Even though we were all drenched in sweat and exhausted, the looks of pure joy on the veterans’ faces made the whole experience worth it. Performing for these veterans and making their day was one of the highlights of the trip.”

 

 

The highlight of the tours for me are always the concerts! I love each concert because each venue is so different and unique. You never know what we get until we arrive. In this case I love the unknown. I love the heightened/elevated pressure that is needed to adjust to each situation. I love watching the audience members fall in love with my students and their music. I love watching my students faces light up when the audience members start clapping in unison, cheering and crying tears of joy.

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Sharing our music with the kind people of Russia have been very meaningful. They truly express their love and joy for the music and for my students. They are genuinely appreciative of their performance and music. There is nothing fake or artificial – if I could capture one thing to bring back – I would bring that back for everyone to see how warm, welcoming and truly embracing our audiences have been no matter the venue, city or country.  It is heartfelt and sincere. I know that my students know that music can bridge gaps and bring joy and harmony to all.

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The other thing I take away is the time I have spent with my students. They are great kids and when you go on tour together you truly become one family. The quality time spent and the memories made over the past 2 weeks will be lifelong.

I also want to thank them for all their hard work. Going on tour has been a year committment and my students know now, why we had to prepare so much repertoire. They played 6 concerts that were each over an hour long and then played 1-3 encores on top of it. That’s a lot of music and time performing. All I can say is well done – Bravo.

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Our journey comes to an end here in Russia, but we bring back to Waterford all that we have learned and experienced.

We leave for the airport tomorrow morning. We fly from Moscow to JFK and then to SLC. We get in at 11:45pm on Tuesday.

See you soon.

We’d like to leave you with one final toast to end our time in Russia……

 

 

Day 12 Gallery:

 

Day 12: Magnificent Day in Moscow & Triple Encore!

DSC02362Czardas, Waltz No. 2 and Lady Gaga were our three encores tonight! The kids were fantastic – especially after a long day on the road in Moscow. When we started playing the Waltz again during the encore people started clapping their appreciation for the kids in the middle of the song! It was so cool. I’m so proud of my students for their focus, effort and beauty! Bravo tonight to all – it was truly outstanding!

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During the day we got a guided tour of the Kremlin grounds. It was surprisingly beautiful. In fact breathtaking. Over the high walls I never expected to see such gorgeous grounds and buildings/cathedrals. It truly took my breath away!

We had some fun in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. I took pictures with the whole group and then with each grade. It was so much fun being silly together. We even had a bride ask to take a picture with us.

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We had free time for lunch- many of us went to Cafe Bosco which is right next to Red Square – it was a good people watching place, and a nice place to sit and relax. Of course the food was yummy! From there some of us went to this Food Emporium place in GUM which has delicious Russian caviar, chocolates, candies etc…. Amazing shop full of goodies.

The sun was shining today and as we said goodbye to Saint Basil’s and the Red Square – it will be a place that none of will ever forget.

Blurb from Katie Dover – “Tonight as Maiya and I were riding up the elevator to our hotel room, a family with a little boy got on with us. After speaking with his parents in Russian for a few moments, the maybe six year boy said “hello” to us and told us his name (his name is Roma) in English. Though we had a very short conversation, the boy really lifted my spirit, and taught me a little bit about being brave! After all, it must be pretty scary talking to foreign strangers in a second language”

 

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Tomorrow is an exciting day for us – we’re getting a tour of the Moscow Conservatory and will have our final concert of the tour!

Stay tuned………

PS – Just a few video submissions from the kids;

Roomies:

 

Magic:

 

TODAY’S GALLERY

Day 11: A Day On The Town Moscow Style

Today we went to Sergiev Posad for a guided tour of the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius.

 

 

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“St. Sergius, the founder of the Holy Trinity, Lavra, was born of wealthy Rostov boyars on May 3, 1314. On the fortieth day the local priest baptized the child, naming him Bartholomew. From his childhood he grew accustomed to solitude and sought his salvation through prayer, fasting and work. In 1337, at the age of 23, after his parents’ death, he decided to leave for the desert together with his elder brother Stephen. The brothers chose to found their hermitage in a clearing surrounded by thick forest on a lower hill. They built for themselves a cell and a small church, which they dedicated to the Lifegiving Trinity. That was the birth of the monastery, which later served as a source of pride and inspiration to the people of Russia.”

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It was beautiful and there was a sense of peace to the whole “complex” despite all the tourists

We needed that sense of calm and peace since it took us two hours to get there. The traffic is so bad in Moscow. I know there is a lot of people, but I had no idea just how bad it was.For lunch a lot of us went to McDonald’s just to try it in Russia – others went to the stalls.They had darling souvenir stands here that were all made from the people of this town.

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From the Monastery we went into the center of Moscow. We got a Metro tour. The metro opened in 1935 and more than 9 million people use it daily. It runs very efficiently and totally beautifully. There are ornate stations- they have unique lighting and the escalators are steep and take you deep down into the underground.

We had dinner at Godunov and then had free time for 2 hours to explore the Red Square, and GUM (pronounced “goom”) GUM is the State Department Store. It is a beautiful old building filled with fancy American and Russian shops and delicious ice cream. Both Matthew and Sophie independently ran into their mom’s at GUM! It’s a small world. 🙂

We took the Metro home back to our hotel.

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Here’s a little blurb from Tate –

“Today in Red Square, we went into a souvenir shop on a side road. After shopping around for a little bit, I found a group of santas in the back corner. Knowing my mom collected santas,  I knew I had to get one. So determined, I bargained my way down to less than half price for the santa. I’m very proud and I hope my mom likes it.”

Tomorrow we have a big day – we have a tour of the Kremlin grounds, more Red Square time and then we have a big concert tomorrow night at 7pm at the International House of Music.

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It will be a long day for my kids, since we will leave the hotel at 10am and not be able to come back until after the concert. Wish us good luck!

 

Kyoto to Koya-san

Arriving in Himeji aboard the Shinkansen, we rented a fleet of bicycles and rode our way to Himeji Castle. The bike ride was rather eventful, as we followed a route that encircled the Castle grounds, on which both Trevor and Adah nearly killed a pair of elderly people. Adah was successful in landing a blow on her intended target, while Trevor missed by a hair and crashed into the sidewalk.

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The Himeji Castle excursion was a step back in time to the feudal era of Japan’s rich past. Several trees on the castle grounds were centuries old, to place it into perspective. The biggest impact it probably had on the group, though, was aching calves, due to the slope of the stairs. After visiting the castle, the caravan of bicycling proceeded on to a roundabout route to the train station. The bike ride was overall enjoyable. Justin wants to include that he (and Mr. Waterhouse) did some “sick bmx-ing” which included “bunny-hops, mostly”. We then continued on to Kyoto.

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The Air bnb where we stayed in in Kyoto was cozy and modern, but very steep. The stairs, nearly vertical in their steepness, posed an existential threat to any wearing socks indoors, regardless of direction of progression. The girls, and Dreeg, stayed on the second floor of the three floors, next to the wifi and kitchen, while Justin and Trevor stayed in the attic, next to the industrial washing machine and showers where, as a reliable source states, they were “required to perform rigorous menial labor in the washing of clothing and pumping of water for measly bread rations, and the occasional droplet of clean water.” In all actuality, Justin and Trevor just had bad wifi, and actually made everyone else late most days.

The following day, we went to the Fushimi Inari shrine and passed through hundreds of the vermilion torii (gates) leading up to the main shrine at the top of the path, and saw the gardens and fountains and all.

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Following the visit there, we took the bus to the Hall of the Lotus King, a temple which holds over 1000 Golden Kannon statues, as well as 28 stone guardian deity statues. The temple’s policy of prohibiting photography, as well as the general atmosphere of the place, truly imparted a sense of reverence and tranquility. After that, we went to the Kiyomizu-dera temple, a temple aged over 1200 years, and saw the overlook and gardens, which provided a stunning and singular view of the city and the wildlife of Japan’s forests. Somewhat. The gardens at this temple also were quite peaceful. At some point during the day, we went and got some ice cream. It was great.

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The second day in Kyoto, we had an extravagant experience that started off with a wholesome and nutritious breakfast at McDonalds. We then traversed our way over towards the notorious bamboo forest, Japan’s most famous rock garden, and Kinkakuji (a building you see in all the travel books and post cards for Japan. Both of which were stupefying views, and brought upon us a tranquil feeling. Either that, or that we were exhausted from all of the walking.

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We also hiked up a gargantuan hill, which resulted with the sweet reward of seeing, and yes, feeding monkeys. Some fed the monkeys peanuts, others apple slices, but all in all, it was a enjoyable event.

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The best part was the monkeys fighting though, it was entertaining watching them run around screeching at each other. Lilly also got pounced on by a monkey and hurled her backpack down the hill, which was luckily retrieved by one of our group members.

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Dinner that day was quite eventful, as we had Thai cuisine. It was all very scrumptious, but Trevor had decided to treat himself to an entire dehydrated chili pepper. He then proceeded to hurl up what seemed to be a huge web of mucus that had been making him cough ever since before the beginning of the trip. It was quite repulsing. Anyways, sorry for those who are eating while reading this. Don’t imagine it too much.

The last day in Kyoto, we had various things bought from a store for breakfast. It wasn’t exactly formal, but was still as good. Just some bread, bananas, etc. We packed all of our stuff, got some coin lockers, and went off to Nara. We saw a huge Buddha statue and fed some deer that distracted Trevor long enough for the rest of our group to leave him behind and board a bus back to the station.

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Thankfully, Justin noticed that he had gone missing, and we sent out our search and rescue squad to retrieve him. (The search and rescue squad was really just Mr. Wade and a slight bit of concern for Trevor) Trevor was thankfully recovered and escorted to the station, and both Trevor and Mr. Wade were thanked graciously with various options of meals. We then boarded a train, and a couple transfers to our next stop, Koya-san.

Mount Koya was quite an experience just to get to. We had to board a cable car that went up a track on a very steep hill. The inside was oddly shaped, as to compensate for the steepness of the hill. The inside was shaped like stair steps, which was quite a contrast to the familiar flat inside of a train. Arriving to our destination, we ventured through the vast hallways, twists, turns, whatever it had to throw at us. Thankfully we had a gracious monk show us around and lead us to our rooms. It’s beautiful up here. The birds chirping, the peaceful aura around the place, it all evokes a form of tranquility. We later ventured towards a grave site that was very peaceful. Just by stopping for a second and listening closely, you could literally hear a pin drop. It was incredibly quite.

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We also walked around and saw the Mausoleum of Kukāi, which was massive. The entirety of the grave site was quite peaceful. We walked back, but some were unsure of where the place was. Thankfully, we had Mr. Wade to point us in the right direction. Dinner was a vegetarian meal which was quite enjoyable. Some new things for us to try, like the notorious pickled plum. Well, new if you’re not Sakiko.

The second day on Mount Koya, we took a day trip to Kongōbu-ji, where we learned about the story of Kukāi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and first settler of Mt. Koya. There, we also saw a rock garden, the largest in Japan, and many other artistic wonders. After this, we headed to another temple, with new wonders. If any of you readers have seen the video of the group pushing a wheel, that was taken at the other temple here in Koyasan. Following that, we found a playground meant for children far younger than us and made use of it, ironically, of course. From there, we went on to take a small hike up to a shrine, which was very nice, but unfortunately destroyed Adah’s ankles, Dreeg’s knees, and made the rest of us really sorry for them. From there, we’ve been granted a great amount of free time, which we have used to get some downtime to just chill. Tomorrow we head into Tokyo, and that is bound to be exciting! We all look forward to hearing from you readers as we go onwards on this trip. Please keep an eye out for further posts from us.

 

~Trevor and Justin

Day 10: A Long Day To Moscow

Arrived in Moscow!

Today we traveled to Moscow by train. It took us 4 hours on the train. It was a good time to read, catch up on our journal writing, play games, hang with friends, eat and take a nap – which is what I did. It was glorious! 🙂

We met our guide Anastasia at the train station. She will be our main guide while we are in Moscow. Our bus driver here is interesting. He’s the first one we have encountered that refused to help us with our luggage. He said that he was hired to drive, but not to help with bags. We actually had to call his office and talk to his manager and only then did he help us load and unload our suitcases. Interesting…

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It took us forever to get to our hotel. There was traffic and construction and with it being Friday night it took us 2 hours. That was painful. Our hotel is the Sunflower Park Hotel. We checked in, had a buffet dinner and gave the students some free time to just relax and unwind. Some students were tired and went right to bed, others hung out with friends, some went next door to this beautiful shopping center and others went for a run. There’s a park across the street from our hotel. I think that will be the place where the students will work off their bones on the final night. Can’t wait….

This next bit is from Matthew Buxton –

“Snakey had a very big day. He got lost in the hotel and left behind. But luckily Mrs. Holding pulled some strings and saved him from the hotel and he was rushed to the train station where he made it on the train with 2 minutes to spare before we left. Snakey’s life was saved today. He is a symbol of community and friendship and without him this trip would fall apart. Much love for snakey”

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I keep forgetting to talk about the white nights in Saint Petersburg – it was really cool being so light out at night. Craig and I would be writing the blog down in the lobby and at 2am it would still be light outside. We really notice the difference now that we are in Moscow. It is only midnight now and it’s already dark. I’m not used to it now…..hahaha.  I can see how people love Saint Petersburg in June for the white nights. I highly recommend coming to Saint Petersburg. It’s lovely.

We’re all looking forward to getting to know Moscow – tomorrow we have a busy, but fun day. We will head out to a UNESCO site – the Trinity Monastery and we will spend time in the Moscow city center.

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Today we have also included some pictures from our day yesterday.

Touch base with you all tomorrow –

Cheers!

 

Day 9: Spectacular Day & Concert in Pushkin & Enchanting Night in the “Venice of the North”

Another beautiful day in sunny Saint Petersburg. We lucked out with the weather these past few days……blue skies and warm weather. Olga, our tour guide says that they have a saying here about the weather – they have 9 months of “expectation” and 3 months of “disappointment”…. 🙂 IMG_2475

Well, we certainly have been lucky and blessed with beautiful weather.

On our way to Catherine’s Palace we were stopped by the police. They checked our paperwork and looked at our seat map and called out Stella’s name. He wanted to check to make sure that we were all sitting in the right seats. It was a hassle, but the policeman was pretty nice about it. He asked us where we were from…..he said Michigan??? We said no – Utah and he had this blank look on his face. I don’t think he’s ever heard of Utah…..

 

Catherine’s Palace was beautiful. It’s a palace located almost an hour south of St. Petersburg. It was the summer residence of the Russian tsars. It was spectacular. It was an easy walking tour and it was nice because it wasn’t as crowded as the Hermitage. It was good to be able to see without having to dodge people.

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For lunch everyone had a chance to go where they would like.  A group of us found this cute restaurant right near the palace. It had the best mushroom soup and Russian pancake with chicken and mushroom. Many students also had beef stroganoff and chicken cutlets. Yummy food.

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I used a paid toilet for the first time here in Russia. It was an adventure trying to figure out how it all works. We had to get “tokens” and get swiped in with a key card. It was very interesting.

We had our concert today at 4pm at the Veterans Cultural Center. The building was built in the 1860’s and was and still is the cultural center. It is a noble assembly/gathering center to this day for veterans. It is a very historical center. Many people/veterans came to hear our concert. It was packed again. I heard that many of these veterans came by bus just to hear our concert.

They were so sweet and clapped and cheered like none other. My students played really well today. It was so good for them to be out and about today sightseeing, getting lunch, buying souvenirs and then turning around and playing a concert for over an hour. I was so proud of them. They adopted to a smaller stage and quickly adapted their balance and sound. The hall of course didn’t have the same acoustics as the Glinka Capella, but it was still good and everyone LOVED the concert. Today, I wished I had a camera on stage, just so I could take a picture of all these happy people enjoying the beautiful music. The seniors were tapping their feet, dancing, conducting etc…. When we played Tap Roots some of the audience members stood up so they could get a closer look at the “spoons”. They loved it!!! I spoke to several people after the concert. One woman in particular was very sweet. She spoke a bit of English and she said that she enjoyed the concert and was so happy to hear American and Russian music together in one concert. She said that it made her heart warm and that it gave her hope for the future. She was lovely. I’m so proud of how my students played today. They were awesome!

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From the concert, we went to dinner – it was delicious. We had salad, borscht, a beef stew and ice cream. Don’t worry – for the vegetarians they always get separate meals so there is no worry.

Our final activity was the canal tour. It was excellent – now I know why Saint Petersburg is called the Venice of the North! I highly recommend this tour. It was a great way to end our stay here. It gave us a different perspective of the city from the water. We got back to the hotel around 10:30pm. Another 12 hour day… Your children will sleep so well when they get home!

We all love Saint Petersburg. We’re a little sad to leave this wonderful city.

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Tomorrow we head to our final destination- Moscow!

 

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Here again are some concert clips – Enjoy

Day 8: City Tour, Hermitage & The Ballet

We have all fallen in love with Saint Petersburg. What a fantastic city full of culture and history. We left the hotel at 10am and our bus promptly stalled on a major road. What was impressive was that a new bus was called and within 30 minutes not only did we have a new bus and driver, but we had all the necessary paperwork for Russia’s strict rules to transport children in their country. It was lucky that we had those papers as the police did a random check on our bus while we were eating lunch today. Only in Russia!

 

We saw many sites of the city such as St. Isaacs Cathedral. I wanted to go inside, but we unfortunately didn’t have time. We also saw where Tchaikovsky and Rasputin died and saw a memorial of Glinka and Rimsky Korsakov.

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We had a little free time to shop and get some lunch. Many of us went to Cha Cha – a Georgian Restaurant. When James and I covered food for Russia he said that I absolutely needed to try Georgian food. He was correct – I had Badridzhani which is Eggplant stuffed with walnuts, Georgian spices and pomegranate and Lavash which is a thin Georgian bread. The food was delicious. Meagan, Matthew and Maddie were at the table next to us and when they got their bill – it came to exactly what I gave them – that has never happened before on any of my tours.

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After lunch we went to The Hermitage. The buildings were spectacular. We saw works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo etc… The Hermitage was huge and had so many beautiful things to see. We walked a lot – it was all stunning.

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We went to dinner close by and then headed to the ballet. We saw Don Quixote. It was perfect for the kids. The music was lively, the costumes were colorful and it was excellent. The brilliant performance kept them all awake and focused. Charlotte could really appreciate the hard work and excellence of the production. She was in heaven. All my students gave the performers a standing ovation. It was great for them to be in the audience – the loved every minutes of it.

 

The students had a 12 hour day today. We got back to the hotel after 10:30pm.

 

Another full day on tap tomorrow. We go to Pushkin – to Catherine’s Palace and then we have another concert at 4pm.