Death by Eighth Note

Some may have taken us for drunkards (or missionaries) as we sang, meandering through Brussels city, songs with slightly religious overtones to them- perhaps they would have been right; our small group of singers was drunk on the excitement of being in Belgium for the AMIS Mixed Honor Choir festival. Our hotel rooms found and our bags unpacked, the day before actual rehearsals started, everyone’s mind was on first roaming the city in search of chocolates, finding places to shop, and in my case dealing with a particularly fierce desire to obtain waffles. And so we walked, taken aback at the sparse amount of people in the ‘city center,’ being put off by the expensiveness of just about everything, and not at all struggling to keep up a smile while our faces were whipped by the chilly wind. But hey, after months of auditions, anticipation, and preparation, the ‘team’ (Melanie, Sanam, Amala, Anshel, June, Natasha, our chaperones Ms. Clark and Mr. Lehmkuhl, and I) had finally made it, and we were determined to enjoy what awaited us.

During the initial day itself, despite what he’d alleged before departing, it became quite apparent that Anshel intended to spend as little money as possible. Almost comically, his ambition began to unravel when he was confronted with mussels and steak, for which he paid dearly. However, the real testament to the futility of his plan arrived towards the end of our stay, when he realized how much he’d unknowingly spent on calls from his mobile (priced at roaming rates) to other group members. Needless to say, Anshel’s inhibition regarding cash could no longer put up a fight.When he wasn’t preoccupied with keeping track of his expenses, Anshel, with the rest of us, was rehearsing at St. John’s International School, Waterloo. The 30-minute bus ride there did not disappoint in terms of scenery- forests of bare trees and fog-laden fields were mostly what we saw. The silence of everyone else on the bus allowed electric energy to travel around, and that energy at last had an outlet as we hummed our first note as a group of 100 + people while warming up. It was pretty much like a surreal, albeit tiring party after that. For the next 3 days we replaced 7 hours of school with 7 hours of music- a change that was enthusiastically welcomed and adapted to. Many a joke was made about various occurrences (the tenor section’s hesitation to sing, the conductor’s hilariously inappropriate slips of tongue); but alas, those moments cannot be replicated in writing. The sound of the choir was vibrant and full, but it was just something else when we were paired with the orchestra for the ‘finale song.’ Much too soon, concert day was upon us, and sadness had to be folded away for a while so we could fully experience the event for which we had planned so much. But before the concert started, a surprise came our way, and Natasha Gren, among other seniors, received an award for being a part of AMIS her entire high school career. The concert itself was over in a flash- songs which took hours of practice to perfect didn’t even last long enough for us to savor them- but this was decidedly one of the best concerts I’ve been a part of. Breakfast on the last day was a somber affair; the dining room was nearly empty, yet we still met a few acquaintances to whom we unwillingly said goodbye. Fortunately for most of the group and for me, AMIS still shines on the horizon of next year- our next destination, beware- we will fill your streets with song. -Shaakya Vembar


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