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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NYC, day 2

Today was fun. Dr. P. woke Michael and me up at about 10:00 AM, saying that if we wanted to do anything, we should probably get up and go. He was already done and ready to hit the road.

By 11:15 AM, we were out the door of the hotel, and we went back to La Parisienne for breakfast. Michael and Dr. P. both had the double burger plate again, but I was wanted breakfast, so I ordered the lumberjack. This had about five strips of crispy yet still "juicy" bacon, two or three scrambled eggs cooked to perfection (light and fluffy, but still with substance), and three pancakes cooked like the eggs (light and fluffy, but still with substance -- not scrambled). This was excellent. Top notch. Beat out Denny's, Christendom, IHOP -- you name it.

I should mention that it was sprinkling lightly, and therefore overcast. The skies looked rather threatening. And the only coat I brought was the velvet one. This wouldn't do. On the way to breakfast, I bought an umbrella for $10. It's fairly nice, rather like a walking stick, complete with a hook for a handle.

We hopped on the subway and rode it down to the Brooklyn Bridge, where we got off and walked across it. By now the rain had picked up significantly, so Michael also bought an umbrella -- the same style as mine -- for $5. Darn him. On the Brooklyn Bridge, the wind was really gusting, so the umbrellas came in both handy and not handy at the same time. When the wind was calmer, all of our umbrellas worked well, but when it was gusting, they were practically useless...

At the first set of beams on the Brooklyn Bridge, the three of us stopped and looked around. Manhattan Island was behind us with the huge imposing skyscrapers, and in front of us was Brooklyn, with not-so-huge buildings, but still rather impressive.

We kept going all the way across the bridge, and at the second set of supports (Brooklyn side), we stopped once again. This time, it was much easier to take in all of Manhattan Island. Still, even at a distance, it was extremely impressive.

When we crossed the bridge, we looked around for the Brooklyn subway, and took it back to Manhattan Island. Now we were on our way to the World Trade Center, or the 9/11 memorial.

After getting off the subway, we passed right in front of St. Peter's Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic Church in NYC. Being Catholic, I had to stop in. It was nice looking outside, rather like a Roman building, but inside -- WOW! The artwork, the layout, everything. I could almost smell the incense and see the bishop saying the first words of the first Mass:

Introibo ad altare Dei.

The 9/11 Memorial wasn't too far away, and we hiked over there. As we approached we looked around for it. It was easy to find. It was the open space surrounded by skyscrapers. We we walked up to it, there were large pictures of people who had been affected by this tragedy. Of all the photographs, two of them got to me. The first was a picture of a soldier in dress uniform, saluting, with tears streaming down his face. The second was a picture of a Muslim woman, also crying and praying. The second got to me, because I know a number of people who blame Muslims for the attacks, forgetting the fact that not people who profess Islam as their religion were responsible for the attacks. I'm not looking to start a war with these words: I am just stating a fact.

I looked at the new site where they were excavating for the foundation of the replacement building, which I believe will be called the "Freedom Tower". Correct me if I'm wrong, of course...

There was also a downstairs section, and once again, something got to me down there. There were four or five poster-boards filled with drawings that little kids had drawn of the tragedy. Most of them consisted of, "I miss Daddy,", "I love you, Daddy," "I'll always remember you, Daddy," or "My favorite memory of Daddy was..." One of them in particular got to me. On the left had side of the picture, there stood the World Trade Center. To the right came a plane to strike to right tower. The left tower had red crayon down the side -- I imagine that it was supposed to be fire, but it looked like blood. On the far left, were the words, "Daddy was here," with an arrow pointing at the location, what looked like outside the building. I stood there and just looked at it. I felt like a prayer was absolutely necessary, so I said a Requiem aeternam, and moved on.

After we left there, we went back to the hotel and had NY pizza. Well, Dr. P. and Michael had New York pizza. I had a NY calzone. Wow! There's something to NYC's food!

Shortly after that, we went to St. Thomas High Church Episcopal church to hear the Westminster Cathedral Choir sing. FYI, Westminster Cathedral in England is Catholic, whereas Westminster Abbey is Protestant. Ironically, the Episcopal church is the one who invited the Catholic choir, not St. Patrick's, the local Catholic Church. Anyone confuzzled by that irony?

Words will do poorly to describe the beauty of the Neo-Gothic architecture. It was very much a man's church: solid stone, manly architecture, high ceilings, etc. If you check out the two websites that I linked into this post, you'll see what I mean. Plus it'll save you from having to read my incoherent ramblings on the subject.

As for the concert, Martin Baker directed the men and boy choir, consisting of eighteen boys (on treble, obviously), three countertenors, four tenors, and four basses, and their organist was Matthew Martin. They opened the concert with them processing around the church, with the director in the lead, the boys, the basses, the tenors, and the countertenors. Their processional, which was Te sanctum Dominum, a Gregorian chant piece, had a bass solo and a treble solo. Towards the end of the piece, they arrived at the front of the church, at which point they sung the Gloria from Missa Euge Bone by Christopher Tye, followed by Christe Iesu pastor bone by John Tavener. Up next was A New Song by James MacMillan, which was absolutely stunning.

Then the choir took a break, and the organist had a solo: Variations on Unter der Linden Grüne by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. This was played on the back organ, which was a quieter Baroque organ. Before this piece, the organist had to walk to the choir loft in the back, so Martin Baker gave a small speech, telling the audience how this concert covered about 400 years of music, beginning with the 16th century, emphasizing the fact that these were mostly Catholic composers, and that there was a section dedicated to Our Lady. (He actually emphasized those words, perhaps to stress the irony of the entire situation, including the irony that I pointed out earlier. Oh yeah, and the organ solo was very nice. I enjoyed it immensely.

The choir got up to sing the Marian section of the program. Three pieces by William Byrd started them off: Salve Sancta Parens, the Kyrie from the Mass for five voices, and Benedicta et Venerabilis. The fourth and concluding piece was Anton Bruckner's Ave Maria, which I've sung with Christendom before. They did it much better then we did, that's for sure.

After this was intermission. Michael, Dr. P., and I ran to the back to buy some of the CDs, and then wandered around the church, looking at stuff. Dr. P. went up front and met with some friends, Scott Turkington among them.

After intermission, the modern half began. First up was Benjamin Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia. It was so discordant. I listen to all sorts of music, but few are as bad sounding as this -- with apologies to Dr. P for the extreme difference of opinion. Also apologies to him, because he said that some of the music that he wrote early in his career was just as discordant, and I mean no offense when I say that I don't like Britten's music because of that fact that it's discordant...

After Britten, the organist began again, with the Te Deum by Jeanne Demessieux, which was an extremely impressive piece, but not too beautiful. It was impressive in how complex it was, but I'd never ask to hear that piece at Mass. After that, the choir finished strong with three pieces: Dum Completentur by Peter Maxwell Davies, O Salutaris Hostia by Marcel Dupré, and Laudate Dominum, also by Marcel Dupré.

Overall, it was an awesome concert, and I highly recommend the choir, their tours, and their CDs to everyone.

After the concert, Dr. P. met up with Scott Turkington again, and was introduced around to his friends. After introductions, we decided to go to a pub, and just socialize for a while. Of all of Scott and Dr. P's friends, only David Hughes joined us, so the five of us went to a pub and talked for a while. We got to know each other pretty well, we talked about music, technology, and life in general.

After this, Dr. P, Michael, and I went back to the hotel.
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