USA Tour 2015 Day 2 – Chicago Workshops, Sightseeing and Symphony

Day Two – 4th April 2015

Workshops, Sightseeing and Symphony.

The second day of Music tour has proven to be very full and extremely enjoyable. O slept very solidly after the long flight and, waking up at 6:45am (45 minutes after my alarm was set for) rushed down for a quick breakfast before needing to head off for our students’ music workshops. I have decided I am keen to immerse myself in the American culture as much as possible so tried a toasted bagel with Philly cheese and grape jelly for breakfast, I have to say I really enjoyed it. One thing has concerned me about their food (which became clearer add the day continued) they love their breads and carbs. I know that whilst away I will need to do some long runs early in the morning to try and keep the excess weight off.

We headed as a tour group off to Vandercook College of Music, the concert band and choir had sessions with a former airforce musical director and current head of music at Utah State University. I found it an enlightening and refreshing session listening and observing the way he interacted and instructed the students, there was a lot that I am already trying to incorporate into my ensemble directing which is always encouraging.

We headed back to the hotel before giving students an opportunity to go and have lunch. I went to Potbellies Sandwich shop, an institution in Chicago, and tried the Wreck, which was absolutely delicious, washed down with an Alabama Iced Tea.

After lunch we had our booked Chicago sightseeing tour, the guide was brilliant in his knowledge of the city’s history and sights. Our first stop was Millennium Park, completed in 2004 this open space area has a huge open air auditorium called “Jay Pritzker Pavillion” where free open air concerts are held throughout the summer months. The famous sculpture “Cloud Gate” affectionately know as “the bean” is also present in Millennium Park. This ginormous stainless steal polished sculpture has become quite a popular tourist attraction in Chicago.

The tour headed out along the midway towards Chicago University, along the way we passed sights including views of Lake Michigan, one of the five great lakes (second biggest of the five and biggest lake inside of one country in the world); Soldiers Field (Football Stadium); The Museum of Science (part of the worlds fair grounds).

Chicago University was an impressive campus, constructed in the Gothic style it contains a significant amount of impressive history and buildings. The faculty of the university has the largest number of Nobel Prize Laureates on it which is a great honour. Events including the splitting of the atom for the first time occurred at Chicago University as well as buildings constructed by famous architects including Frank lloyd Wright. One of the buildings that we stopped at was the University Chapel. This Chapel, built by JD Rockerfellar is more of a Cathedral than a chapel and is in the Gothic style made out of limestone. The inside is quite awe inspiring and impressive. Some interesting features include it’s non denominational status, there are images and statues dedicated to many different philosophers from various faith backgrounds. The presidents of the Univeristy have the option to have their ashes interred behind a special wall if they wish after they die, the philosophy is to allow them to remain as a part of the Univeristy community.

Once we had finished walking through the university we moved back onto the bus and drove past gthe United States President’s, Barrack Obama, Chicago residence. We were informed by the guide that we couldn’t stop as it would trigger a number of alarms if the bus pulled up on the street outside of his house as the security is that high.

On our way back we were told the history of Chicago including the great fire which burnt most of Chicago to the ground, a law being passed after this that no wood framed houses could be build, the sight of the first Ferris Wheel in the world, the train and airport history and Chicago being the hub/transfer place for all travel from East to West Coast and the three different schools of Chicago Architecture.

Once we had returned from the tour we got ready for our night at the Symphony and then headed out to a dinner at the Chicago Hard Rock Cafe. Dinner was really pleasant and very American, I had the Bacon Cheeseburger which was delicious.

The group got on buses and arrived at the Symphony Centre, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for our evening’s concert. Pianist and Conductor Mitsuko Uchinda was performing two Mozart Concertos, No 6 in Bb Major and No 26 in D Major, these pieces were separated by Soprano Dorothea Roshmann performing Schumann’s Frauenliebe ind-leben, Op. 42 where Uchina was accompanying her. The venue was stunning and the standard of musicianship inspiring.

At the conclusion of the performance the students were given the option to walk back to the hotel rather than catching the bus. The 25 minute was very refreshing, it gave us the opportunity to walk over the rive and past famous institutions including the Marina Towers Condominiums (which look like giant corn cobs) and the Chicago Theatre.

Today has been brilliant, it’s now extremely late at night and I need to get up early to go to Mass as it’s Easter Sunday. We’ve got our adjudicated performances tomorrow night, that’ll be a great experience for the boys.

Signing off from Chicago,


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