Puerto Rico: La Isla del Encanto

Napping on the beachside in Puerto Rico, I adjusted my eyes to the sun reflecting off the water. I lay, warmed by the sun, enjoying the occasional draft of cool ocean breeze. Yet something in my mind remained restless. Did I forget to apply sunscreen? No, I “borrowed” a bottle of lotion from some Junior earlier. Did I have work to do? No, I left that all behind after my English final. What on earth could it be? And then it hit me. I missed my daily dose of Mozart. But there was nothing to fear since we’d all have our share of Wolfgang before the end of the trip. As a singer in Cantata, one of the school’s choral groups, I toured with the Academy’s Chamber Orchestra in Puerto Rico over spring break. We toted an impressive repertoire, boasting Mozart’s Grand Mass in C minor, Anne Dudley’s “From Darkness to Light,” and a medley of Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. The trip had three scheduled performances – two at the TASIS, The American School in Switzerland, School in Dorado, and one at the Cathedral de San Juan in Old San Juan. Our first concert included the Credo of the Grand Mass and The Sound of Music medley for an assembly of children at the TASIS School in grades pre-kindergarten through seventh. Before the concert, groups of about four to six instrumentalists and singers held workshops with the students. We answered questions about music and gave demonstrations with our multitude of instruments and vocal parts. Emily Cokorinos ’08 said, “One boy raised his hand and just said ‘You guys are awesome!’” While the kids responded to the alien sounds of the Mozart mass, they enjoyed the medley the most. Many even sang along to the more familiar tunes. Afterwards, the TASIS School Choir performed three songs for us in return. Most notable was the “Coqui” song, a tune about the Puerto Rico’s prized frog. Representing the frogs’ croaks, a small group of kids were set aside to interject with “Coqui!” every few moments. The choir charmed us with their enthusiasm and adorable performance. That evening, we performed again at the same venue. The concert was open to the public, which consisted mostly of parents. To our surprise, many of the children we performed for earlier returned with family members in tow. The concert at the Cathedral de San Juan was also extremely successful. Performing for a mix of tourists and locals, our ecclectic audience made for an odd sort of dynamic. The cathedral itself was a beautiful space with wonderful acoustics. Orchestra and Choir director William Thomas declared that it was exactly the sort of space Mozart wrote the mass for. Several students absorbed the beautiful space by attending a Mass entirely in Spanish before the concert. After our first rehearsal, Victoria Sanchez ’09 said, “I don’t think I’ve really appreciated this piece until now.” As an encore that evening, we performed a traditional Puerto Rican song called, “En Mi Viejo San Juan.” Instructor in Music Peter Lorenco taught us the tune over the course of the week and accompanied us on classical guitar. Despite our feigned Spanish, the audience appreciated the effort and sang with us, creating a surreal musical effect.Some audience members were so touched by our rendition that they were moved to tears. Beyond performing, Mr. Thomas also lined up a number of adventures for us. A salsa lesson, a hike through the El Unique rainforest, a trip to see the world’s largest radio telescope in Arecibo, a visit to Luqillo Beach, the most popular beach in Puerto Rico, a Rumba boat dance party, and a Pizza Hut buffet were all highlights of our travels in Puerto Rico. Free time was spent baking in the sun and exploring the town of Dorado and the city of Old San Juan. Sunday quickly rolled around, and our journey in Puerto Rico came to an abrupt end. In retrospect, the sunshine and the ocean side, the hiking and the dancing, the Coquis and the Mozart aside, the week contained all the makings of a great trip with our company alone. Without a doubt, everyone had an amzing time on La Isla del Encanto: The Island of Delight. I can only start to wonder where we will be going next year.