The latest news from Keystone State Boychoir is here on KSBlog!
From the latest CY Sampler:
All three major TV stations were on hand to help welcome Keystone State Boychoir and special guest Inge Auerbacher back from the 2017 tour to Germany and the Czech Republic. Take a look at this coverage by CBS3 Eyewitness News.
Here is NBC10’s coverage:
Andrew P., a newly graduated KSB member, reflects,”My recent KSB concert tour to Germany and the Czech Republic was a powerful experience. Traveling with Inge and hearing her story firsthand gave me a more meaningful understanding of the Holocaust than anything I’ve learned in school, and I deeply appreciated her message of hope for the future.”
There’s a photo album on the KSB Facebook Page – take a look!
Keystone State Boychoir celebrated Independence Day a bit early by singing the national anthem at the residence of the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic on June 28 as part of an event organized by Chargé d’Affaires Kelly Adams-Smith. Singers then enjoyed an all-American meal (Starbucks!, KFC! Burger King!) and mingling with a diverse group of guests including diplomats and generals.
On this Independence Day, we are proud of these 59 young men for representing our city, state and nation, and for bringing people together through song.
Keystone State Boychoir member Matthew F. as guest conductor
As every Keystone State Boychoir singer recites before donning his KSB green jacket for the first time:
Whether at home or abroad, we promise to represent with honor our Choir, the city of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States of America, in word, in deed, and in song.
Happy Independence Day
You can celebrate our global ambassadors by making a gift today. Click here to make your gift.
The boys are off with Martha and the chaps enjoying a well deserved day at a water park outside of Prague. I stayed back to blog – hardly a minute to write when you’re singing with, and keeping safe and sound, 59 boys.
Speaking of the boys, they have done a noble job of absorbing a lot of very heavy subject matter on the Holocaust and specifically, Terezin. While we’ve attempted to moderate the information flow based on age, and certainly the boys have been well prepared to handle the topic gradually over time, there’s no way around it – this is heavy stuff for any age, let alone young people. They more than deserve a day off to just be boys on a careless summer day. What better way to achieve that than Europe’s largest water park?
Yesterday we had the great honor of being guided around Terezin with Inge. Everywhere we walked, we were regaled with stories of her time there – filled with hardship and tragedy, though she pointed out that there was always hope. As Stephen Schwartz wrote in the song “When You Believe”, though hope is frail it’s hard to kill. Inge commented to me at one point that “she doesn’t know why she’s here, why she made it.” The odds of survival were so low (out of 15,000 children, 100 survived), and fate was so random with no rhyme or reason. And yet, yesterday, it was clear to me why Inge made it – to charge 59 American boys in a most profound way that they are now her ambassadors, to pass onto the next generation the warning of what can happen when hate prevails.
There were many incredible moments yesterday. Some highlights:
-taking a photo with Inge under the “Arbeit Macht Frei” entrance
-standing in a small, one room living quarter for 90, realizing that the number of people who were forced to live there was the same as all of our boys, chaperones, staff plus 16 more people. one toilet. wooden bunks. #incomprehensible
-walking through the extensive tunnels that are part of the Terezin fortress walls. #boyheaven
-having Immanuel perform a late Brahams piano piece in the attic of the Magdeburg Barracks, where many of the musical performances that took place in Terezin were rehearsed, often in secret – Verdi’s Requiem, Bizet’s Carmen, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, Krasa’s Brundibar. Normally the attic is off limits to tourists but we had a VIP among us – Inge! It was amazing to add our music to that space – with music from past years that represented hope to so many – including many children. Inge added that never in a million years would the Terzin kids, who felt like the world had forgotten them, could have imagined that a bunch of American boys would return there to do just that – remember them.
-the Grads singing Oseh Shalom at the Terezin moratorium and crematorium. (over 50,000 Jews died in Terezin itself, and another 90,000 perished after being transported out of Terezin to camps East)
It was incredibly touching to see the boys instinctively take care of Inge throughout the day. They freely offered her hugs. Without instruction, they would take her hand, or her arm, and walk with her along the cobbled streets of Terezin. They would ask if she was okay. They would put her arm around her when she would cry a bit, perhaps when she would remember a friend who didn’t make it. And sometimes the boy showing Inge the most tenderness was the boy none of us would guess had the capacity to do so. And that is the beauty of tour – it can bring out the very best in the boys. #growth
Know that all of your boys are okay, and that, whatever loss of innocence has resulted in their journey, they are forever changed by this experience in ways that are important to our world today, where hate continues to prevail. The ways in which Terezin and knowing (and loving) Inge will inform their lives, will mostly be subtle, but they will be profound and vital. The ways that it has transformed their lives is real and permanent and invaluable.
And at the end of the day, Inge was happy to have dessert, as were the boys, and in the great tradition of KSB tours, there were Magnum bars for one and all, and so we continue on the road together.
Greetings from Prague –
We’ve had plenty of success in posting on facebook and instagram, but wifi insufficient for much else. The boys are off singing at the Hagibor retirement home today, and I am staying behind to find better wifi than what’s in our hostel lobby, where Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album is playing. Sorta strange to be listening to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” today…
To catch up:
Sunday’s concert – The boys had the great privilege of performing in the theater of Schwetzingen Palace, the summer home of the princes of this region of Germany. Built in 1753, Mozart performed here when he was 7 years old! In honor of that, our accompanist, Immanuel Mykyta-Chomsky wowed the sold out house playing the final movement of Mozart’s 12th Piano Sonata
Between the rehearsal and the concert, the boys walked the formal gardens that are reminiscent of Versaille with reflecting pools, water spouting statuary, and all manner of topiary, etc.
We shared the concert with three other choirs, one the age of the trainers and apprentices, one the age of Towne and Concert Choir, and a PG Motet-aged girlchoir. We sang two sets, and of course finished with the typical South African set outside the venue. A typical tour treat is hearing new boys take on solos like Andrew P singing “Baba Yetu” and Calvin W. singing “In the Still of the Night.
The concert was sold out, and the audience not disappointed! The boys’ host families turned out in full force with the affection that had grown quickly over the first four nights of the tour. As usual, the boys have been terrific ambassadors of our choir and our country. The audience was delighted and impressed with the diversity of repertoire, the quality of the singing, and the excitement of watching the choir, especially so to an audience more accustomed to boys standing still with their hands behind their back. A perfect end to the first leg of the tour, made even more so with the addition of KSB alumni Alexander and Konstantin Minch joining the grads for a few pieces. Alexander and Konstantin, sons of our ace tour planner Angela Wende, sang and toured with KSB for many years before moving back to Germany.
On Monday we said goodbye to Heidelberg, boarded the buses for Nuremberg, a halfway point between Heidelberg and Prague. Boys continued having their individual time talking with Inge about “I Am A Star” and her experiences in Terezin. For a couple of bus rides, I’ve been sitting in front of Inge, and so have had the chance to eavesdrop, and have been impressed to a boy with their thoughtful, insightful questions and with their engagement with Inge, which always ends with a hug.
First stop in Nuremberg was a formal reception in the mayor’s office. After the reception, a walk through the old town led to a detour into the Church of St. Sebald, a gothic vaulted ceiling, just the kind of space for a boychoir! Didn’t have to be asked twice when a church staff wondered if the boys would sing. Zikr and Ani Ma’amin may not have been what they expected, but the boys sounded so beautiful in the space that expectations were exceeded.
Our final stop was a tour of the Palace of Justice, including Courtroom 600, site of the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, the first time in history when war criminals were tried for crimes against humanity. This stop was especially meaningful for me, since my 95 year old dad, who served in World War II in the 1258th Army Engineers, was part of the American team who prepared the Palace of Justice for the trials in the summer of 1945. It was quite moving to stand where he stood at the end of the war, at an age not much older than the grads. I shared his story with the boys, reading a text that he sent me with his memories, adding the voice of an American GI to Inge’s stories.
Monday concluded with a delicious dinner where the boys could make their own choices from the menu, and then were turned out into the square to buy some ice cream afterwards. Back at our hostel, we turned the corner from homestays to what the rest of the trip will be, hostels and hotels!
On Tuesday, once again we loaded the buses, this time to Prague, but with a first stop at the Nuremberg Rally Grounds, to witness the site of Hitler’s rise to power. Once again, the boys were thoughtful in processing this experience. Alex G. pondered the dissonance between the quiet park grounds with the intensity of the hatred that once filled the place where we walked. At our final stop, the stands where Hitler spoke and where the allies tore down the Nazi swastika, we sang Ani Ma’amin and the Star Spangled Banner, marking our visit in song.
Prague – longest leg of the tour.
We’re settled into our home for the week, and have started to explore this most beautiful of European cities. In addition to planned performances, the boys have been singing everywhere! If you’re following us on instagram and facebook you’ve seen the video evidence, everywhere from Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge to the packed restaurant where we had dinner on the first night.
The mornings have included rehearsals and performances at Hagibor, a project of the Jewish Community in Prague, both a retirement home and a day care. We’ve been joined by students of the Lauder School, which originally served the community as a Jewish orphanage in the pre-WWII era, and was site of the first performance of Brundibár.
Yesterday afternoon, the boys sang the national anthem at an early July 4th party at the US Ambassador’s residence, then filled themselves with endless food from Burger King, KFC, Starbucks, etc, and rubbed elbows with diplomats and generals. #tourheaven say the veteran singers and chaps!
It’s a rainy afternoon, so the plan to do some sightseeing may be replaced with a movie before we make our way to the Spanish Synagogue for this evening’s concert. The boys are having a great time – everyone is happy and healthy, well fed, and sounding great.
Thanks to all the chaps for their photos. We will keep adding more pictures to this post as wifi allows.
On Friday night we had our first full concert, a joint program with the Heidelberg Youth Choir, at the Heidelberg Music School. The performance opened with hundreds of American and German young people singing South African welcome songs, led by Tabong, South African artist in residence at the school. It was great fun to see his reaction as our boys absorbed the pieces so quickly – ones they had never heard before. Fast forward to the end of concert, when KSB surprised Tabong with our South African medley. How he beamed! He was truly astounded. He joined in with all of them even though he didn’t know our songs. Of course he did! That is the South African way! That is UBUNTU! He told me afterwards that hearing our boys sing brought him home to South Africa. We plan to collaborate next year in South Africa.
The other highlight of the concert was when Alexander Minch joined us for some standard rep pieces. Now a grown man working for Lufthansa, Alex also beamed as he “came home again” to sing with KSB. He and his brother Konstantin sang with us for many years. A million thanks to his mother Angela Wende, who did so much planning to make this tour a success. She is serving as our Tour Manager, with us every step of the way. ANGELA,WIER LIEBEN EUCH!
Yesterday, Saturday we travelled to Stuttgart to perform with the Hymnus Boychoir of Stuttgart. They hosted us for a concert back in 2008 on our first tour to Germany. We then hosted them in 2014 in Philadelphia, and so this is a growing friendship that both choirs treasure. They took such good care of our boys – especially the Hymnus choir moms who made sure our boys had plenty to eat at every turn. Some things are universal! A good opportunity to thank all of our parent volunteers for all they do for KSB – back at home and abroad. We have an amazing group of chaperones who are taking such good care of us. To Jachai May, Linda Deis, Chris Day, Lori Flynn, Sarah Foster, Aimee Hydock, Susan Klein, Sarah McMenamin, Chris Simcox and Tom Wamser…VIELEN DANK!
Today, Sunday, we will perform in surely one of the most beautiful, unique venues in KSB’s history. More later on that, as well as our truly profound experience yesterday with Inge visiting the railway platform from which she departed for Terezin. The opportunity we had to share this sacred place with Inge is something that will stay with all of us for our whole lives.