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The Culturally Literate


Shing Ann Yeh

\On Thursday, I was sitting in my seat before recital attendance and proposed an adventurous plan to my friends M. and T. who thought I was crazy.  Good thing I have a friend named E. who was crazy enough to join me on a whirlwind of activities!

On Friday, we were freed from orchestra, so with our extra time, my friend J. and I bundled up and chatted all the way to Provence in Hillsboro Village, where we caught up about life over Almond Joy cappuccinos and a decadent slice of tiramisu.  Afterward bustling back to Lewis, I threw on a dress, pulled on a pair of bright blue tights, and then headed over to Commons to meet E.

During this time, everyone was in charge of transforming the place into the Commons Ball. Sparkly lights in the back!

We took the bus downtown, where the nice bus driver dropped us off right in front of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.  E. and I moseyed on in, got some front-row seats to the for the “Pools of Glass” performance of contemporary dance.  A half hour early, we decided to meander through the exhibits, even though I was speculative of how much I was going to appreciate the visual arts.  The first one called “Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan” was quite refined and delicate, with pictures of the sea, a Monet, and a Van Gogh, who fused Japanese styles into his handiwork.  E. and I may or may not have tried to copy the faces some Japanese women were making.  The exhibit upstairs, “The Art of Norman Rockwell” was captivated me.  From the painting of the Boy Scout whose able hands carried a girl to safety to the famous one of brave little Ruby Bridges walking to school through a sleet of hate to the silly self-portraits, I fell in love with the vicarious expressions and characters of Rockwell’s subjects.  Rockwell rocks.  He changed my perspective on the visual arts.

A selfie.

An introduction made by Robert Barsky, a professor at Vanderbilt who is also a lecturer for the Maymester called “Romantic Poetry, Refugee Asylum and Radicalism in the Swiss Alps” that I would love to attend, explained the history behind the dance.  General Matthew Perry wanted to establish good relations with the Japanese emperor, so the Americans gifted whiskey and guns while the Japanese gave us silks and teas.  And the General thought the Japanese got the better end of the bargain.  Interesting.  Marsha Barsky and Company Rose gave a performance of modern dance.  E, and I didn’t understand very much of it, but the dancers morphed together and gave a graceful, beautiful performance.  Unfortunately, we had to leave halfway through because we had to catch Choral Prism, so we unsuccessfully hailed maybe sixteen cabs before we stuck one and hurried to Blair.

They set up the room in a diagonal shape for maximum viewing, it was quite interesting.

There, we met up with our friends T., L., and T.  It was a good thing that we got there twenty minutes early because it was already packed.  Choral Prism was a live surround-sound experience.  Ingram Hall’s main stage was not the only place where the spotlight was shown.  Throughout the performance, different groups entered in and out of the wings, so the music was practically seamless.  I can’t even pick a favorite because it was all so good.  From a capella groups like the Melodores (turned Backstreet Boys) to the Vanderbilt Variations (turned One Republic), to the spiritual-singing Concert Choir singing “Down to the River to Pray,” to the Symphonic Choir Men belting “Somagwaza,” to the poignant “Ave Maria” arranged by Blair’s own Michael Kurek, this interaction and integration of the varieties of musical style and broad range of performers was mesmerizing.

"Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)" was performed by the Core Choir, as well as a violinist, banjoist, guitarist, and accordion player. Also my friends are silly and cute, respectively.

To top off the night, a whole bunch of us ran back to my room to catch the tail end of the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.  Some of us Blair kids had a great time trying to play “Guess the Russian Composer” with the amazing music they had playing during the ceremonies.  During the commercial breaks, we threw together some peanut butter cookies topped with walnuts and chocolate-covered pretzels.  We also were so inspired by the a capella groups of the night, T., who studied abroad at St. Andrew’s in Scotland, showed us their premiere a capella group.

Aren't those tights so fun? They are compelling.

In conclusion, my Friday night led me to experience the visual arts, modern dance, an medley of Vanderbilt voices, and a jubilee for the XXII Winter Games.  I certainly was inspired by this culture-filled evening!


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