Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back Home Blues

Greetings from Gettysburg! We arrived on campus late last night, after an exciting two flights. The first flight took off from the Nice airport in France, and went to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Next, we got on our flight from Paris to Dulles Airport.
   On Thursday we our bus to Nice, capital of the French Riviera. Nice is built on beautiful beaches, with cute markets and even a castle in the town. We had enough time to find the market and grab a sandwich for lunch, and then climb to the top of the castle, where we took some great pics. The beach in Nice is perfect-the water is  bright blue and the weather was beautiful.

       After we got back from Nice, we had our first concert in the Jazz a Juan festival. We played on the square in the middle of town. There was traffic all around us, and people who walked by came and sat down to watch. There was a great audience, and people really enjoyed the concert. Unfortunately, we started later than expected because of technical issues. In the middle of one of Alyssa's flute solos, an ambulance came by with sirens that were playing in the same key of the song....Kevin was very excited about that.

On Friday, we played petanque together...also know as Bocce ball. Alyssa's team beat Dr. Jones' team in a rousing came complete with team cheers and witty banter. Kevin's team lost both games, but really enjoyed learning the game from the enthusiastic man who was teaching the group.

After Petanque, the band went to our hotel's beach restaurant for our final meal together. There were many touching speeches shared as we reflected on our wonderful two weeks. After the delicious three course meal, most of us decided to hit up the beach. A few people decided to go tubing, but most of us picked swimming instead. Our last day in the Mediterranean was very relaxing, but we were all very sad the tour had to end.

After a final concert in park which featured one of Dr. Jones' old friends on flute, many students attended a concert on the main stage which included Marcus Miller, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock that was a tribute to the Miles Davis album Bitch's Brew. It opened with a psychedelic rendition of Miles Runs the Voodoo Down which set the tone quite well for the evening. Another personal highlight was 'Round Midnight, a chart which the jazz ensemble also played during the tour. It was a great show and a fitting way to end the tour.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Send in the Clowns

Hello again from Juan les Pins! Today was a fantastic day all around. At 9am we boarded the bus to go to nearby Antibes, one of the oldest French cities. We went on a fantastic walking tour. One of the famous inhabitants of Antibes was painter Pablo Picasso. We visited a museum in town that housed many of his happier works as well as other famous french artists and sculptures. The museum was right on the water and we had a great view of both the water and yachts of many famous billionaires. Our walking tour of the town also took us to a delicious local bakery that we visited later. The local pizza was not like the pizza that we think of in the states. Instead of tomato sauce and cheese, there were onions, anchovies and garlic. It was very delicious. Above is a picture of the view from outside the Picasso museum.

After our visit to Antibes, we departed for local concert in a series of concerts called Nuits de Chateau (Nuits of the Castle). Although it was close to Juan in terms of miles(or kilometers) it took us longer than expected to get there because we also had a lot of vertical traveling to do. The scenery was stunning. We played at a castle on top of a hill of a small village. At first there was a scare where the rain forced us inside to an alternate venue, but it eventually abated and we were able to play at the castle The hill overlooked neighboring towns as well as the town itself, and our stage was right on the edge of a cliff...thankfully it was walled off. Here's a picture of the stage.

Anyways, on the trek up to the top of the castle, (all by foot), we happened to pass the mayor of the town, who beckoned us inside for a "family photo". We walked into the cultural activities office where he was, to find that the circus had taken over the entire building. There was a model circus built to scale that filled a whole room, along with circus costumes on display, and many pictures as well as circus props. We were all moderately confused with the situation but laughed and went with it. The mayor was very excited to see us, and it was a lovely stop on the way to the castle.
The concert tonight was AWESOME. The crowd loved us, and there was a lot of energy in the band. There's nothing like a  summer night outside a castle to cheer you up. While we were playing there was even a dove that kept swooping through one of the spotlights near a castle tower.

Stay tuned for more updates and don't forget to check out older posts for pictures!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beyond the Sea

Greetings from beautiful Juan les Pins! We arrived here this afternoon from Aix en Provence. Because we had some free time in the town, we were able to explore and find some attractions, both ancient and modern.

After we arrived in Aix, we traveled a half hour outside the town to a nearby village for a gig. The venue was a beautiful estate with a lovely barn house stage. Not only was the building a great location, but the crowd and our host were very appreciative. The house was packed!The performance featured not only the big band, but our smaller combo group, Jazz Dispatch. Jazz Dispatch consists of our rhythm section of Alex Posmontier, Robert Whipple, and Thomas Neufield. The horns are faculty member Steve Fieldhouse, Nick Krafka, and myself(Kevin) on alto sax, trumpet, and trombone respectively. Vocalist Sarah Tuttle also joined us for a moving rendition of Misty. The more intimate sound of the smaller group was a great contrast to the hard swinging, full sound of the jazz ensemble. After the show, we were treated to a buffet dinner at the house of our host. Everyone had a great time and we all signed the guestbook of the estate.

After returning to Aix, we had some free time to roam around the next morning before traveling to nearby Arles. Arles is the oldest Roman city in France. We had a tour with a very spunky middle aged woman. She had a great hat and some very sassy quips about the state of the city. She showed us not only the ruins of the forum, but also the old amphitheater, which is still in use as a bullfighting arena. After the tour we had a delicious dinner which also featured two musicians serenading Gail Jones on guitar. Their next number was the Sinatra classic My Way in F sharp, which we promptly joined them in singing. It was a great time.

The next day we had a walking tour of Aix en Provence, which spanned a cathedral and a candy factory. The factory made both candied fruits as well as an almond shaped confection. As we walked through the factory, we taste tested the candy at different stages of the candy-making process. We also visited the Aix en Provence Music Conservatory:) After the tour, we had free time before we left for  Juan les Pins.

I (Alyssa) decided to lounge by the pool for two hours with other friends. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and I can now say I officially have my first sunburn of the summer. Kevin went to the Natural History Museum with a group of science majors and also visited the former residence of French composer Darius Milhaud. Aix en Provence was one of our favorite cities. It appears to be a smaller quaint town, with narrow streets and many open air markets, but is larger than it first seems and has plenty of ways to spend the time.

We then boarded our coach and traveled two hours to Juan les Pins. Our hotel is wonderful...right next to the beach. So far we've only been here for the evening, but tomorrow we will travel to Antibes, and then play a concert for part of the Nuits du Chateau annual festival. Wish us luck!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

500 Miles High

We're back in France! We are just arriving in Aix en Provence from a 7 hour bus ride. We all got in substantial napping time, and we also enjoyed the 'Useless Fact' tradition on bus rides. - Twice a day on the bus, someone will share a completely useless fact with the group. The only rule is that the fact cannot be relevant to any situation whatsoever. Long bus rides can be grueling, but they are very enjoyable when you're with 25 of your closest friends.
     On Friday we visited the Cailler chocolate factory in Switzerland! It smelled delicious as soon as we were in the parking lot. We went on a tour through the factory-by far the greatest chocolate tour I've ever been on. It went through nine different rooms, and each room had a display and aural explanation. Afterwards, we got to sample the chocolate-and then, of course, we went crazy in the shop. No offense PA, but Switzerland definitely tops Hershey's. Here's a picture of the group taste testing a lot of chocolate:)

        A side group of four science students visited nearby CERN. Organized by recent graduate Matt Murray, this group took a train about an hour away from Montreux while the rest of the group went to visit the chocolate factory. They had a lot of fun and learned a lot on a private tour of the facility given by one of the researchers there.
        That night, we performed our first show at the Montreux Jazz Festival. For those of you that don't know it, Montreux is the second largest jazz festival in the world, right on the shore of Lake Geneva. During one of the pieces, I looked behind the audience and saw huge mountains and a gorgeous lake...and then a sailboat floated by. Not bad scenery for an outdoor concert. The crowd really enjoyed the concert as well. After the show, there was some to relax in the beautiful environment. Some students went out on the town, I  enjoyed some delicious local fondue. After dinner I went out with a few friends to the local jazz cafe for a free show. The joint was hopping and everyone enjoyed themselves. The enjoyment couldn't last all night, however, since we had to get up early the next day for more adventures. Here's a picture of the band playing at Montreux.

          On Saturday, we got up early to board a train to Rocher de Naye- an Alp summit about an hour away. We arrived to (once again) breath taking scenery. We all hiked through the Alps, literally on the edge of cliffs. (It was terrifying for those afraid of heights.) There were also cages of Marmuts all around the area, so we enjoyed seeing them as well. After a few hours of picture taking, hiking, and camaraderie, we boarded the train back to Montreux.
             We played at the festival again on Saturday at 3:15pm. We had a really great show, and the audience was more receptive than on Friday. Some highlights include toddlers dancing to our music in front of the stage, US musicians from a Dixieland group based in Denver cheering us on, and some faster tempos to keep things exciting. After our concert, we rushed to a boat for a naval tour of lake Montreux.
            Saturday night we enjoyed sitting on the terrace of our hotel, watching the heat storm around Lake Geneva. The lightening above the lake was incredible. Later on, we all headed to our rooms to pack our things and go to bed. This is the view of Lake Geneva we saw from the hotel.

           Now, we are officially back in France for the remainder of the trip. We have one performance tonight at the Domaine de l'Etang des Aulnes venue near St. Martin de Crau. On Monday and Tuesday we will do more relaxing, and enjoy two full days without concerts. For now,  we will be enjoying two days in Aix en Provence!

Friday, July 8, 2011


Greetings from Montreux, Switzerland! It's been a busy week so far, so please accept our apologies for not blogging until now. (One of our hotels had this site blocked...?) So here's a very long update.
Monday, we met at Schmucker and took off for Dulles airport. We boarded our flight to Paris, and most of us got minimal sleep during the 7 hour flight. We then arrived in Paris and caught our connecting flight to Lyon.
Many liters of coffee were purchased to invigorate us weary jazz travelers. Despite our fatigue, we enjoyed some free time in the city and a tour of the Lyon opera house. The architecture was an interesting mix of old and new, with the original 19th century foyer surrounding an all black opera hall constructed in the late 20th century. After our tour, there was time for a much needed nap and delicious dinner of vegetable soup and duck at our hotel.
Monday and Tuesday melted into one giant day because of the seven hour red-eye flight. Most of us took the opportunity to go to sleep early or buy some food from the local grocery stores On Wednesday, the group took a trip to nearby Vienne. We visited primarily for the Jazz A Vienne Festival, although we also took a tour of the historical  district of the city, including an amphitheater still standing from when the town was inhabited by the Roman Empire. It had a great view of the entire city, but was terrifying for those afraid of heights.
 Later in the day, we prepared for our concert. We played near the amphitheater to a packed house that loved the concert. They even demanded an encore! That night, after dinner, we saw Raphael Saadiq and  Ben L'Oncle Soul play at the amphitheater to another large and enthusiastic crowd. After the concert, there was time to explore the city. A personal highlight (Kevin) was spending time with musicians from the Oxford University Big Band.
Thursday was our last day in Lyon, so I (Alyssa) got up early to enjoy time at a cafe with some friends. The coffee was really strong, and a perfect way to wake up at 7am. Next the group adventured onto the city metro, and spent the morning exploring the city. I decided to get off at a randomly picked metro station within the city (not alone, of course), and we found our way back to the city center by noon. It was a great adventure, and have a lot of good pictures from the old section of the city that we passed through.
At 1pm, we boarded our coach and traveled three hours to Montreux, Switzerland, where we are now. The city is absolutely beautiful- our hotel is right on the edge of Lake Geneva. Every morning we wake up to an amazing view of the pristine lake, and clouds that just cover the mountains.
We will be performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival tonight, so stay tuned for updates!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Night and Day

Fewer than twelve hours until we officially start our trip!
All of the students have been here since Saturday. We've been rehearsing in Kline Theater all weekend, and  now we are all packed up and ready to go. A long weekend of practicing culminated with a great concert tonight at the Lutheran Seminary. Thanks to all who showed up-you were a great crowd! It's not been all hard work, however. Saturday night Dr. Jones treated everyone, current students and alumni alike, to a barbecue at his house. There were several rousing games of croquet that surely will serve as foreshadowing for the good times ahead.
Next time we write, we will be across the pond!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Something's Coming

     As the date for our departure approaches, we have been practicing more and more for the trip.Things are relaxed here in Gettysburg at the moment, with most of the students home for the summer, but that will change next weekend when the jazz ensemble and jazz dispatch invade in preparation for our two week tour of Europe.
      We will be heading off to France and Switzerland from July 4th through July 16th to play at a plethora of different jazz festivals, such as the Montreaux Jazz Festival, Jazz a Juan, and Jazz a Vienne. In addition, we will be exploring European culture by going hiking, visiting a chocolate factory, and of course going to the beach on the French Riviera.
      Before we set off, however, there will be a farewell concert on Sunday, July 3rd at the Lutheran Seminary in town. This blog will be a place where you can keep updated on the adventures, musical and otherwise, of the Gettysburg College Jazz Ensemble in Europe!

-Kevin & Alyssa