Friday, August 10, 2012

Melissa

This trip has been such an amazing experience, we can now finally say WE DID IT. The Mark Twain Ringers went to London and rang their hearts out. I am so proud of the whole choir, and am so thankful for all the help we received from the community, the school, Mr. Thiele, Dr. Patton, and everyone else who helped our dream come true. Everyone's handwork paid off.
I remember all the performances we went to, in order to raise the money we needed and all the hours of practice we had to do; it was all very hard. Having more than two performances every week during winter, going home late from performances, having to carry all of our equipment everywhere. At the time it would stress us all out, but once we were all set up to perform it was all alright, because the beautiful music we created with our bells calmed us down; every practice and performance was always so much fun!
Now that we are here we are having such an amazing time, our performances here have been very good, people see us walking with our equipment from our bus and they all stop and stare, and ask "who are they?".They get so impressed with us because we are so unique, no other handbell choir plays Adele, Taylor Swift, or Kate Perry like we do. It feels good to be recognized by all these people in London, and seeing ourselves on TV and on newspaper back home makes us feel famous.
These past nine days have been like a dream come true. I've always wanted to go to London and Paris and I'm sure everyone else does too, and now I can say "I've been thre, I saw that, and I rang there". I still can't believe I'm here. I think the best part of the trip was being able to be with the people I love, the Mark Twain Ringers, my second family.

Melissa.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back in LA

The Mark Twain Ringers have arrived safely to Los Angeles. It's been a long trip and everybody was tired and happy. It's been an amazing experience, and we all will have to reflect upon it in the next days. Parents and families were waiting for the group and we have lived similar moments to the ones we lived on the day we left, but this time with the children safely returned and with their luggage packed with an incredible experience and some souvenirs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Laura

"Being here has been amazing. I've gotten used to it, so I don't miss home as much. At first I did, but now I don't want to leave. London is just AMAZING, all they have to offer here, like the places and food. This trip has been eye-opening and I'm grateful for having a chance to be here. Our Contributors and Dr. Patton have done this possible and from the bottom of my heart I thank them. It's sad to leave so early. I wish we had more time here, but unfortunately our job is down there. I hope I, as well with my family and this choir, come here again soon. I hope Theile has enjoyed this trip more than I, and hope he remembers it as a wonderful trip he got to enjoy with us, and us with him. I hope he knows how much us 9th graders appreciate everything he's done for us, and that we will all miss him and love him so much. Thanks for everything to those who contributed. This was all you, Dr. Patton, and Theile.
From London I say goodnight, and Los Angeles, I'm coming home tomorrow!! :)
Laura".

Hyde Park

We would have never expected to play in Hyde Park, the most important location in London dedicated to the Olympics after Olympic Park. However, when the Weymouth Festival was cancelled, they gave us a spot in Hyde Park. Thousands of people go through Hyde Park every day. A huge extension of the park has been conditioned for the free leisure of londoners and tourists during the games. Large screens project the different competitions in real time and people spend the day with their children and friends enjoying the Summer Olympics, eating from the numerous food stands, purchasing London 2012 merchandise from the official stores, playing games for adults and children, or listening to music. Today, the people visiting Hyde Park had the opportunity to listen to the Mark Twain Ringers.



The Unscheduled Performance

When we finished yesterday the performance at Southwark Cathedral, we had to be waiting for the bus for a while. Then, Ron had an idea, asked the children to put on their robes, get their bells and go towards the bridge. The Mark Twain Ringers played a couple of pieces in a performance that was not included in any program. Even when it had not been announced, it gathered some public and it was very much appreciated. It was one of the unforgettable moments of this trip.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Southwark Cathedral

The Mark Twain Ringers were performing today at Southwark Cathedral. After two days without playing, they needed to get back to work. So that they wouldn't think they were here on vacation, Ron got them together for rehearsal soon after breakfast. They improvised a choir room in the common area of the apartment building (which is normally used as kitchen) and were practicing for more than an hour before getting on the bus that would take us to London. The schedule was going to be based on the time of the performance and we had to get there with plenty of time. However, we would have to wait inside the Cathedral without time to go for lunch. For that reason, on our way to London, we stopped to buy some sandwiches at a local supermarket.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Leisure time

The schedule of the bellringers has been very tight so far. Each hour is programmed and we try to follow the plan at all times, since it is the only way to move a large group of people through a city like London, and even more when the city is hosting the Summer Olympics. Today they had the opportunity to relax a little bit, get off the bus, and visit around as regular tourists would do: we went to visit the Tower of London, as thousands of visitors do during the year, and we went to attend a soccer game, as thousands of fans are doing during the Olympcis.
The group had already seen the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, but just because the bus passed in front of them during a sightseeing tour. This time we had the opportunity to visit the locations, watch them close, take pictures, and buy souvenirs in the gift soft: the whole tourist experience. The premises of the Tower of London are very large, and there are many different sites of interest inside the perimeter. The best way to move was not a large group of 27 people, so we split in five smaller groups and organized the visit in a more manageable way, including the stop at the gift shop and the typical "Fish and Chips" for lunch. The Tower of London is like a mirror that throughout the centuries has collected images of all the stages of the history of England. It's one of the monuments that cannot be missed when visiting London. Unfortunately, we had less than two hours for our visit and we couldn't see all the buildings, but it was enough to get an idea. In an extremely secured vault are kept the "Jewels of the Crown", which everybody wants to see: the crowns and jewels that the English monarchy has kept during centuries. We were not allowed to take pictures of them, but we encourage everyone that visits London to stop by the Tower of London and have a look at them: they are really impressive.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Paris

The students had been looking forward to the trip to Paris since they were in Los Angeles and they were not disappointed. Today was leisure time for the bellringers because they were not performing, and yet, they had to get up earlier than any other day. The alarm went off this morning at 4:00 am because at 5:00 am we had to be in the bus on our daily ride to London, this time headed to St. Pancras Station, where we would take the high speed train Eurostar. We left at 7:55 am and arrived to Paris at 11:17 am. Since Paris is one hour ahead of London, the train covered the distance in 2 hours and 22 minutes, reaching speeds of 186 miles per hour.



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Olympic Park

Some artists perform better when they drop the music sheet and start to improvise. Today we improvised and things went much better than expected, considering that the plan had been changed in the last minute and when we went to bed last night we were not sure where the Bellringers would play, or at what time. The organization made arrangements and they were able to place us in one of the entertainment spots for artists and musicians in the Olympic Park. Suddenly, we were going to perform at the very heart of London 2012, where the Opening Ceremony was celebrated and where the most important athletic events take place.  The bus took us there, where personnel of the organization took care of us, gave us accreditations, and escorted us to the spot where the Mark Twain Ringers were going to perform.

Exhibition Road

The first performance of the Bellringers was at Exhibition Road. This place is "the cultural heartland of London and the ultimate destination for anyone with a thirst for discovery and creativity. Here, the world's leading arts, cultural, scientific and academic organizations joing together to deliver vibrant programs that challenge and surprise".
The Mark Twain Ringers played just in front of the Science Museum, on a mobile stage on a truck. There are several mobile stages at Exhibition Road, and there are many performances every day. Ron This was their first contact with the London audience and it was a warm-up for the upcoming performances.
The stage was somewhat of a challenge for our musicians, because it was large enough for individual artists or small groups, but a little small for 17 bellringers. Besides, they normally arrange the tables with the bells in two rows for better acoustics, and in this case they could only arrange the tables in one single line. However, they adapted very quickly to the specific conditions of that performance and everything went very well.
They gathered a lot of public around. People enjoyed the music and showed them their appreciation with warm applause. When we get back to LA I will be editing and posting some videos on our Youtube Channel, so I am just posting a short sample of their first performance.



Change of plans

After the Exhibition Road performance yesterday, an Olympic volunteer was greeting the students and giving them bracelets. I was talking to her and I asked about how the Games were progressing, how they were impacting the daily life of londoners, and how things were going on. She said that it looks as if they were expecting more people, so I got the impression that less people have come to the Summer Olympics than they expected.
In any case, when we were in the bus on our way back to Keynes College, the tour guide informed us that there had been a change of plans: the performance at Weymouth Bayside Festival had been canceled. In fact, not only the Mark Twain Ringers performance had been canceled, but all performances. Apparently they were expecting more than three thousand people to attend this festival and the organization had sold barely three hundred. This fact was aligned with what the Olympic volunteer had told me.
In any case, there was an unexpected change of plan. Our students will play today somewhere else, but we don't even know the time. This is interesting.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tour in London & first performance

Today the Mark Twain Ringers performed for the first time in London in the Exhibition Road Festival. You can see the Mark Twain Ringers space in the program here.
The day started with a huge breakfast (they take good care of the students here) and the usual routine of the bellringers getting the bells, pads, guitars, and rest of the equipment, and listening to the directions of Ron Theile. They were not nervous. They have played so many times and have practiced so much for this that when the day arrived, they were just ready.


Our accommodations

We get up very early in the morning and spend the day out most of the time. Then we come back in the evening to get prepared for the next day. Luckily, our accommodations at the University of Kent in Canterbury are very good.
Each student has his own room, which is not large but is very comfortable. This place is obviously thought for a life of study, since the surroundings are extraordinarily quiet and the room invites to sit, read, and get the work done.
The building is quite new and all the rooms have new furniture and equipment. Each room has its own restroom with shower, a bed, a large desk, and shelves for books. There is also a common area in each floor with kitchen, refrigerators, microwave, coffee machine, cleaning supplies, etc. Staying here our students can have a glimpse of what their college life might look line in the future.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Canterbury and Keynes College

We are staying at Keynes College, at the University of Kent, very close to Canterbury. We had the opportunity to spend one hour walking in Canterbury and we realized it was a very interesting place with a long history that required more time to visit, so we are planning another visit.


Finally, London!

We are finally here. We made it! The Mark Twain Ringers arrived in London after a long trip.
Everybody was early at the airport, and most of the students and their families arrived before the scheduled time. For that reason, we had plenty of time to check in, and plenty of time to say goodbye to the family, parents and siblings, even when it was just for a few days. We could see some moving moments then.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Until the last minute


Although the academic year finished on June 19th, the Bellringers have not had their summer break yet. They have been meeting regularly during July in order to plan, rehearse and make all the necessary arrangements for the trip. They have been practicing in the Mark Twain Bell Room until the last minute, and yesterday they had their last rehearsal at school and met Steve Zimmer, our representative in the LAUSD Board of Education, who gave them lunch, T-shirts, and bags with school supplies. Before they left, he talked to them about how great their accomplishment was, and about their role as cultural ambassadors in London, for Mark Twain Middle School, LAUSD, and the country.

A dream comes true


It's been a long year. Back in October the invitation to perform during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London was just a dream. Since then, a lot of work, countless hours of rehearsals, practice, school homework to keep the grades high, and the hope that kept the dream alive despite all the difficulties. The students have been amazing, but they couldn't have made it without the constant support of their families. Thank you, parents!
Ron Theile, the Music Director, started to dream, and he was able to make the rest of the crew share his dream. He has worked tirelessly during the year, putting everything together, and leading the rest of us to dream his dream.