Master class with Ilia Mihaylov

I have tons of video clips from our master class with Ilia Mihaylov and the phenomenal seven women from the Great Voices of Bulgaria, and I’ve finally got an internet connection fast enough to upload them, so here they are! Unfortunately, I wasn’t keeping track of the regions of origin for each song, so hopefully someone will be able to edit this entry to fill that info in:

– Linh (A1, ’13)


Croatia in pictures

Hey there!

Back in Boston — Olivia here. Kind of weird-feeling, but also it was great to be able to sleep in (meaning I woke up at 6am since I am jet-lagged). I’m staying with Bernie ’10, my very own RCS big sister, and it is such a nice way to come full circle.

This trip has been a real whirlwind: in between meeting so many important political figures and being on national television in 4 different countries, but also seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world, meeting incredibly warm and welcoming people everywhere, and being humbled by some incredible choirs, I can’t believe it was only three weeks!

Since we just got back from Zagreb yesterday, so I thought it would be a good time to share a recap of Croatia through photos!

1) Here are photos from Plitvice National Park — really one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Props to Katherine for arranging such an idyllic day trip!ImageImageImageImage

2) ‘Cliffe Notes perform on Croatian national television! I’ll share a video of them next! They were SO PERFECT. As was Andy’s interview! By the way, I’m the only one who didn’t get my makeup done by professional TV makeup artists, so sorry I look so disheveled compared to everyone else.


3) The seniors go out to dinner together in Zagreb. I have one last announcement: seniors must keep in touch.


4) Banquet! I only took photos of the junior skit — mainly because I knew they would be making fun of my photo-snapping habits on tour. Below is also a photo of the juniors and the seniors they acted out. Cute!


5) On our very last day, RCS performed in a choral competition in Petrinja, an hour away from Zagreb. AND WE WON!! Michelle (financial manager extraordinaire) still has the gigantic check that came all the way back with us. We’re planning on framing it or something. It really came as a surprise to us because there were so many incredible choirs at the competition. It was really great to hear so many other choirs and listen to their music.


That’s it from me. Many hearts and kisses.

– Olivia (S2 ’12)

RCSers Sing R-A-D at Plitvice Lakes National Park

A few days ago, we visited a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site in Croatia, the Plitvice Lakes National Park. We were all amazed by the rich, blue waters — the lakes were so clear that we could see all the fish and underwater plants!

Here, a few girls sing R-A-D at the top of the 8km hike. We all definitely enjoyed this day-trip out of Zagreb!

RCS love,
Anne (Alto 1)

RCS in Belgrade!

RCS is about to finish its visit to Belgrade, and I wanted to share a few photos from our time here. RCS rehearsing at the Kolarac. What a wonderful concert hall! The concert was beautiful, and the Collegium Musicum from … Continue reading

RCSers sing R-A-D atop the Belogradchik Rocks

We just finished a wonderful week in Bulgaria where we sang in a variety of venues, ranging from concert halls to a high school auditorium to an outdoor theater. I have been sick for 7 days, missing a total of 4 concerts! From this, however, I have discovered just how much of a privilege it is to get to sing — and to get to sing with RCS. Never again will I take singing for granted. In my senior speech before a concert last week, I encouraged everyone to sing with all their hearts and to show their love for music and for this ensemble in their expressions while singing.

This particular video I’m posting is of a few RCSers singing R-A-D at the summit of the Belogradchik Rocks, a beautiful natural phenomenon in northwest Bulgaria. The views here were stunning, and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the bus (and rehearsal halls) for a few hours to run around and climb some massive rock formations. The steps were so steep, and at times, we had to literally climb, using hands and knees, to reach the next level. At the end of our adventure, we almost all got some gelato before we retreated to our adorable hotel to prepare for the evening concert at the outdoor Mushroom Theater.

Belogradchik Rocks

We are now in Belgrade, Serbia, after a long bus ride today. Tomorrow we get to meet the prince and princess of Serbia at their palace. We can’t wait!

Anne (Alto 1)

Post-concert in Sofia, Bulgaria

This concert was AMAZING. We got so many compliments on our Bulgarian pronunciation and the tenor soloist for the Bulgarian National Philharmonic Choir told me that he was “deeply shaken” by the music and told Sarah that it was “a pleasure for his soul.” The audience was incredibly enthusiastic and we could feel the energy on stage, despite its being a million degrees under all the lights. ‘Cliffe Notes also rocked it out. We sounded awesome and, after not singing at the last concert because of illness, this was an incredible welcome back into the choir.

When we were singing the Radcliffe songs, I looked out into the audience to see reactions. The audience loved R-A-D and was clapping to the beat, which is something that we’ve never experienced except in Bulgaria. While we were singing Radcliffe, Now We Rise to Greet Thee, I saw Rachel (who wasn’t singing tonight because of a sore throat) mouthing the words as those of us onstage were singing. I started tearing up just thinking about the community that RCS fosters and realizing that, even though there are only 50 of us on stage, there are so many more in the audience and across the globe.  I think this is the first time that the universality of our art and our choir really struck home for me, and I am eternally grateful that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be part of such a unique, talented, wonderful group of women.

RCS <3,
Nicole (Soprano II, 2013)

Photos from our concert in Gabrovo, Bulgaria

This small but impressive choir sang a 20-minute set of English and Bulgarian pieces before RCS took stage.

Last night was Andy’s first concert with us on tour so far. Welcome back, Andy!

RCS from above.

Michaela Tracy (’13) conducts “At the River” for the first time in concert. She was wonderful!

Our Assistant Conductor Beth Willer. Beth has conducted all concerts abroad so far.

Beth Willer conducting the Thomson.

Singing “Choose Something Like a Star” by Randall Thomson.

At the end of the concert, the Aprilov chamber choir joined RCS on stage to sing a Bulgarian folk song called “Dilmano, Dilbero.” Luckily a kind Bulgarian had taught RCS the correct pronunciation a few days ago so we were prepared to sing with the other choir!


Blagodarya, Bulgaria

We left Istanbul at 6:30am but there were still some smiling faces-what a trooper!

RCS left for Bulgaria bright and early Friday morning after a night of little to no sleep. We arrived at customs around 9:30 a bit crankier than usual, but as soon as we arrived at our destination I found myself wishing that we had left even earlier. Bulgaria is home to some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever encountered. At every moment during our two-day stay in Harmanli there was someone to translate for us, give us food, or even take pictures with us (we’re facebook famous in Bulgaria).

This is part of the Karavanserai in Harmanli, which was where travelers would rest along their trade route to Asia during the Ottoman Empire.

Friday afternoon, we took the bus down the hill from our hotel to Harmanli proper to tour the town center with the help of our guide Molly. We were so fortunate to have volunteers who were willing to follow us around the region and translate for us, including Molly, an American transplant, and three or four men who donated their time and language skills in exchange for little from us except gratitude.

RCSers in front of the Karavanserai.

Friday night we watched the opening ceremonies of the “Harmony” International Choral Festival that we took part in on Saturday. There were choirs present from Israel, Russia, Bulgaria, and we were so excited to represent the United States. Many of the Bulgarian choirs sang traditional folk songs with catchy beats and bright vowels, and the audience was quick to clap along. The first night the energy was high, despite the fact that much of the audience (ahem RCS ahem) hadn’t slept in about 36 hours, but we were certainly glad to get to bed.

RCS rehearsing in a room at the Cultural Center. On the wall behind us was a banner with photos from the last five International Choral Festivals held in Harmanli, and RCS will probably be added and memorialized in this rehearsal room forever. On the wall behind Beth was a picture of the founder of the Cultural center; the people in Harmanli take great pride in their history and sharing their culture, and it was so exciting to rehearse and perform in a space so laden with history!

A monument in the park where we performed outdoors as part of the Choral Festival. The symbol on the top is a nod to the Soviet Union that controlled Bulgaria until 1989, but the monument has since been surrounded by international flags.

The outside of the Cultural Center where RCS performed.

The banner with the symbol of the Harmony International Choral Festival.

Our conductor Beth was featured during the opening ceremonies of the Festival, and received a plaque and a hat!

On Saturday afternoon, we drove a short ways to an outlying village of Hamanli called Dositeevo, where I felt the most welcome I ever have as the townspeople greeted us with their traditional guest-welcoming ceremony of homemade bread dipped in honey as we entered the cultural center. Every town or village in Bulgaria has a cultural center where they hold dances and dinners; here preserving traditions and sharing customs is a norm, and art and performance are an integral part of daily life. Instead of playing soccer or football, children learn traditional step and line dances that are performed at almost every social gathering. We got to join in a few times, and that practice came in handy when we were invited to join in the dances at dinner later that night.

The Cultural Center in Dositeevo. For such a small village, it was a lovely cultural center with internet and a kitchen.

This 70-year old tenor won a silver medal last week in a folk song competition. His smile was infectious. He and the rest of the Dositeevo choir serenaded us for about half an hour, introducing us to the songs of their region.

More of the choir. The accordion player rarely cracked a smile, but could play and talk at the same time! I was impressed.

RCSers were invited to join in the traditional Bulgarian folk dances (the easy ones!) and had a great time.

The women of the village were sad to see us leave, and hugged several RCSers goodbye. They were so sweet and generous to us, and I nearly cried watching this exchange.

We performed in an outdoor hatch shell to open the night’s performances and we received spontaneous applause as soon as we began our Bulgarian folk song “Dilmano, Dilbero”. Later on the main stage, I think we sang one of our best concerts so far on this tour.

The theme of the festival was cultural exchange, and the flags above the stage were an ever-present reminder of the kind of intercultural experience we were fortunate to be part of.

We’ve moved on to Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and the people continue to amaze me with their generosity and kind hearts. We are so lucky to be here.

In Gratitude,

Harmanli + Gabrovo

Hello from Gabrovo! We got here yesterday after stopping at Stara Zagora for lunch and the Nativity Cathedral in Shipka. It has gotten quite hilly, and the switchbacks were terrifying. At least I thought so.

This is a shot from yesterday morning while RCS was warming up outside an Orthodox church, where we sang a short set of sacred a cappella music at the close of a long service. The inside was filled with icons and carvings and, at that point, was dark and smoky with incense. We had spent the night before at the festival banquet dancing to vintage American pop and Bulgarian music, so maybe we look a little tired? Our days are very busy on tour!

We’re off in a bit to do some sightseeing, but before I sign off: we saw our Harmanli hotel in a music video on TV here! The hotel is apparently known for its Saturday night folk-pop performances, and they had a bunch of videos filmed at the hotel on loop in the lobby. I didn’t really believe it, however, until we turned on the TV this morning in Gabrovo and saw the Hotel Prikazkite and a bunch of dancing and singing women. Legit, guys, so legit.

– Natalie (’12, Alto II)