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We're Home!

Twin Cities Bronze is home! What a wonderful Cultural Exchange Tour to Puerto Rico. So many memories! So many special moments! So many new friends!

We departed on various days at various times, gathering at the San Juan Embassy Suites – our home from June 12-19, 22017. The itinerary for our adventure? Glad you asked.

Tuesday morning - workshop and mini-concert at a Montessori School in San Juan

Tuesday afternoon – lunch at Barrachina (the disputed birthplace of the special Pina Colada!); a visit to the Bicardi Rum Factory; and an Old San Juan city tour including the San Cristobal castle.

Tuesday evening was free time as well as Wednesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon – a professional teacher workshop, a mini-concert, and a special workshop with the Coro de Ninos de San Juan. Maria Gabriela (Gaby) Fernandez has been a part of this school for many years. The evening was free.

Thursday was a FREE DAY – exploring the caves, the rain forest, ziplining, hiking, the kiosks at Luquillo Beach and finally, kayaking in the Bioluminescent Bay. A long day – but, so worth it!

Friday - We visited the Arecibo Observatory (movies 007 and Contact, anyone?) in the morning. The lunch stop was interesting. Johnathan, our bus driver, had no recommendations for lunch. He dropped us in the Arecibo Town Square (where little English is spoken). Gives a new meaning to ‘lunch on your own!’

The afternoon workshop, mini-concert, and evening formal concert with the choir of The `University of San Juan/Arecibo left us speechless. The students rang for us (Arnold Sherman’s “Grazioso,” conducted by Carlos Rivera), then introduced themselves. Their names were beautiful…but what stunned us was the frequent ‘….and I have been ringing for 5 months!” Proof positive! Puerto Ricans ARE the music! Simply stunning.

The evening 'shared' concert in Arecibo was a high point of our cultural exchange. The composer (Maestro William Ortiz) of our commission piece “Acangana” what present for the Puerto Rico premier. Both choirs performed brilliantly for a packed house, 200+, standing room only audience. The final “En Mi Viejo San Juan” with Twin Cities Bronze ringing and those in the hall singing at full voice moved us all to tears and goosebumps!

Saturday morning was free followed by an afternoon workshop, mini-concert and evening concert with the LDS church in Trujillo Alto/San Juan. Children of all ages! Teachers from our Wednesday workshop. A Master Class with Carlos (The Vivace Experience!). Great food. Appreciative audience. And yes, again – the soft hums of “En Mi Viejo San Juan” touched each of us.

We worshiped on Sunday morning with Carlos at the Second Union Church/San Juan – ringing the Prelude, Offertory, Special Music, and Postlude on 3-octaves. Simple lines. Exposed melodies. Beautiful.

Sunday afternoon/evening were free for last minute shopping and farewells. All returned to the Upper 48 throughout the day on Monday…and some on Tuesday, due to weather events. We are all ‘still processing’ this experience.

The beauty of the island and its people have touched each of us in many ways. Our local liaison, Carlos Rivera was stellar! Our accommodations were comfortable. Our tours and bus driver were phenomenal.

How did we do this? Lots of advance planning and ‘rolling with the punches’ when required. Yes, we had hiccups along the way. Our almost $30,000 budget was a challenge. The Ensemble paid for ½ of their lodging expenses and their individual airfare. Thanks to generous anonymous donors, each ringer received s $200+ stipend toward air fare. The operating budget paid for the remaining lodging, and provided a $200 meal allowance, sightseeing fees, and all ground travel.

Thank you to everyone who helped maked this Cultural Exchange Tour possible.  More about that in the next Bronze Buzz.

We’re home! And we’re ready to do it again! Farewell Puerto Rico. We will return.