Thursday, March 30, 2017

NYC Part VI - Brooklyn Sunday Morning

Our NYC adventure continues with our Sunday morning trip to Brooklyn.

We assembled in the hotel lobby at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday morning where we finally met our “family” group. As others counted noses and determined everyone was present and accounted for, they headed out. Kim’s group left well ahead of us. Ours was one of the last to leave.

Fortunately, a fellow in our group regularly travels to Manhattan for business. He realized the subway schedule was different for Sundays and holidays. We followed him like ducklings, afraid to make a wrong turn.

We observed another group disappear down some steps into the subway. If I’d been on my own, I probably would have followed them, but our fearless leader looked at his map and determined the entrance we wanted was in the next block, even though we couldn’t see it from where we stood. Sure enough, as we passed the buildings, a large opening at street level revealed the correct portal.

We have used subways in Japan, Paris, and Washington, D.C. All have been clean, bright, and user-friendly. In most cases, the stations themselves featured large diagrams of the subway lines and the stations. In Japan, above the doors on each train we could count on a diagram of the route with all the stops identified. As we approached each, the name was announced. So, even as gaijin or foreigners, we were prepared to disembark.

The New York subways appeared to be well-worn, dark, and a bit shabby. The station yielded no clues as to where to go. (Fortunately, we were each issued a subway map in case we got lost. However, I’d have been hard-pressed to find my way back alone.)

Our fearless leader got us to the right track and onto the right train. By the second stop, all of us found seats. We had a chance to get to know a few of the people in the group during the ride—lovely folks all.

When we reached Brooklyn, a cold mist had begun. I had taken a small umbrella with me for the trip. However, it remained on the nightstand in the hotel. Fortunately, our Universal all-weather jackets were waterproof and provided adequate protection, I wasn’t particularly concerned about keeping my hair dry as the light mist didn’t do much damage.
A walk of about three blocks led us to the Brooklyn Tabernacle where we were to share Sunday morning worship. This wonderful church is large enough to hold their congregation as well as 270 additional souls. We were excited to be there as this Grammy-winning choir had previously sung backup for Michael W. Smith.

We were ushered to the balcony where half had been set aside for our group. We were warmly welcomed and took our seats. We noticed about half our people were missing—including Kim’s group. All had left ahead of us.

Everyone finally arrived in time for the 9:00 a.m. service. Larry asked Kim what happened. She rolled her eyes. “Six trains…” We didn’t get the full story until later. It seems their group—among others—used the daily schedule. When the train didn’t come after half an hour, they switched to a different one. Then, they went from train to train until they finally located the correct one.

The Tabernacle choir sings in gospel style—full volume with lots of energy. (The Prestonwood choir tends to do the same.) The service began with an hour of music, interspersed occasionally with scripture and prayer. We’d been told to leave no later than 10:30 even if the service wasn’t finished. After the offertory—with more music—the pastor began his sermon. Just before 10:30, our group began donning their outerwear. Fortunately, the service ended right on time. When we got outside, the cold mist had turned to sleet. Our Universal jackets have built-in hoods, so I raised mine.

We walked about four blocks to Hill Country Barbeque restaurant. This one was also two stories. For our group, they served a buffet breakfast with lines both upstairs and down instead of barbeque. We found seats downstairs and got into the line. Kim, Maribeth, and some of our “family” group made their way upstairs.
The food was served in square cardboard containers: small sweet rolls, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast. We had juice and coffee to drink. Feeding such a huge crowd in a short period of time seemed like a logistic nightmare, yet the planners pulled it off.
After breakfast, we retraced our steps back to the subway. This time, we got off at the stop closest to Carnegie Hall. The choir was directed one way, and we non-singers were asked to wait in a large room. When everyone had arrived, we were invited to enter the auditorium and take seats for the rehearsal until time for our backstage tour.

The orchestra rehearsed for a half hour before the choir arrived. The first number they played was Michael’s Glory Overture. I had no idea he wrote instrumental music. I whispered to Larry, “Hints of John Williams.” Some of the themes reminded me of his music, especially his score for Home Alone. During the concert, Michael told the audience he had been profoundly influenced by John Williams.

I am always deeply moved by beautiful music, and this brought me to tears. The next song, “Heroes,” moved me even more. I warned Larry and the young lady next to me that I would probably embarrass them during the concert.

After the orchestra rehearsal, the choir arrived. Fitting 230 people behind a full orchestra was no small feat! We later learned some of them decided to share music because they were so close, their folders didn’t fit. 
As they began to rehearse, our Carnegie guide arrived to take us on the backstage tour. He shared the history of the hall and showed us everything from the top tier to the ground floor and museum. All the walls in the auditorium curve slightly inward so the sound is focused on the audience. The balconies have no walls to break up the sound. Light comes from wall-mounted sconces rather than chandeliers. This venue was obviously designed for maximum enjoyment of the music.
After our tour, we went back into the hall to enjoy the last of the rehearsal before we returned to the hotel for a rest before the concert. Fortunately, the hotel was only a couple of blocks away—a terrific location.

Next week: the concert. (Spoiler alert: This was the best concert I have ever attended.)


  1. I've been in subways in other countries that were clean and well lit, with route descriptions easy to follow. It's a shame to hear the N.Y. subways aren't. I'm enjoying your trip.

    1. Thanks. We loved the ones in Paris and DC. We also took the Japan subways when we lived there. All were clean and well-marked.