When you become a member of After Hours, it kind of comes with the territory that you will relive the past. We cover songs from so many past decades all the time, that's what we do. However, twice in the last two weeks we didn't just relive the music of our past, we went back in time to the place where it all began... high school!
We take pride in reminding fans that 75% of the group are alumni of Riverdale Collegiate Institute and while we say it mostly for the laugh, there is also a little pride when we tell people that I went there for six years and Yee Kuang went for seven. We simply didn't want to leave, it truly was an amazing place in an amazing time and we were fortunate enough to recognize that.
Back then, while Yee Kuang and I were singing with Bonnie Penfound's senior choir on the West side of the school, we had no idea that Jon was singing a cappella harmony on the East side, with his friends Mike Santos and George Scott and also Edsel Mansia. Bonnie definitely knew as she tried to recruit them a few times but Yee Kuang and I had no idea.
Fast forward 21 years to Thursday February 23rd. 16 degrees, sunny. Already the day seemed surreal. When we walked through the doors, the memories came flooding back. The school still looks and smells the same which is not a complaint, the place still looks great after all these years. When we went to the office to sign in, Glenn immediately recognized Helen Ferraro, one of the administrative staff at Riverdale and Glenn didn't even go to the school!
Lorraine Alves who also works in the office came running over to say hello and she still remembered us.
We finally met Camilla Rayman Bricknell, the new vocal teacher who was so friendly and welcoming. As we walked towards the ol' vocal room, coming into the school was another familiar face, Bonnie Penfound, our former vocal teacher who came to hear us! We hadn't even walked into the classroom yet and already the day was again, so surreal.
We sang first for the Grade 9 students, of which there were many. They asked some questions and then sang a bit for us. Being grade 9's there was that weird mix of shyness and "too cool for you" attitude so it was hard to get a real feel from them if they enjoyed us but I think they did. One girl said she enjoyed us more than Pentatonix which is obviously a huge compliment.
Then we did a sectional with the men. They were singing Baba Yetu, a song we used to cover 7 years ago. We helped them a bit with their choreo and confidence.
But the highlight of our visit came afterwards, when we literally went to the spot where this whole a cappella thing was born, in 1996. We went to the lockers where Jon, Mike, George and Edsel used to sing songs, like this one.
Yesterday, we went back again. This time we started our day with the senior students and this time we got them to sing a bit with us. We taught them our mash-up of Stand By Me and Every Breath You Take which they took to very quickly and it sounded amazing.
We worked again with the men at lunch and we were all happy to see how much they had retained from the week before.
After lunch we sang for the grade 10's and they were truly amazing. They really loved what we were doing and it showed. We also taught them our mash-up which you can hear here. We were so happy Camilla caught some of this on her camera, they literally learned this in less than 10 mins. It was a reminder to me, what a handful of notes (literally, you can count them on two hands in this song) and some willing participants can accomplish in a short period of time.
On the halls of Riverdale are the former grad student photos, from each year. We found Jon's, his was '95-'96 but we couldn't find mine or Yee Kuang's. Turns out they only keep up the last 20 years on the walls. Ouch! It's okay though, Lorraine Alves took us into storage and found our old and now somewhat faded grad photos. It was so much fun pointing out our old friends, wondering where they were now. I thought maybe I should go back into my old yearbooks, find the old "K.I.T's" and start calling some phone numbers to see if they're still around. Of course, none of those numbers have area codes on them so...
Okay, so it's been a while, just over 20 years apparently! But being back there, in that classroom, it felt like home. It felt like no time had passed it was so amazing to be back there, to be welcomed the way we were by the very, very few that still remember us.
While we enjoyed singing for the students there is no doubt that we got no greater joy than singing with them. We loved giving back to the school that gave us so much and who knows, maybe we'll inspire another a cappella group to start and carry on the tradition that Jon created there 21 years ago.
Even Glenn, who didn't go there, looked like he was at home too. As he stood there and did his solo with all that beautiful harmony surrounding him, literally, you could tell he was truly over the moon, he couldn't stop smiling. We're very lucky to have him and also thankful he was right there with us, enjoying watching us smile as we took our trip down memory lane.