Favorite Places

El Carnaval de La Vega in the Dominican Republic

Musicians travel - a lot - so I asked this summer’s artists to list a favorite place or two in the world. Some of the answers were not what I expected.

David Yang, Artistic Director

Elaine Daiber, soprano: Montmartre, Paris

Although it is a tough question, I think my favorite place on Earth (so far!) is Montmartre in Paris, France. I love that it always has and continues to be a place where artists find inspiration — when I’m there I feel hope for our art form. – E.D.

Rhina P. Espaillat, Poet-in-Residence:
Olmstead’s great gift to Manhattan

I have so many beloved places that I might as well write "Planet Earth"! But no, here are some slightly more specific: LaVega, my home town in the heart of the Dominican Republic. and navel of the Americas; Central Park in NYC; the Newburyport Promenade overlooking the Merrimack River.  - R.P.E

Jon Deak, Composer-in-Residence: the Devil's Stair

It's fun to think about a favorite place in the world. Clearly, I'm having trouble defining one particular place. My life and personality are often split into categories and moods, some conflicting, some complementary. Looking them over, I realize I am quite blessed. – J.D.

  1. With my family in the Teton Mountains at the top of Devil's Stairs, Wyoming (emotional, fun)
  2. Standing on the summit of Denali (Mt McKinley) Alaska (spiritual, physical)
  3. Writing at my composing desk in NYC, in the pre-dawn (professional-spiritual)
  4. At the Helsinki Music Center, Finland, listening to my Very Young Composer students' pieces (mission accomplished)
  5. Wandering the streets of Ramallah, Palestine at midnight (adventure-spiritual-professional)
  6. Looking at the Milky Way on a starry night anywhere on the planet (emotional-spiritual-philosophical)
  7. Coney Island amusement Park in Brooklyn (fun)
Clancy Newman, cello: Parents’ house in Anglesea, Australia

My favorite place happens to be exactly where I am right now as I write this. I am sitting at the balcony of my parents' house in Anglesea, a small beach town about 1.5 hours drive along the coast from Melbourne, Australia. It looks out over the Anglesea River (actually an estuary), and across the river is an uninhabited island. I love to sit here in the mornings, sip tea, read a good book, and watch the birds as they start their day. – C.N.

Solenne Paidassi, violin: at home on the French Riviera

My absolute favorite place in the world is the Côte d’Azur. The sunlight is just different there, the way the Mistral wind brings clear skies and smells of lavender and pine trees. In March you can be swimming in the sea, or drive two hours and ski in the French Southern Alps, and people just seem to live slower there. It’s where I was born, and no matter how far I travel, it’s the place I’ll always call home. – S.P.

Danbi Um, violin: her favorite place is in a bowl of dessert

The first area that comes to mind as a favorite place would be Central Park in New York. Inside, there is a place called The Ramble, where you can find a place that has a shallow stream. It’s idyllic to sit there, completely surrounded by trees, and listening to water trickling down in silence. The other one is a dessert place in Flushing that has my favorite dish of taro mango sago with coconut milk. Four of my favorite foods combined in one dish is irresistible. – D.U.

David Yang, viola; Looking past Joanna’s house in Viejo San Juan

My novia is from Puerto Rico and I’ve visited enough that it is starting to feel like home, especially old San Juan, where she lives when she is not in New York (or Philly…). Founded in 1519, the second oldest city in the Americas (to give you some perspective, Newburyport was founded 250 years later) is unlike anywhere else. The close-packed, bumpy, cobbled streets are distinctly medieval but the joyfully-painted houses, palm trees, and salsa music pouring out the doors of tiny neighborhood bars speaks of a vibrant Caribbean culture. Every corner presents either a view of the water or one of the immense Spanish forts that anchor each end of the city. Puerto Ricans are the warmest and most welcoming people I’ve met anywhere.

Link to a YouTube recording of “In mi Viejo San Juan”
“In mi Viejo San Juan”

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite pub on this planet: The Plough and the Harrow in Monknash, Wales. My buddy and partner-in-crime from Ensemble Epomeo, Ken Woods, first took me here years ago and it became a regular pilgrimage site for the two of us with his family. It sits in a rugged corner of southwest Wales a short hike from windswept cliffs and the cold Atlantic. The cider is dry and the game stew is comforting. – D.Y.

The Plough and the Harrow in Monknash
on a typically warm and sunny Welsh afternoon
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