Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | Written by Mira
The Leonardo Program is a true hidden gem of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. I didn’t know about this until our welcome orientation. Professor Sonia Serafin created the Leonardo Program to give students a chance to have cultural experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. With a focus on cultural immersion and the arts, the Leonardo Program offers various activities and events throughout the semester.
On Tuesday afternoon, we went fruit, vegetable, and flower picking at a local farm, Cueillette de Peltre (http://cueillettedepeltre.fr/)! Georgia Tech-Lorraine provided a shuttle to and from the farm so for an hour and half we could pick whatever we wanted. The main attraction? Strawberries.
After getting instructions of logistics, we made a beeline for the “fraises”. There were rows and rows and rows of strawberries! They were some of, if not, the best, freshest strawberries I’ve ever eaten! Not a fan of strawberries? No worries. This farm was massive, and they grew everything you could want: tomatoes, apples, peppers, all sorts of herbs, carrots, cauliflowers, different kinds of lettuce, flowers, eggplants… The best thing about Cueillette? The prices. As college students without a meal plan, the low prices were a major win. Someone bought a whole bag, full of produce, for 10 euros!
On Friday evening, the Leonardo Program provided tickets to the Orchestre National de Metz’s first concert of the season. I don’t know much about orchestra concerts; in fact, the only orchestra concerts I’ve ever been to have been high school orchestras. I was definitely looking forward to whatever this experience would bring. The first piece was quite startling, fittingly named “Apocalypsis.” With a mixture of French, Latin, and English lyrics, the chorus resonated around the venue in ominous echoes. My favorite thing was watching one of the musicians play seven different instruments in two ways each to create some of the most dynamic and interesting sounds to accompany the chorus and string orchestra.
After being thoroughly confused for the first twenty minutes (the length of the piece), there was a long, ebbing and flowing round of applause. I lost track of how long the applause lasted, but it seemed like a solid ten minutes of clapping.
The other three pieces were more what I was expecting an orchestra concert to entail. Lots of piano and strings. The third piece highlighted the piano played by Louis Schwizgebel, a Swiss pianist who has played all over the world at just 33 years old (https://www.louisschwizgebel.com). The audience loved the piano piece so much (and rightfully so), that the resounding applause shifted to a rhythmic applause with a steady beat. Having not been briefed in orchestra concert etiquette, the shift in applause was a little unsettling; however, Professor Serafin later told us that this rhythmic applause is a sign to the musicians that the audience wants an encore. And that’s exactly what happened. I’ve only ever experienced planned encores at the end of a concert but this was in the middle of the show, unplanned!
At the end of the show, an audience member yelled “Bravo!” before the concert hall erupted in applause. Professor Serafin knows one of the flautists, and we got to meet her very briefly outside the venue. I am so grateful for the immersive experiences I’ve had this week, and I am only more excited for the semester to come. Professor Serafin even teased a fun “name that tune” event with some of the members of the orchestra coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine (pandemic-permitting of course). To anyone interested in Georgia Tech-Lorraine, take advantage of these events because I guarantee you, you’ll never have such a combination of unique experiences.