Sights and sounds sounds of Brazil lead to a memorable week in Brazil at the first ever Festival International Carlos Gomes de Metais de Campinas.
1st report (retrospective)
My flight routing was via Frankurt on the way out, with Lufthansa and then the long journey south with TAM the Brazlian airline. With only a middle seat on the long journey on a full and excited plane the journey there felt like a very long time, Frankfurt to Sao Paolo being 11.5 hours.But that I quickly put behind me as I arrived into Sao Paolo early on Tuesday morning. I've never arrived anywhere at 5.10am before and fortunately our plane was the first of three to arrive in a 10 minute period..and I safely escaped through customs and immigration before it went into chaos mode. Fernando, a bass trom player from Sao Paolo met me and was an excellent welcome , speaking good English and clearly a man who knew his brass! We met enroute trumpeter David Spencer, who resides in Memphis but who has strong British roots.He and I became good friends during the week.
It was around 9.30am when we arrived in Campinas. The road had been surprisingly good, a decent motorway once we had got out of Sao Paolo and through rolling hills.
Winter in Brazil really isn't that bad ! It was already 18c and blue sky although the temperature does drop a bit at night. It was perfect weather for working too ! Well, first a little rest and I was allowed two hours to recouperate at the Hotel Premium in central Campinas before I met with all the other soloists and teachers for lunch. The atmosphere and food were both great with some old friends that I'd met from Argentina last August already , including Patricio Cosentino who had been the driving force to get me to Buenos Aires for last years festival where I had the good fortune to meet all these Brazilian musicians including Wilson Dias (who was heading up this festival) and members of his euphonium quartet ‘Euphonismo'.
One of the members of the quartet Rafael Mendez (now there's a famous brass name !!) has enjoyed some considerable success as a soloist, winning a major TV competition for classical music and now appearing as a featured artist in several Brazilian music publications. Rafael was a constant guide and friend during the week assisting in the masterclasses, liasing with all the other euphonium students (I had 28, with over 100 at the entire event !). Our friendship thrived despite the fact he spoke virtually no English, as bad as my Portugese. But, brass music was the language of the week our common passion and we didn't always need words or translations.
Following a super buffet lunch in a restaurant that was to become base camp for nourishment,(close to the Conference Centre and hotel), I was taken to meet my students. We went to the teaching headquarters for the week, a train station !! Perhaps this was the most bizarre and at times frustrating element of the week.
It was a spacious station, larger then my local Nuneaton station with a few large rooms next to platform 1. It was devoted to cultural activities (with only occasional goods train passing through on the further line) , but was also a base for the military to hold recruiting meetings, as we evidenced in the days that followed and it seems they had priority !! My students were waiting for me, ranging in ages from 16 to around 60, but an average age of about 22 I guess. From a first meeting I had little idea of the talent and dedication this group possessed. The instruments they had with them comprised of old King 4v non compensating, Weril (the Brazilian brand, easy playing and well made and cheaply priced) old 1960/70s Bessons, one of two 321 Yamahas, a couple of modern Yamaha, some newer Besson Sovereigns and one newish Besson Prestige. Lots of SM mouthpieces..nice to see ! We did some routines in the afternoon and found them to be extremely responsive to all routines, although it became clear not many of them had ever done any specific breathing exercises. We arranged for an order of soloists (all would play during the week) than would begin the next morning. At 4pm I left them to meet and rehearse with my pianist Lucia Berrenechea (from Rio) for my recital the next day. We met in the dry acoustic of the theatre we were to play, and we had a purple Steinway! The piano tuning in attendance spoke very little English but described the piano as a ‘gay piano' !! So funny. Lucia was superb and immaculately prepared. The rehearsal was a joy as was the recital the next evening. She listened and responded to everything I tried to do and had the technique to deal with all the tempi !!.
That evening I went to listen to a jazz and big band concert at the Convention Centre , the main hall for the festival . This was the venue I was to play at later in the week with orchestra and wind band. It had a super big acoustic and very comfy seats...perfect for catching up on 10 minutes sleep should one need it !! That evening after a pizza with my colleagues I retired for the night, needing to catch up on some valuable rest for the long days to come.
To be continued......
The next morning (wednesday) came round all too quickly and soon I was standing outside the hotel as Rafael came to pick me up and drive the 1.5 miles through town to the old train station where all the teaching takes place. The military had taken over our nice room on platform 1 !! So after a little confusion we all moved t the middle platform, located 28 plastic chairs and a desk and a music stand and we began.
More routines and then the soloist began. I was so impressed by the quality of the solo performances, unaccompanied and always from photocopied music..but there's another story. No real sign of nerves just a desire to play well. In some circumstances there was tension in the playing and almost always insufficient air flow. Dynamics tended to be a little restricted to the middle mp/mf but a surprising high level of technique and good high range. What I noticed was a keenness to learn and the words of my translator were listened to with real dedication. One lad stood up and played the last movement of the Cosma Concerto , about as technically perfect as I've ever heard.
Extraordinary. Another great talent here was Fernando Deddos ,an incredibly talented soloist, composer, jazz pianist..you name it, this free musical spirit can do it. He introduced me to his brand new CD 'Eufonium Brasileiro' which he told me he had been inspired to make after some conversations we had in Argentina last year.
This was a really touching moment for me, one of many I had during the week. I ended up buying 15 of these for Justforbrass.com as I was so impressed with the first listen I had in the hotel later in the day. Such an inspiring musical personality, I will have to get him to Europe as soon as possible, Lunch was back at the restaurant headquarters, then only a shortish session for me in the afternoon as I had a final rehearsal and then the recital times for 6pm. It was only on the third day was I informed that most of the students were actually sleeping in room in the station too…incredible! When I arrived for each session of teaching most students were spread out practising on the platforms !
The evening recital went went and it was a tough and physically demanding programme (see previous news item for full programme) and the capacity audience seed to enjoy it. The purple piano behaved itself and Lucia was quite outstanding. It was great to see all my students plus virtually all my fellow artists there too. The lips held out despite the fatigue from the long journey that was hanging around me. Is was interesting to see around 30 mobile phones pointed at me recording the recital..it really seems to be a reality of the modern world nowadays that you can be recorded and potentially broadcast at any time..and you have no control over it. However I contented myself with the though it was for the personal use and hopefully benefit of my students.
Later that evening at the Convention Centre I was told I was rehearsing with the Symphony Orchestra at 9am the next morning. ! So, straight off to bed and trusted the lips would forgive me for the battering they were enduring. I loved the way I was told things just before I really needed to know. This laid-back, friendly, carefree approach was a facet of the whole week. It would drive me crazy at the RNCM but seemed perfectly fine in Brazil!! Isn't that strange?
To be continued.....
Early morning came and I was pleased how good the lips felt after the night before. I had a very light breakfast as the late night snacking was starting to get dangerous for my sylph-like figure (haha).Then after the short walk to the conference centre was ushered into a room to await the lady conductor, Ligia Amadio who's asked for a short meeting to talk about tempi. Let me be frank sometime these meetings are no more than social niceties as all semblance of what we discuss seems totally forgotten once on stage, but not this time as it turned out. Ligia was very well prepared , and considering all the other works and soloists she was going to accompany I was extremely impressed by his commitment to my two works, Symphonic Variants (Curnow) Rule Britannia Variations (Hartmann/Bevan). The acoustic of the hall was very brass friendly, with nice reverberance and colour for the sound. The rehearsal started exactly on time; something of a shock as everything started approximately 20 minutes late...no big deal at all so long as you know its going to be that way. The Campinas Orchestra seemed linked to the Swiss train timetable ! It was a most enjoyable rehearsal and was impressed particularly by the timbre of the strings. I was then told we had another rehearsal at 9am the next morning...so this was good news too. Rafael met me and after a nice Brazilian coffee we were off to the train station for the morning's masterclass with my dedicated students. The rest of the day was so nice, so positive vibes from everyone and lovely warm (winter haha) weather. Blue sky and 23c.
The evening concerts were firstly a concert from the student ensembles, extremely good given the short time they had to rehearse. Then came a concert from four Brazilian soloist and the University Symphony Orchestra. The most significant new work, given its world premiere, was the Valsas Concertantes for euphonium and strings by the local composer and hornist Fernando Morais. Quite an outstanding new work, well played by course director Wilson Dias. Wilson never lost his charm and good grace during the whole week despite the huge demands on his because of this inaugural festival.
More late night pizza followed and many went on later to the jazz club...but I had a 9am date with the orchestra so it was bed for me (am I getting old !!?)
The Friday morning rehearsal put more detail into my solo works with the orchestra and I was enjoying it all. Once again it was onto the train station. I never tired of working with the students whose passion for their playing filled me with the desire to help them as best I could. My translator worked so hard , and she was a fine euphonium player herself. We had visits from composers, and other instrumentalists during these classes. We also SANG, every day. I taught them rounds which we then played. Here is a link to listen to my students performing our favourite round, in four parts.
Such a great and emotional moment for us all.
6pm saw an excellent recital from David Spencer and trombonist Donzete Fonseca. Then a short impromptu rehearsal for me , something of a surprise, with the Euphonismo Quartet as they asked me to perform Napoli Variations as a surprise item in the 8pm concert , which featured this quartet and a brass quintet , Metalumfonia. It was great fun and the audience were terrific. They really know how to show their enthusiasm and appreciation and standing ovations were getting quite common. Lots of post concert chat, at the hall and at our base camp restaurant.
To be continued.....
4th (of 5!) reports:
Saturday morning I had to be up very early as I was off to Nova Odessa, about an hour's drive away to rehearse with a wind band for the final concert on Sunday afternoon. Once again Rafael met me at the hotel accompanied by his delightful wife. My translator also came with me otherwise it would have been a very quiet car journey. As it was we had lots to talk about, and Rafael's energy and passion for euphonium was unlimited! We stopped at a motorway service station on the way I encountered rather novel way of paying for things. Everyone that enters the garage is handed in little plastic card and as you purchased things either at the café and shop the card is swiped and your account credited. Then it's impossible to leave the shop without handing back the card and paying what's due. The coffee was good too.
Rafael was quite excited because I was to play in the band in which he grew up. As we approached the band I could already hear sounds coming from inside and it sounded pretty good. They had been rehearsing since 8.30am and it was now around nine. The band numbered about 50 with an average age of around 20 I guess. The players were really on the ball and clearly excited are motivated about our concert .
As soon as I started rehearsing it was also becoming evident that the Ponchielli Concerto was going to cause problems, not for the band, not for me, but for another very important person ...holding a stick. After the rehearsal lots of photos were taken and I bid farewell and looked forward to seeing them the next day. From there we rushed back to the train station for the final session with the students. Already this was getting highly emotional as the bond between me and them had grown everyday. We had had several question and answer sessions about euphonium and the music world in general, and to be honest the problems encountered by a Brazilian euphonium players were not really different than those faced elsewhere in the world. That is to say, there is a large number of talented highly dedicated players finding it very hard to make a living with their chosen instrument. I didn't have any real answers for them, but offered them lots of motivation and encouragement based on my own musical journey. Out of that group of 28 there were about six outstanding players that under normal circumstances could hope to develop a solo career. But despite their passion for the instrument the opportunities available to them are so limited.
Of course we talked about instruments and how to get hold of quality instruments at the right price, but this is hindered but there simply ludicrous bordering on criminal import duties that the Brazilian authorities charge. Let me give you but one example. I sent all my original accompaniment music for the wind band and symphony orchestra, music that was to be returned to me after the concert. I was advised by the shipping company TNT to be very careful with the paperwork explaining why the music was for and so we spent a few days getting it right, or so we thought. I was informed by Wilson Dias that he had to pay 120 pounds import duty just to receive the music, the shipping cost I paid was around 40!! He was buying it simply going to use it for a concert where I was playing. Import duty on instruments can be as high as 60 per cent! That said, the resilience and spirit of the Brazilian musicians will overcome this one way or another. Following that final session with the students might thoughts started to turn towards the evening concert with symphony orchestra. After lunch I was fortunate to hear most of the concert by a real English style Brass band, Regente Feijo Brass Band conducted by Regente Giovanni.
The undoubted highlight for me was the immaculate performance of Alan Catherall's Carnival of Venice by my good friend Rafael Mendez. I recorded this on video and so I hope to put it on new tube soon , with his permission . Rafael has a very bigger tone, fluid technique and excellent stage presence. After that I managed to escape for a few hours and I took a little nap. My two works with orchestra with the second half of the concert. When I arrived at the hall the concert was already under way, and had started pretty much on time, the orchestral timing as I said was near perfect. I decided to go for the formal white jacket and bow tie and was pleased that I did as the orchestra looked immaculate. During the break I had a quick chat with conductor Ligia Amadio. She clearly had been enjoying the Brass festival very much, and shortly before my appearance on stage she made a speech to the audience pledging her and the orchestras support for future festivals.
Well I'm not one of those people that will do a review of their own performances !! Let's say at the end I was very happy, and so it seemed were the audience.
Backstage there was a throng of people, students, fellow teachers , members of the orchestra and families.
I had the shock of my life, when after about 10 minutes of photographs and shaking people's hands I turned to my left and saw members of my wider family that I hadn't seen for 20 years. Sarah (daughter of Chris and Shirley Parker)and Edgar and their three children had come all the way from Rio via Sao Paolo, and although I knew that they knew that I was in Brazil (!!) to see them standing there are just took my breath away.
A very fine party finished what had been the best day and most memorable day so far. One more day to go
To be continued.......