|View of the Andes from my bedroom window on Monday.|
|The cathedral on the Plaza Bolivar, Merida|
|Shrine to Pope John-Paul II|
That evening was my first rehearsal with the orchestra. We read the Brahms Variations and the Mendelssohn Symphony. Lots to do! But for the most part, the orchestra is willing and cooperative. They even responded to my more outrageous suggestions--like that the string players consistently use no vibrato. (There is some research that supports doing away with universal vibrato in music before about 1930. Beyond that, though, it's a good rehearsal discipline: it encourages people to play more accurately in tune, and they have to be more expressive with the bow.)
Wednesday. In full swing. I gave a 2-hour lecture in the morning, basing it on my PowerPoint concerning 5 essential aspects of singing and their application to rehearsing choirs. Noa translated capably, as she had done the night before in orchestra rehearsal. She knows my speech patterns very well and can quickly convert them into Spanish. Lunch was again in the panaderia, then after a short rest, it was time to rehearse with the trumpeter, soprano, and keyboard player for the Bach. They are all very fine, and it seems promising. That evening, orchestra rehearsal, getting down to the nitty-gritty in the Brahms and Mendelssohn, and reading the Bach with the strings. Noa's mom drove me to rehearsal. I was apprehensive: she speaks no English, and we already know something about my Spanish (although people who met me last year do notice an improvement and are quick to remark on it--mission [to be better than last year] accomplished). It was fine! She speaks very clearly, and I understood most of what she said and was even able to respond appropriately.
Thursday. In the morning, I worked with the fourth-year conducting students, who had prepared the fourth movement of the Brahms Requiem. As they conducted, I talked about how to choose a tempo, where one's attention must be at each moment, and the detail with which one has to memorize in order to conduct without a score. Then there was a rehearsal with two conductors who are giving their graduation recitals soon. One student was preparing his arrangement of an American pop song, "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand." He hoped I could help the choir get a better sense of swing. (Me? Really? I tried. It did seem to get better.) I was also able to make some slight suggestions about the arrangement (mostly putting a consonant in front of nonsense syllables to make the rhythm clearer) that helped. The second student was conducting a Mendelssohn motet based on the Song of Simeon. The choir sounded fabulous on this, so we worked on interpretation--my stuff on singing with imagination. The transformation was quite astonishing and very exciting--so much so that no one wanted to leave! They stayed until 12:30, half an hour beyond the normal stopping time of the class. Noa was especially impressed by this. She says they're normally getting anxious at about 11:55 and are walking out the door, no matter what is going on, at 12:00. In the evening, another 2-1/2 hour rehearsal with the orchestra. (These rehearsals all take place in a low-ceilinged room that has little ventilation and no air conditioning. I come out drenched!)
Friday. Another 2-hour lecture in the morning on vocal and choral rehearsal techniques. I'm trying to tell them most of what I know! In the afternoon, I got to hear Noa's really wonderful choir--teenage girls singing with a lovely tone and great intonation. Noa has made great progress with the group in the few weeks she's had them. In the evening, orchestra rehearsal. Elizabeth arrived today, after a great deal of discussion and planning about the best route and best mode of transportation from Maracaibo to Merida, given the condition of the roads. (The choices are to fly from Maracaibo to Caracas, stay overnight, then fly the next day to El Vigia and drive to Merida, or drive from Maracaibo to Merida--an 8- to 12-hour trip, depending on how you go.) We ended up sending a car for her, and she made the trip in about 9 hours without notable incident.
|Me with one of the choirs, Noa (center) translating.|
|I love the happy faces as one of the choirs sings!|
|The evening concert. Roman is to the left of me.|
|The view of the mountains this morning! Very clear!|