I really don’t care for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. That’s hardly musical blasphemy, given that Tchaikovsky himself didn’t think much of the work, but I conducted it yesterday in a public performance and I loved every minute of it. The performance was part of a “concierto didactico” presented by the Orquesta Juvenil y Infantil Acarigua Araure outdoors in the Plaza Bolívar in the centre of Araure, and the remainder of the program included such tried-and-true Fundación fare such as Danzón No. 2 by Márquez and the Himno Nacional.
Since arriving here in Acarigua-Araure 2 weeks ago at the invitation of Roberto Zambrano (great Núcleo director, cellist and equally great friend of the Abreu Fellows program) the team had devoted every waking minute to rehearsals, sectionals, private lessons and more, or strategizing and coordinating all of those in an effort to prepare for the concert. 1812 Overture might be overplayed to the point of cliché, but it’s also extremely difficult, as is Danzón. It was an extremely challenging program for the level of orchestra, so the bar was set very high. We also had a a very diverse range of abilities within the ensemble, from highly experienced players to novices. Dantes and I even spent some hours simplifying bassoon and violin parts respectively so that the very beginners at the Núcleo could contribute to the performance: in Dantes’ case, so that a student with less than a week’s experience on the bassoon could reinforce the occasional note.
The evening temperature was 34C (~93F), and the only relief came from the occasional breeze which, while cooling, also served to send music flying. The lack of a bandshell or any kind of reflecting surface made it nearly impossible for the musicians to hear each other, and a substantial portion of the program was performed borracho obligato. In short, this was not the setting you’d want or expect for a profound experience of any kind. And despite all these challenges – undoubtedly audible in the performance – the evening was something very special, something I’ll never forget.
This was it – this was Tocar y Luchar. Luchamos juntos, tocamos juntos, y nuestros corazones están siempre conectados. We had struggled together, we had performed together, and thus our accomplishment, our achievement was made meaningful and profound, our hearts were connected forever.
I always understood it. I just hadn’t felt it in 15 years until last night.