A good sign… UPDATED

It’s become one of the hallmark stories of the year – the rehearsal in Acarigua during a power outage. The orchestra and I working by the limited natural light coming through a single small window, without air-conditioning, rehearsing in extreme heat for over an hour before calling a very necessary break to wring out shirts and rehydrate. (My favourite element of the story is the Fellow who tells it  also unashamedly mentions the fact that he threw in the towel after 5 minutes and disappeared for more comfortable climes.)

Monday, the 5th of July, as the sign says, and I was back in that same room rehearsing with an orchestra that has become very dear to my heart, and once again, the air-conditioning wasn’t working. No matter, we’d been here before. I’d been here before. We could handle it.

In the ensuing days, there’s been a lot more to handle. At this moment we’re in the middle of a major seminario, the Venezuelan term for an intensive orchestral workshop, preparing repertoire for concerts next Thursday and Friday, and there’s been an interesting venue challenge every single day. Monday it was the núcleo without air-conditioning. Tuesday the orchestra squeezed into the surprisingly small general-purpose room at the local Universidad Yacambú. Wednesday we moved to the Centro Social Luso Venezolano and the large open-air bandstand, where we contended with incredible heat and swarms of mosquitos. Thursday it rained torrentially, and gusting wind soaked the front half of the stage, sending string players running for their cases to protect their instruments.

Today was lovely. But the sun in the early evening shone directly into the eyes of the cellists and bassists, necessitating a quick change of rehearsal plan until it had dropped below the trees.

Plans have a changed a lot. This isn’t a problem, this is simply making do with what is available and reasonable, which is exactly how the musicians here approach it. They sweat in the heat, swat the mosquitos, cram into undersized spaces, and tramp across muddy fields to work through the repertoire… which is in itself another story. I have the distinct and extraordinarily rare privilege here of teaching the last three movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 for the very first time to the vast majority of the musicians. It’s a tremendous challenge but with the help of the international faculty(Rey, horn player and brass educator; Cassie, violist; Jorge, cellist; Carly, percussionist; and David, clarinetist) we’re getting there. And we will get there, of this I’m certain.

I’m also acutely conscious of another privilege – the privilege of being here as a guest of the núcleo. I’m painfully aware that there are conductors who would pay to be here. I’m wholly cognizant of the fact that luminaries such as Simon Rattle or Claudio Abbado give their services gratis in Venezuela, and that Roberto could have found other much more famous conductors than me to come prepare the orchestra for this very important event, and yet he went to great lengths to find a sponsor to bring me down. It’s a tremendous honour and vote of confidence, and I’m mindful of the concomitant responsibility.

I thought I got a good sample of la Red during my last visit, but I’m experiencing it in a completely different way, interacting with wholly new dimensions of it. I thought I would see it, experience it, and perhaps change it. I didn’t expect to be so changed by it.

Pensé que lo vería, yo la experiencia, y tal vez me lo cambiaría. No esperaba estar tan alterados por dicho también.

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