Friday, June 8, 2012

Home of the Brave (and free water)

So we made it back to the States, safe and sound.

What an incredible trip. So much good music, good food, great people.

The last day after the churrasscaria was filled with checking out of the hotel and visiting the Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue. We were lucky enough to experience another amazing view of Rio from the top of the mountain that the 13-story statue sits on, and we got a great group photo with Jesus in the background. Check it out:

After meeting Jesus, we had a couple hours at a mall to grab some food and last minute souvenirs, and then we made it to the airport to fly home.

Thanks for following the blog! It was a fantastic trip and an amazing way to end the year. Thanks to all of our seniors who made the trip extra special - we will miss you, but I can't think of a better way to end your time with us and at Luther. Best of luck to you in your next adventures, and from all of us in Jazz Orchestra, Obrigado Brasil!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Oceans and Meat: Last Days in Brazil

This will be a quick post because a) I'm stealing Internet from somewhere, and b) it is going on 1am.
Quick recap on the last couple of days:

We had our final concert last night at the Copacabana. What a way to end the tour! The outside concert was held at a military fort quite literally on the ocean. Pictures to be posted soon. But the stage was set so audience members could look out to the ocean and the Copacabana beach while listening to our awesome show. And what a crowd - probably the most interactive crowd we had this tour. Many people were dancing in their seats and a few even got out of their seats to dance to Aquarela do Brasil at the end of the show, and there was definitely some swing dancing happening during the encore. We were invited to dinner after the performance and finally got a chance to eat the famous feijoada - a dish of black beans and rice. So delicious.

Today we had a beautiful day of relaxing and beach time with the band. We spent at least 5 hours hanging out on the sand, catching waves and rays. Afterwards we went to the gondola cable cars at Sugarloaf Mountain and watched the sunset behind an incredible view of Rio. And then, as if the day couldn't get any better, we went to dinner at a churrascaria. Imagine 3 or 4 suited men walking around with giant swords stuck with various kinds of meat for about two hours. Unlimited meat. So incredible. Most of us ate very little today to gear up for the meal, and boy were we satisfied. Such a great way to finish off our time in Brazil.

Tomorrow we head to Christ Mountain to see the giant statue of the Christ. Then a bit of mall time for some last minute shopping and lunch, and then it's off to the airport to fly home!

We will check in again when we arrive back in the States. Until then, Obrigado Brasil!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brazilian Chestnuts

Since it's been a busy several days since I last blogged, we've collected a bunch of great stories that definitely merit telling. I'll share a couple of them, but although both definitely deserves its own entry, we're playing at Copacabana in just a few hours, so I'm going to have to do a bit of condensing.

A few days back, we went to a restaurant with which Tony is well acquainted. It was fairly late and after we'd played a show, so a little less than half the band went. I was definitely beat, but Tony has talked about this restaurant for months, and promised us the food and dancing (both of which come from the northeastern part of Brazil, the Bahia region) would be superb. He wasn't wrong! The restaurant was fairly deserted--no doubt due in part to the concurrent Brazil vs. United States soccer game, another reason some of the band didn't go--so we mostly had the place to ourselves. After gorging ourselves on the half dozen dishes brought out, we got up and headed to the dance floor, where a trio was playing baião music: a zabumba (like a bass drum), a triangle, and an accordion. Fortunately, the step wasn't too difficult, and Tony and his relatives were great teachers. Before long, everyone was dancing! It went on for at least an hour and a half, and by the end were were sweaty, exhausted, and ecstatic.
On Thursday, we played a show at the Teatro Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho in Sao Paulo. It was a fun show, and everything went well, though the audience seemed a little subdued. After our encore, Tony told some of us that we should go hang out outside the concert hall and talk to people, despite the fact that none of us spoke Portuguese. We went on out, and quickly found ourselves in an awkward situation. About ten of us were standing on one side, and about ten feet across from us, about half the audience was milling about, staring at us and speaking quietly to one another. I tried to break the tension by announcing, "Nao folla portuguese, but... muito obrigado!" (I don't speak Portuguese, but... thank you very much!) It worked (kind of) and they clapped again, but then they started shouting at us to play more. Some of us still had our instruments, and one of the audience members shouted "CHAMELEON!!" (by Herbie Hancock), so we broke out into an impromptu jam. I laid down the bass line on the bari, and a few trumpets and sax players did melody and then took turns soloing. It ended up being about a ten minute jam, and after that, they wanted still more! Someone shouted "CANTALOUPE ISLAND!!" (also by Herbie), so we tried that, and although I'm pretty sure I did most of the chord changes wrong, it was still a lot of fun to play in front of an active audience that had mostly been passive throughout the night's show.

Time to suit up for the show -- ate amanha!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day ???

Our sincerest apologies for the delay in posts! We've been traveling and performing and generally taking Brazil by storm these last few days. Here's a brief recap: Wednesday morning took us to Paulista Avenue in downtown Sao Paulo. We spent a few free hours shopping the avenue, exploring the famous music stores of Sao Paulo, and checking out the art museum. Collin and Andrew bought their very first pandeiros. They described the experience like something out of the wizarding world of Harry Potter: the pandeiros choose them. To quote Andrew about this experience with his new toy, his "left hand is blistering." Collin said they met this guy, Diego, who was eager to teach them about the instrument, and had a fun time attempting to communicate with him between English and Portuguese. With our purchases and new experiences in hand, we departed Paulista Ave for the Baccarelli Institute, located in a favela on the other side of the city. I must preface this portion of the entry by saying that the kids who attend the Baccarelli Institue are incredible people. We heard two choirs sing, a choir of elementary-aged kids and a choir of older, middle-school aged kids. Both choirs, directed by two talented educators, took us by surprise with their poise, talent, and warmth. Most of these kids come from very poor families and less than ideal living situations - to see their dedication and love for music through their performances was inspiring, to say the least. Vocal jazz gave several performances for the kids and held a workshop about improv, blues, and chord-building. Tony gave a percussion workshop for some of the older percussionists at the institute, and I managed to sneak off and find some violinists who were practicing their orchestra music for a concert they had later that evening. I spent some time with them and taught them a jazz standard as well as some other fun jazz violin techniques. It made my day to communicate with these people about music and life in Brazil. Future music educators in the group were excited to watch Tony work with other kids and to see what a talented, driven group of students can accomplish. Tony, Clausi, and a bunch of students later went to a down-home restaurant and dance bar called Restaurante Andrade. Food, dancing, and music outlined a fab evening. Thursday morning was another easy morning. We were on our own for lunch, so I went with Tom Bouricer and a few other people to a small restaurant less then a block from our hotel. We proceeded to order multiples of seven different kinds of meat kabobs, including chicken hearts, steak, fried cheese, lamb, and sausage, all with Brazilian names that I can neither pronounce nor spell. Regardless, the food was delicious and abundant, and satisfying enough to last through our sound check at the municipal theater near the Baccarelli Institute. More to come!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 6: Sao Paulo Part 2!

We are still soaking up the Brazilian culture, music, and of course, food, as we continue our stay here in the enormous city of Sao Paulo. Our day began with breakfast on the top floor of our hotel, where we also just had a group supper together. It was gostoso (delicious!)

Though religion within a church is important in this country, there is also an inevitable religion that is practiced within a stadium. This religion is soccer, or fútbol as the Brazilians call it. We took a comfortable bus ride to the Museo do Fútbol which was very entertaining; perhaps we would have learned more from the museum if we spoke more Portuguese...haha

Nevertheless, the time spent at the museum further emphasized the importance of soccer in this country and the rich history that it has here. In the afternoon, we experienced first-hand another important aspect of Brazilian culture, this aspect being kind of the main reason we came here: music!

The members of the JO were pleasantly surprised to find out that our "meeting" in the conference room this afternoon was actually a performance by four talented Brazilian women who call themselves the "Choronas." They performed for us sambas, bossa novas, and choros, among other genres that I can't spell very well :) It was beautiful and relaxing music to listen to. The ensemble consisted of a flute (and piccolo), 7-stringed guitar, an instrument similar to a ukelele, and a pandiero. All there music was memorized and performed with great poise and musicality. This definitely was a real treat for us, especially for Sarah who played "Um-a-Zero" with the group. The music of these talented ladies will continue to ring in our ears...especially for those who bought one of their CD's today ;)

The rest of the hours of the day were filled with a trip to the mall, grabbing some food at the market, swimming on the roof of our hotel, or sneaking in a cat nap. It has been a memorable trip so far and this group has been outstanding to travel with. Stay tuned for yet another synopsis from us tomorrow! This is Kristina signing off from the saxophone section- peace and love to all our family and friends (and "Hi Mom and Dad!")

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 5: Oi, Sao Paulo!

We have arrived safely in Sao Paulo! Sure enough, getting up at at 4:45am to catch the flight was fairly brutal (though we still pushed our 7:30 flight, meeting the bleary-eyed looks of other Brazilians as we were the last to board in our matching blue LC JO/VJ polos), but Sao Paulo seems, from first impressions, excellent! It'll definitely be something of a shift, falling asleep last night to the slow metronomic crash of ocean waves and tonight to the helicopters and traffic, but that's definitely not enough to quell our excitement.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that this afternoon's activities were the highlight of the trip so far. Pausing only for an hour in the hotel for a quick nap, we departed for the Escola do Auditório, without any idea of what we'd be doing. After a delicious lunch (which included, for many of us, a by-the-gram build-your-own-sundae bar, and for me, accidental squid) we headed into the architecturally breathtaking arts center and set up for the gig. We discovered we'd be playing opposite a Brazilian ensemble composed of people around our age. We weren't playing on a stage; on one side of a long rectangular room, our band was set up, and on the other end there were chairs for the Orquestra Furiosa, and between us were an array of chairs and benches. The room was quickly filled, and many of us were particularly nervous not only because there were other musicians there, but mainly because two excellent arrangers of pieces we're playing -- Aza, who arranged Asa Branca and Aquarela do Brasil, and Proveta, who arranged Um a Zero -- were about to hear us play their arrangements!

It ended up being a really fun time. The audience was really energetic, and the Orquestra Furiosa (a cross between a jazz/samba group and a true orchestra, complete with french horns and tuba) was FANTASTIC. After we both finished playing our own stuff, we got to read a chart arranged by Proveta together, and then had a brief jam session before being shut down. Following that, we stayed in the school for free (!) food and conversation with some delightful students. Some of them spoke fairly good English, many of them did not-- but it was a great way to meet people our age and connect with other musicians!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 4: Ocean In Sight!

Well, I'm currently blogging from my second floor hotel room with a beach front view. Outside the open French doors, I can hear the waves crashing against the beach and members of the Jazz Orchestra talking to each other from their balconies, making plans to go for a walk on the beach before we hit the hay. Tomorrow morning comes early with a 4:45am wake up call so we can make a 7:30 fight to Sao Paulo. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. A view like the one we have tonight looks a little something like this:

Before we arrived at the port city of Itajaí, we spent an hour back in Curitiba at the local flea market. Lots of crafty goodies made by the locals - everything from scarfs and sweaters to leather bags to beautiful artwork and food.

Our second show was this evening at the Teatro Municipal de Itajaí. We had a great crowd, standing ovations, two encores, and a fun atmosphere to play in. Tom Bourcier and the Luther College Jazz Quartet laid down a fantastic chart this evening, and it was another incredible experience to hear the audience sing along with us when we played our last piece, Aquarela do Brasil. I'm fortunate enough to be in a position on stage where I can watch the audience while I play, and their faces always light up when we get to that number. The patriotism and love for their country is inspiring, and we've seen it so far in two different cities. I know I am looking forward to experiencing the crowds in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro later this week. What energetic atmospheres to play in and passionate crowds to play for.

Looking forward to our workshops in Sao Paulo tomorrow afternoon!