Tag Archives: music

A Day for Arts and Culture

For those of you have been following my blog, you know that over the last couple of summers I have traveled for internships to fulfill the requirements of my Masters in Arts Management from George Mason University in Virginia. 

My focus during my time at Mason was on international arts management, as I hope to one day move out of the United States and work in the arts or cultural realm abroad. England is a good place to start, I think, for someone who is interested in arts policy and fundraising because, despite still being quite different from the US, the UK has the closest related system that wouldn’t be such a stretch to learn and adapt to. 

That being said, I had hoped to visit several performing arts organizations during this trip and have a chat with some of the administration just to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the UK, and in London specifically. As you know from my previous posts, it didn’t really happen. 

But today I was able to visits several different arts and cultural organizations that have solidified even more my desire to someday move to and work in Europe. 

The first stop today was at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this amazing school that had produced some of the finest actors Britain had ever known, as well as top-level theatre technicians and set/costume designers.

Sadly, my friend Jeniffer and I were not allowed to visit any classrooms, but we did get a chance to speak to a woman who works at the cafe which is open to the public. She was able to tell us a lot about how the school functions and what it takes to be a student at RADA. We would have loved to see a performance, but the school had just opened again from winter break, so there was no chance of that happening. Guess I’ll just have to come back sometime. 



We then returned to the British Museum. The forty-five minutes there the other day was simply not enough to fully grasp the amazing amount of knowledge and artifacts available in these halls. 

Jeniffer and I walked through ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and the empire of the Mayans. There were some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chess Pieces, and the double-headed turquoise serpent. Tons of lesser known, but no less important, pieces grabbed our attention and filled us with wonder and interest. 




We could have easily spent another couples of hours than we did in the British Museum because we didn’t see anything from the Middle East, Asia, or Africa. Such an amazing museum!

Once we left the British Museum, we headed across town by Tube for the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a world-famous museum, yet none of the exhibits really caught my fancy. That is to say, except one in the history of underwear. It was a special exhibit, however, requiring a tickets and I was already spending so much money today that I thought it would be best not to go. 

There were some pretty things-mostly clothing and instruments from the 19th century. But soon we decided to move on to something a little more interesting. 


That something happened to be right nearby. 

Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic performance venue that presents all sorts of acts. The big show they are currently advertising is an act from Cirque du Solei called Ama Luna. 

We didn’t get to go inside and explore, but it was cool to be able to see the venue again and be reminded of good memories from the NEYE 2009 tour. 


One thing I don’t remember doing the last time I was here was walking around the back of the Hall and seeing the monument to Queen Elizabeth as well as the Royal College of Music. 



While we still were not able to explore classrooms and the like, Jeniffer and I were able to see a lot more of the building than we did at RADA. There was gorgeous marble everywhere and mosaic-tiled floors. No performances were taking place, but it sounded like a rehearsal of an opera or something was taking place in the hall. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, the final touch was to see a performance of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. 

Wow. Just wow. 

I was completely blown away by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the orchestra, the actors, and of course, the music. No spoiler warnings, but I will say that it definitely helps to be familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the original book or the 1939 film, in order to catch or understand all the references in this phenomenal musical. 

It was a treat for me (so much cheaper to see it here than on Broadway), but it was an extra special treat for Jeniffer because she had never been to a musical before. What a show to give a first impression of the wonderful world of musical theatre!


It truly has been a wonderful day, my second to last in London. I have yet to see what my final day will be filled with, but I’ll be sure to share tomorrow. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

PS – I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures I’ve been sharing. They were all taken from my iPhone 7. 

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Star Power

It’s not often that one gets to share a space with a living legend, but on Thursday night last week I was in a room full of them. 

  
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphonic orchestras of the world, and is most certainly the most well-known. Their history is interwoven with pride and disappointments, but there is no doubt that they have managed to make themselves the golden standard by which nearly every orchestra measures themselves. 

I had heard the Berlin Phil once before at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. How cool would it be, I had thought, if one day I could see them on their home turf? 

   

One of the first things I planned to do when I knew I was coming to Berlin was to go see a performance. However, tickets tend to go fast, especially when you have well-known conductors thrown into the mix. 

Gustavo Dudamel, another living legend (and quite a young one, for that matter), was going to conduct this amazing ensemble in a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Serenade for Posthorn and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Dudamel is especially known for his remarkable interpretations of works by Mahler, so I’m pretty sure that everyone in town who cares about classical music (which is actually quite a lot of people here) knew and planned to attend. 

The performance was completely sold out, but I was able to purchase a standing room only ticket for €10 by waiting in line for about an hour and half just before the concert. There were plenty of others with me, too, hoping that they would have a spot for the concert. 

  
Never in the States have I ever heard of people scrambling to get a ticket to attend a classical concert. Do we even have standing room only options available? Of the entire Philharmonie Großer Saal, which holds 2,440 people, I saw 4 empty seats. Even those were filled in the second half by those who had originally been standing. I am pretty sure that the major orchestras in the area where I live – the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony – would love to have that kind of ticket available if the demand was high enough.  

Anyways, there I was at the very back of the hall, standing. The first musicians began to appear and the audience began to clap. They just showed up and they were being praised! This city truly loves their orchestra. 

I also was able to make out that the first flute player was Emmanuel Pahud, a brilliant performer and one of my musical role models. I totally fan-girled. I think the other people around me must have been wondering if there was something wrong with me. His playing was so beautiful, so effortless… There is definitely a reason why he is the principal flute of this renowned ensemble. 

Then Dudamel appeared. For a few seconds, I wondered if I was in a rock concert instead. This young conductor has nearly single handedly changed the perception of what classical music can be and every one loves him for it. 

First, the Mozart. It was instantly recognizable as a work of Wolfgang from it’s style and almost happy-go-lucky sound. Dudamel seemed to be barely doing anything, so as not to distract for the glorious work the orchestra was producing. The players seemed to me to work as one giant instrument – even from where I was standing, I could see that everyone moved together and even breathed together. The Posthorn soloist appeared only for one movement of the work, and did a great job at showcasing this unusual, and I am sure rather difficult, instrument. Overall, the entire work sounded like velvet to my ears. Smooth,comfortable, approachable. At the end, a great applause erupted – and it was only intermission!

The Mahler was absolutely glorious. Once again, Dudamel seemed to be doing as little as possible (which was a surprise, I expected him to be a bit more showy…) but was pulling amazing sound and emotion from the orchestra. It had been a long time since I had felt so moved and elevated by a live performance, but there was no way that anyone could not have felt something. Each movement was more wonderful than the last and the different sections all had a chance to be showcased throughout the work. 

Pahud sounded amazing (How I would love to play like him…) and his teamwork with the principal oboe player to make what we call the “floboe” sound was true perfection. Honestly, the whole orchestra was the sound of perfection. 

When the last sounds of Mahler faded away, the packed hall burst into cheers, whistles, applause, and shouts of “Bravo!” This lasted for at least 7-8 minutes. Dudamel had to appear three times (the last with the orchestra already off the stage) before people would subside and start making their way out of the hall. 
  
When a long-held dream of yours finally comes true, things can seem a little surreal. But it was true – I had seen the Berlin Philharmonic at their resident performance hall, with their principal flutist in the ensemble, performing amazing works, and being conducted by one of the greatest conductors of our time. Living legends with a ridiculous amount of star power – and I was there. 

I can actually say I was there…

What an amazing night!

Do you have a have an experience of encountering a living legend or another influential figure? I’d love to hear about it. 

Until next time – happy travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

The Joy of Baptism

One of the things that I love about being part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is that I can find believers around the world that share my thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes even challenge me and help me grow. I have been so blessed to be given the opportunity to stay with an family here in Berlin that I can go to church with and enjoy in a different and unique way, the fellowship that comes from worshiping together.

Today was particularly special because two individuals, a couple, had decided to give their lives to Christ and publicly announce their decision through baptism. Church members piled into cars and we drove from Berlin to Reichsburg, near where the couple lives, to have a Sabbath celebration of their decision.

Despite the cold and rain that we sat through during song service and the sermon, the joy in our hearts eventually was manifested in the sun shining brightly as we walked towards the lake, singing all the way. Three guitarists and an accordion player accompanied us, adding to the festive sounds of celebration and excitement for the new chapter these candidates would be starting in their lives. It seemed like the singing would never end and in all honesty, I don’t think any of us wanted it to. It was such a glorious event to be a part of.

At the LakeMusicians playing for the BaptismGathering to Pray for the Baptism

Wife getting baptizedHusband getting baptized

Starting a New Walk

The potluck that took place after also deepened our ties with one another, and allowed me the chance to interact for the first time with several members of the church that has become my family away from home. It is an international group – Kenyans, Koreans, Americans, Germans, English, and others. All I could think was how this must be a small portion of what heaven must look like. Everyone, of every race, creed, and tongue joining together singing the praises of God and fellowshipping with Christ and one another for eternity.

For those who are not aware, Seventh-day Adventist believe in baptism by immersion. This takes place once an individual is old enough and cognizant enough to be able to make a personal decision of having Christ as their Lord and Savior. The full immersion of the baptism signifies entering into the death that Christ died for us and consequently entering into a new life, as Christ did when He was resurrected and pardoned us from our sins.

Before the baptismal ceremony, candidates must go through Bible studies with a pastor to ensure that they understand what they are getting themselves into – because being a true Christian means you pay the highest cost: a life of living for Jesus and spreading His gospel. It may be a high cost, but it is also the best thing you could ever pay.

After completing the bible studies, candidates must also proclaim the baptismal vows on the day of their baptism. Some churches do this in private, between the pastor and the candidates alone, but I prefer it when it is done as it was today – publicly, in front of the church body. This is when the true presentation of faith takes place – verbalization of a belief can change one’s whole perspective and sometimes even that of someone else. It is a moment to be a witness in a way we seldom get the chance otherwise.

I am so glad to have been able to participate in today’s events; I was blessed and reminded of my own baptism in a river in the jungle of Belize and what that meant for me and my life. My prayers are with the candidates as they now start anew with new birthdays and fresh beginnings.

Please click here to enjoy our singing as we walked the candidates to the water.

If you are interested in learning more about what Seventh-day Adventists believe in baptism, please click here.

God bless, and until next time – safe travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

PianoForte Symphony Orchestra 2014

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For the past week I have been in Southern California participating in rehearsals for the 2014 performance of the PianoForte Symphony Orchestra, a “festival” orchestra created by my best friend Michael several years ago. Developed from a dream to accompany four piano playing friends, this orchestra has become a biannual event that involves musicians from both US coasts pulling together a program of high level repertoire in a little over a week.

This year (my third), we are performing works by Sibelius, Copland, and Mendelssohn. We just had our last rehearsal tonight and are looking forward to an amazing concert tomorrow evening!

For anyone interested in seeing our concert August 16 at 5pm PST, you can find the live streaming here: http://www.lluc.org/article/40/media/worship-live. Be sure to adapt the time according to the time zone you live in.

If anyone is in the area, come see the concert live at the Loma Linda University Church.

Hope you can all enjoy!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Music as Service

For many years, I have viewed music as something more than just something enjoyable. It can be used to minister, to serve, and to teach. My time in undergraduate at Washington Adventist University reinforced this believe, where I was part of an orchestra who’s motto was a quotation from J. S. Bach that says, “The aim and final end of all of music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

Our conductor later summarized it this way, “Music is least of all entertainment, and greatest of all service.”

While the organizations I am working with here in Brazil are not religiously affiliated, these are sentiments that I feel still shine through in their work. Students are not simply being taught music, they are being given a chance to “expand and improve their personal and professional goals… and consequently their society” (my translation from Programa Aprendiz’s website: http://aprendizmusica.com.br/). Music is being used to service not only those who participate in these groups, but all with whom they come into contact.

Programa Aprendiz specializes in teaching elementary music education and appreciation to kids in Niteroi’s municipal elementary schools. Besides this,  Aprendiz also has chamber ensembles and larger performing groups: Orquestra Guerra-Peixe, a training orchestra; Orquestra de Sopros, a wind ensemble; and Orquestra Sinfônica Aprendiz, the advanced orchestra. In a country where appreciation for music education was not a cultural norm, Aprendiz has been extremely successful in its work, currently being present in 23 schools of the city and serving 3000 students.

Aprendiz has monthly performances for their city government donors in which selected individuals are featured in chamber ensembles or as soloists. I attended this month’s performance Aprendiz - June Performersyesterday and let me tell you, I was blown away by the level of musicality and musicianship of these students. (Watch one of the pieces here on my YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/DyOT0RYGi7E)There was a young man who played a movement of the famous J. S. Bach Cello Suite in G Major BWV 1007 who was spellbinding. Another young man, the concert master of the OSA, performed a movement from a Vivaldi concerto accompanied by a small group of strings and the audience loved it so much they asked him to play it again as an encore!

Aprendiz - Vivaldi concerto

 

 

 

 

 

Aprendiz - Septet

Aprendiz - Bach Cello Suite

Later that same day, I had the opportunity to attend a rehearsal of another orchestra called Orquestra de Cordas da Grota (String Orchestra of Grota). This orchestra is the result of a vision of its Grota - Conductorfounders, Marcio Selles and Leonora Mendes, who decided to bring music to the favelas (slums) in Niteroi. What started as a ragtag team of individuals has, in ten years, grown into a full blown string orchestra (they have six violas!!) that regularly performs in the area, records CDs, and travels nationally and internationally. They don’t have trashy instruments either – all the instruments used by the members were donated towards the cause and are of excellent quality. (See them in rehearsal here: http://youtu.be/mr2Nn3Ms_0Q)

Grota - violas

Grota - Cellos

To come from a Brazilian slum and end up owning your own instrument, traveling the world performing and playing beautiful music, is that amazing? Look at the power of music in service!

Orquestra de Cordas da Grota has literally changed the lives of its players. During a short break from rehearsal to have some snacks, I had the chance to speak to the first viola player, Nick. “Music is my lifestyle,” he told me. “It’s what I love.” He’s not sure where he would have been without this group, without music, but now he knows he has a future.

Today I attended a rehearsal of Aprendiz’s Orquestra Guerra-Peixe, who’s members are younger and less advanced in their instruments and yet manage to produce great music. Most of these kids are at Guerre-Peixe - Violasthat awkward stage of life when a lot of things are changing for them and it can result in shyness and uncertainty. Put an instrument in their hands, however, and they seem to become new people – confident and adventurous. Yes, they still have a long ways to go but at least they are on their way.

Guerre-Peixe - mentor

Learning an instrument develops more than musical ability and know-how. Its creates confidence, teaches discipline, challenges problem solving skills, encourages interaction, and develops a community where members have a sense of belonging.

Viewing music as service towards individuals and their local communities is what drives these organizations. To change the life of one person is to change the life of a community. What better tool is there than music? Its a gift that keeps on giving. By its nature, its meant to be shared and therefore has an enormous amount of influence. Music is naturally inclined to be used as service.

After reading about the groups, wouldn’t you agree?

-Wandering Minstrelette