Monday, April 29, 2013

Brazil: Weeks 8 and 9 - Concerts, Carnaval, and Sickness

View from my apartment in Campos
With this post, I'll be caught up now here on the blog and back to a once-a-week posting routine.  I'm combining the past two weeks into a single post because they have been relatively uneventful.  Last week, I spent 4 days running around the city seeking to get internet access in my apartment, trying 3 different modems and everything possible to try to get them to work, before a fourth finally, miraculously, did the job.  Once I had this secured, I was busy most of the weekend catching up on some work and emails that I had been putting off since relocating here to Campos.

Sao Salvador Cathedral in
Campos's main square
But by the beginning of this week, I was sick.  I came down with a fever, sore throat, runny nose, achy muscles, and general fatigue.  It was only after I got an email that night from a fellow Brazilian Fulbrighter who told me that another Fulbrighter in her city caught Dengue Fever did I realized maybe that's what I might have.  I'd also read in the paper that Campos is going through a bit of an epidemic of Dengue Fever with about 6000 reported cases already this year.  Dengue is non-contagious and you only get it through a mosquito bite.  The onset of symptoms, of which I fit most of except for vomiting and skin rash, happens 4-6 days after the bite.  This made sense in my case, as I started feeling sick on Sunday and prior to moving into my new apartment the previous Monday, I have been getting eaten alive by bugs at the place I was staying.  As it was already late on Sunday when I discovered this, I figured if I felt worse the next day, I'd go see a doctor.  Luckily, I felt quite a bit better in the morning, and, with the help of some ibuprofen, managed fine until it went away after about 5 days.

The Orquestra Infanto-Juvenile rehearsing in the courtyard
I was able, however, to get over to Orquestrando a Vida for two concerts they gave during this time.  The first were some performances for some VIP people from various organizations, councils, sponsors and partners, etc. who were visiting.  I got to see the symphonic band perform for the first time, which played "The Mask of Zorro."  They are comprised of the wind, brass, and percussion players of the top two orchestras, and they certainly play at a high level.

(no caption needed)
They also inaugurated a newly-completed rehearsal space in the facility, having the top orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica Mariuccia Iacovino, perform for the guests.  They first gave a very strong (and loud! I was sitting practically in the orchestra) performance of Gustav Holst's "Mars" from "The Planets," and then a fun "Festa do Sertão" (Party in the Backwoods) composed by the conductor, Luis Mauricio Carneiro himself, which used popular tunes from the Northeast of Brazil and employed all the little "tricks" of dancing, choreography, and even dancing with little umbrellas.
The newly-inaugurated rehearsal room.

The social worker presenting
Then a few nights ago, at the end of my illness, they put on another concert at the project, this time for the families of the students.  But before any of the kids played a note and after all the parents and siblings had taken their seats, they had a social worker first give a presentation on violence against women for about 15 minutes, plus a shorter presentation on people with disabilities, including a performance by a "White Hands" choir of five deaf people. (I'm not sure, but I don't believe this group is actually a part of Orquestrando a Vida, unlike the White Hands Choirs that are a part of El Sistema in Venezuela.)  As Luis Mauricio tells me, Brazilian culture is very informal and people love their leisure time, but they tend to shy away from discussing matters seriously.  Having these presentations on serious topics before the concert is part of the social mission of the organization, and while they have come to listen to their kids, they have to sit through a presentation first.

The White Hands choir
They had the second best orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica David Machado, perform the "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5" and "Danse Macabre" which they performed the week before.  After them, I was able to hear for the first time the youngest orchestras of the project, the "Orquestra Infantile" (Children's Orchestra) and the "Orquestra Escolar" (School Orchestra.) Both consist of very beginning students, although the Orquestra Escolar is considered more advanced than the Orquestra Infantile in the progression of abilities.  The Orquestra Infantile featured several of its string sections playing simple tunes such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" with piano accompaniment, then a work with the entire orchestra.  The Orquestra Escolar followed playing a work in which the strings only played their open strings.

Had a pretty good crowd for the event
The concert ended with the "Orquestra Infanto-Juvenile," the 3rd most advanced orchestra playing the pieces they performed in concert the week before as well.  But shortly after the concert ended, with perfect dramatic timing, the power disappeared in the whole neighborhood.  I didn't mind much, and because this concert was out in the open air courtyard, all of a sudden I could notice the full moon above that was now lighting our way.  I'd almost forgot that down here in the southern hemisphere you can see different stars and constellations, which I couldn't see through the bright lights in Rio.  Even the full moon was different though than back home.  Here you get to view it at a different angle and see a different complexion.

I arrived in Brazil the last week of February, and hence missed all the Carnaval celebrations this year.  But for some reason, here in Campos this weekend they have had an out-of-season Carnaval celebration, so I was able to get a little bit of the Carnaval experience after all.  This is on a much smaller scale than the Rio's Carnaval, but I was able to see the winning samba school from this year from Rio's Carnaval, Vila Isabel, parade last night.  It was an interesting experience to see, but the music was piped through speakers at such a loud and deafening volume (there is really no need for concerts or events to be that loud.  I'm reminded of Ethan Iverson of "The Bad Plus", who can rock as hard as anyone, saying that he didn't become a musician just so he could perform concerts with earplugs on.)  We left after they had passed, about an hour into it, and my ears were still ringing the next day.  I don't think I'd do it again, but at least now I've experienced some Carnaval.

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