Greetings from Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil!
As I write in my beachfront studio, I am looking out on water, sand, sky, clouds, and five Brazilian boys who are doing flips on the beach! It is a little strange sometimes to realize that people on the beach and in the water can see me inside the studio…but seeing boats and horses go by in the water is pretty cool.
Today marks exactly three weeks since I arrived here in Itaparica. It takes a good two hours to get into Salvador, the main city, because it’s necessary to take a taxi or van to get to a lancha (small passenger boat) or a larger ferry boat to board to cross the bay. Sometimes the lancha doesn’t run when the tide is too low or when the water is too turbulent. I’ve gotten accustomed to breathing deeply when the waves are choppy.
Even with the long trek, I’ve gotten into the city five times so far. The first time was to hear Gilberto Gil and Letieres Leite’s Orquestra Rumpilezz at the Teatro Castro Alves. This was the highlight of my trip thus far. The next weekend, I sat in at a jam session at the Museum of Modern Art, known as Jam no MAM. The last time I sat in here was eight years ago! During the entire session, dancers next to the stage interpret the music with movement! Marcelo Thomaz from Sacatar shot a video with clips of me playing, which you can see HERE.
Last night I went to a candomblé ceremony in Misericórdia, the next town over from Itaparica. I was told that usually photos or videos aren’t allowed, so I didn’t bring my recorder. However, after arriving, I was told that photos were OK- in fact, someone was filming the entire ceremony (see photos below). I plan on incorporating some candomblé rhythms into part of the Nossa Senhora Suite, at least in the movement for Iemanjá, the orixá of the seas.
After getting back to Sacatar at 2 am after the ceremony, I slept for a few hours before walking to a 7 am Mass at CTL (Centro de Treinamento de Líders de Itaparica). Since the main church in Itaparica has been under renovation for the last two years, Sunday services are taking place at this retreat/training center. I’ll be meeting with one of the priests this week to learn more about Nossa Senhora de Piedade and Nossa Senhora Aparecida (and perhaps some other Nossa Senhoras).
Next weekend, I’ll hear Rosa Passos and João Donato in concert together at the Café Teatro Rubi in Salvador on Friday; travel to Cachoeira on Saturday with my friend Lourdinha to visit the Irmandade de Boa Morte (Sisters of the Good Death); and attend an all-day retreat at CTL for women from various Catholic churches in Itaparica on Sunday. This week, I’ll be preparing some questions that I want to have in mind as I ask women about how Nossa Senhora is present in their daily lives.
Besides all of this, I just finished an article on arranging hymns for an upcoming edition of DownBeat, and I’ve almost finished a song commission (more on both later). I’ll be starting work on a choral piece in Portuguese that will receive its premiere in Newport Beach, CA on June 15 by the Choral Arts Initiative. I’ll be in attendance as one of seven composition fellows for their PREMIERE|Project Festival– and I’m excited that my mentor will be Craig Carnahan, a great choral composer and former director of the American Composers Forum. On June 9- right before I come back to the States-I’ll be giving a workshop in São Paulo for church pianists on arranging and improvising with hymns. If you’re a pianist in São Paulo (or you want to fly there!), click here to register!
There is a lot more that I could say, but since the wi-fi is currently working, I’ll post this now and post more photos and news in an upcoming post!