Deanna no Brasil: The first three weeks!

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.

(In case you missed it, I’m here until early June doing research for my Nossa Senhora Suite, which you can read about- and contribute to- HERE)!

View from the keyboard in my studio.

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.

One of the passenger boats that crosses the bay between Itaparica and Salvador.

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.


Click to watch video of Deanna playing at Jam no MAM in Salvador, Bahia.

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.

Fotos from candomblé ceremony.

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. 

This is the book I’m reading to prepare to visit Cachoeira next weekend.

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!

From L to R: Val Souza, Dona Cici, me, Amara Tabor-Smith, Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Tortoise by my bedroom door.

Outside of the Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.

My first time eating caruru! I only knew it before from the Dorival Caymmi song “Voce ja foi a Bahia?” (“Have you been to Bahia?”).

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6 Responses to Deanna no Brasil: The first three weeks!

  1. Mia says:

    Deanna this trip sounds amazing ! Your descriptions flood my brain with colors,
    Tastes, sounds and rhythms – I only wish I were there !
    Keep blogging – I must get to Brazil ! Xxxmia
    Your work on Nossa Senhora sounds incredible xxxmia

  2. Bo says:

    Sounds (pardon the pun!) as if your sojourn is bring forth wonderful 🎶!
    Your blog is definitely wonderful.
    Of course, the view from your keyboard, is the most wonderful sight,
    at least to my citified eyes.
    I trust the test of your stay will go well too.
    Enjoy! 🤗

  3. Hi Deanna,
    My name is Marcy castro. I am a pianist and from resilient Heritage. I just wanted to mention that I have some friends that live in Salvador that played beautiful bossa nova music. It is sometimes hard to find that there. Let me know if you would like their info. They are friends of mine on Facebook. I live in New York City and would love to meet you sometime to hear about your adventures in Brazil. I am a . If you needPortuguese speaker as well. I take care of my mom in Long Island during the week days and am in the city on the weekends. Hope to meet you soon! Enjoy Brazil

    • Deanna Witkowski says:

      Ola, Marcy- Obrigada pela sua mensagem! Estarei em Nova Iorque começando o dia 16 de junho. Então, a gente pode marcar um dia pra nos encontrar la! Falo portugues. 🙂

    • Deanna Witkowski says:

      …e, tb, claro: quero encontrar seus amigos em Salvador! Estarei la nesta sexta até sábado. Pode me mandar um email com os contatos dele no whatsapp? Meu email é Obrigada!

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