Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 4: Mr. Priddy's Texas Boys Choir Argentina Tour Travelogue

Hmmm....I wonder if my son's Argentina tour notebook is filled in with as much detail as Mr. Priddy's?
Day 4: May 21, 2012

We have found that Argentina people are definitely night owls.  They prefer starting their day later, but basically they simply shift everything forward a couple of hours.  We just got back to the hotel about 20 minutes ago (2:10 am) following a full concert and dinner in Mercedes with Opus Cuatro.

When I last communicated, I think we were about to load the bus for departure to Mercedes.  The bus ride there was about an hour and a half drive.  Mercedes is a city with a population of around 70,000, but it feels much like a town.  It has a beautiful Cathedral and town square.  In fact the streets are so narrow that the bus actually had to park a block or so from the theatre where we performed.  Unlike much construction in the States, accessibility for loading/unloading, mobility devices, etc. is limited at best.  So we just haul everything we need.  I kind of feel like we have our own labor force.  If we need to move equipment, we just have the boys take action and poof, stuff gets moved.  So...we get things moved inside the theatre.  It is an old house, but its bones are good...high ceilings, plastered walls...all the things that make for good acoustics.  Plus they had a Steinway piano that was in good shape.  We also had a sound engineering crew, house manager, and additional agents there from our touring company to make sure everything went smoothly.

The rehearsal went reasonably well.  We rehearsed the logistics to our opening numbers and some pieces that were new to the Argentina tour repertoire.  Then Opus Cuatro showed up for rehearsal.  The boys got to sit through their sound check procedures and take notes on how professional ensembles go through the preconcert list of items to ensure that the concert itself goes well.  Eventually, we rehearsed together.  A few transitions to work out, but nothing major.  A funny part happened when we rehearsed the reprise to the song  Fantasia .  It is a section of music that is repeated if the audience response warrants it.  Well, we started the reprise and about half way through things fell apart.  The boys were singing one thing and Opus Cuatro another.  I told OC that if they did not sing the reprise just like they did on their recording, that the boys would not be able to keep up with them.  They then laughed and said they could not remember how they sang the reprise on the recording!  I showed them the score of the cuts they made per the recording.  Then Hernando, their arranger said "stop" and then said a few sentences in Spanish to the others.  We rehearsed again and things were perfect.  It was give and take like this with OC.  And they appreciated our ability to do similar adaptations when they changed some rhythms on sections of other pieces and we changed on the fly to make their music edits work.

Now the concert....
Again, we sang to an almost full house.  The boys entered from the rear of the house.  However, to get there they had to use an underground tunnel that connected the dressing room areas located behind and underneath the stage to the front of the house.  For an old building, whoever designed it was thinking ahead.  Going through the tunnel was kind of like walking through a cheesy haunted house maze.  Overhead were flourescent lights, but each one was covered in various colors of gels used for theatre fixtures.  The boys compared it to a Harry Potter movie.  At any rate it was wide enough for one person and it meandered about, but eventually led to a curved stairwell with limited head space, and once at the top, you took a left at the electrical power box and were dumped out into the front lobby.  

We opened the program with the now familiar Gregorian chant followed by the Personent Hodie processional.  At its conclusion, the crowd burst into applause.  Not the usual, o.k. that was good for the first two numbers applause, but one that sounded more like the applause used by crowds at the end of a full concert.  People were already on their feet and yelling bravo.  Well, let me just say that this really helped to inspire the boys and we were about to launch into singing an A plus performance.  We followed with Sure on this Shining Night, a composition by a contemporary American composer, Bourree, then Gabriels Oboe, and then a series of choreographed selections....John Williams is the Man, Old West Medley, and Bohemian Rhapsody.  With each the crowd enthusiatically responded.  Then on stage came Opus Cuatro and the people appluaded loudly.  Our set of music with them must rank with me as one of the top ten performances of my career.  It was magical, musical, momentous, and marvelous.  Those four guys combined with our boys created some of the finest choral music you will hear...period.  The Fantasia selection in particular was extraordinary.  Even OC, who has sung this piece for years, told me after the concert that we could sing that piece with them as much as we would like.  I did ask Hernando if he would send me the instrumental parts.  Since they do not tour regularly in the States, I asked him if they would not mind if we adopted this piece as a new signature piece for our choir and he said certainly.  OC also said that they would love to tour with us in the states if that possibility ever existed.  That is high praise coming from such a world class ensemble.  They also were so supportive of the boys.  They understand the discipline it takes to produce music at this level and as such gave encouragement to our guys to keep up the good work.  After we finished the set with OC, the boys were seated in the front of the auditorium to hear OC perform a set of songs by themselves.  After that, there were several presentations to our group and to OC.  Mrs. Lin and I both received framed pictures of the crest of the city of Mercedes by the Minister of Culture appointee.  The appointee also made similar presentations to OC.  Our own Gabriel Gutierrez, who speaks fluid Spanish, presented articles on behalf of the TBC.  I could not make out exactly what happened, but I believe he ended up presenting a hand carved horse head representing the City of Fort Worth to whom he believed was the Mercedes person and for some reason gave this person the title of minister.  It turns out this person was the house manager for the theatre company.  Everyone had a good laugh.  Personally I have not known any theatre people that were in the always seemed there was a conflict of interests in that set up. :)  Gabriel also presented TBC CDs to members of OC as our gift to them.  

When the concert ended, you would think it would be time to travel the hour and a half back to Buenos Aires and go to bed, right?  No....remember we had not had dinner.  When we arrived, the touring company had provided sandwiches and bottled drinks to help tide the boys over until dinner.  After the concert we loaded the bus and traveled to an Italian place.  The boys got a big kick out of the name of the restaurant.  It was called the Anus restaurant.  I am not joking.  We found out this was the actual last name of the owner, but it is pronounced ahnoos.  After the initial shock of the name, we entered and found ourselves in a delightful eating space.  There was a dance floor with many round tables all decked in white linens, chargers, stemmed glass ware, and bread bowls.  Very elegant.  The dance floor was surround by colums which were lit with uplighting for dramatic effect...alternating with the colors red and teal.  Then above, there were many suspended paper lighting fixtures and in the center of the room about a three foot disco ball.  I was good until the disco ball fixture.  Can we just get over the 70s and move on with life?

Although the hour was late, they treated us like kings at this place.  The appetizer was a variety of anti pasta treats that were delectible.  Then came the fried empanadas, followed by the main course of Argentine beef slices with cheese and a creame sauce with chopped red peppers, served with carrots and peas.  The dessert was ice cream served in sugar waffle bowls and garnished with kiwi slices.  It was just too much.  To be so appreciated has meant a great deal to the boys.  I just hope we do not get too spoiled while we are here.

At dinner, most of the members of Opus Cuatro ate with us as well as the city organizer leaders.  At the conclusion of the meal, there was a picture taking time.  Cameras were flashing all over the place.  Lots of good bye hugs.  We made many new friends today.  I do not think any of us will forget the time in Mercedes any time soon.

In three and a half hours we have to get up to begin the checking out process at the Hotel Presedente here in Buenos Aires.  One of the perks we have had here is that each set of boys was assigned a suite.  Rather than one room for three, each group of three had two rooms and one of the rooms had a refrigerator.  They have enjoyed having bottled water and beverages which they have been able to purchase at the store which is literally a block away from the hotel.  Our stay here could not have been better.  We leave tomorrow around 9 am for Mar del Plata.  It is a five hour drive, so I am sure we will have the boys use most of this time to catch up on some needed sleep.  When we get to Mar del Plata, the rest of our day is pretty relaxed.  We check in to the hotel, then take a guided tour of the resort area, then back to the hotel to relax for a bit, then off to dinner and call it a day.  The following day gets very busy with a radio interview and two concerts.  More on that later.  For now, I need to get to bed.

The boys are holding up well.  Excitment remains high as we explore and encounter this place called Argentina.

Oh, one more thing.  Following the concert, I was interviewed by a journalist from a local radio station.  It was called FM Santa Maira 881.  Through a translator, he was able to ask me questions and I was able to respond.  Hopefully we will be able to get some good promo quotes for future concert publicity, should he actually do a concert review.  There were two people who approched Mrs. Lin after tonights concert.  One, a lady, said she cried the entire time because of the beauty of sound she heard from the boys.  Another, a man, said that the music the boys sang  filled his soul .  So the next time your son drives you nuts, just know that at some time on this tour he actually inspired someone else.  The potential for greatness with these guys is always there.  The challenge is to get them to realize it.  Food for thought...

Bryan Priddy
Artistic Director
Texas Boys Choir


Carla said...
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Carla said...

I think most bands should go at least once to BA and perform there since there is an incredible vibe and energy that no artist can explain with words after a show. You must know. I remember 2 years ago, I went to see Metallica that was playing at the River Plate stadium. The buenos aires apartments I had rented were all very near it so it was easy for me to get there. I felt so full of life after the show that I decided I was going to go to as many concerts I could!