Today has been extremely busy. In my last update, I believe I mentioned that there had been some water issues with some of the venues due to heavy rain. This morning our morning rehearsal was cancelled due to the stage not being ready. Instead we loaded the bus with our sack lunches and headed for the Iguazu National Park. This was meant to be an introductory visit to the park and the falls, because if all goes well, we will return on Sunday for a more extensive visit. The park was beautiful, but the falls were breathtaking. As opposed to our Niagara Falls, the Iguazu Falls are spread out over a series of more than 300 little falls, some being much larger than others. And by saying spread out, we are talking a width of some 1.2 miles. Upon entering the park, we loaded a train that took us to the first stop where we exited to take one of the nature trails to the falls. These trails are mostly iron footbridges mounted on trellises that keep you suspended above all of the waterworks below. All of us were taken aback by the shear beauty of the landscape and the many contributing falls. It was also an interesting moment when we looked across the river, only to realize that the other side was the country of Brazil. We look forward to our return visit.
After completing the trail we walked back to the bus and ate lunch. As we finished we noticed other groups there at the park. The children's choir from Mendoza, Argentina were dressed in their sharp looking blue and red windbreaker jackets. And then there was the spirited group from Angola who are expert steel drum players. Apparently though they were not the best dancers. Our guys and their crew had a dance off of sorts. Of all people, it appears that our own Spencer White was the most impressive contestant. I saw the video and he looked like a white version of Tyler Perry's Madea character. I am sure this video will surface once the boys have access to their electronics when we return to the states.
Our next destination was the afternoon rehearsal at the Sheraton, the site of the grand finale concert on Saturday. They were still working on the set when we arrived. A 1 pm rehearsal time came and went. Here in Argentina, they don't get hung up so much on following strict schedules. Around 2 pm they decided the main stage was going to take longer than anticipated so they had the chorus rehearsal on the grounds elsewhere. We got some photos of these activities. The rehearsal was short. About this time they started loading the instrumentalists on the main stage. While they were waiting, the choirs gathered with each other to share names and learn more about each others' cultures. And of course there was the mutual girl/boy ackward ice breaking rituals. These did not last long and soon the students were sharing verbal exchanges in strands of broken Spanish and English. One thirteen year old boy's day was made when a girl told him that he was sexy. I don't think his feet touched the ground after that...he simply floated along in his own little dream world.
Our concert tonight was nothing short of fantastic. It didn't start out that way, though. We arrived for our sound check on time only to find out they were behind schedule. We waited patiently for our time on stage and were then informed that we had three minutes. They were starting to let people into the house. I led the boys through a series of music portions that included piano. It was so loud in the room that I could not hear much of anything. A sound check seemed like a lost cause so I had the choir start exiting the risers. Then the sound technician asked me if the sound check was good to which I replied I could not hear anything due to all of the crowd noise. Long story short they asked the boys back on stage, asked the crowd to be quiet and then we got a better sound check. They also added a fourth group to the concert which meant we were bumped to position three and were no longer the closing act. But not all was lost. There were cameras all over the room. Our concert was broadcast live on the local networks. In addition the house was packed. The concert was in such demand that they had to turn away more than 100 people at the door. They were not happy campers and were demanding to be let in. At one point they had security blocking the stair entrance to the concert hall. We offered to go downstairs and sing a few numbers to help ease the tension, but were told thanks but no thanks. When we arrived at 7 pm for our sound check, there were already hundreds of people waiting in line for the 8:30 concert start time. It just amazed us how popular classical concerts are here in Argentina. We have gotten spoiled, I am sure.
Speaking of the concert, it went very well. A gentleman came up to me afterwards to relate that he felt our concert was the finest presentation he had ever witnessed. When we arrived back at the hotel, people there were congratulating the boys on a job well done because they had watched us on the live broadcast. We actually performed two encores at the concert. Of course I am always about making sure the boys get the proper credit they deserve. That is always more important to me than whether I receive any recognition. Tonight, though, was a new experience for me. We had to exit the stage and proceed down the center aisle to make our way out of the room. As usual, I had the boys exit in front of me. The audience was clapping this entire time. However when I made my way down the aisle, people started applauding louder, yelling out Maestro and giving me thumbs up signs. It was just a bit ackward, but I simply smiled and said gracias as I passed by. Not even when I have conducted at Carnegie Hall have I received such appreciation from a crowd. To say that the boys and Ms. Lin and I have been well received here in Argentina would be an understatement. They have embraced us and have made us feel like family. And tonight the boys delivered one of the most stirring renditions of "Soon Ah Will Be Down" that I have ever heard. They have represented North America brilliantly and I am so proud of them for reaching for the brass ring as we have endeavored to present artistic programs at the highest performing levels.
Now I cannot sign off this update without sharing some tongue and cheek humor from our time here in Argentina. The boys have spent some thought on particular phrases which I now share with you...at least the phrases I don't mind having to edit too much:
The water is safe....enough.
The food is cooked....enough.
The bus is nice....enough.
The choreography is good....enough.
The bidet is clean....enough.
The roads are paved....enough.
Traffic laws are enforced....enough.
The girls are old....enough.
Wake up at 3 am....that'll do.
No water filtration system....that'll do.
Meat empanadas at every meal....that'll do.
Roads that barely fit two cars....that'll do.
Sixteen year old boys going after twelve year old girls (actually they were fourteen)....that'll do.
Traffic lanes as suggestions....that'll do.
Basket of rolls at every meal....that'll do.
Pink shirt with a cappuberra on it! (these are the t-shirts the boys have to wear for the grand finale concert, and they are actually hot pink)....that,ll do.
Hot tour guide (the boys description of Natalina, our favorite tour guide)....that'll do.
Tomorrow is the big concert day. Some 700 youth performers from around the globe combine their skills to produce an amazing concert event. Everyone is looking forward to this time of music making and fun. Hopefully we will be able to secure video footage to share with family and friends back home. We are looking forward to our return trip to the states. In the meantime, please know that all the boys are well and happy. We have had a great trip in terms of everyone watching out for each other. All of us will return as different people having experienced Argentina and the festival.
Texas Boys Choir