Durazno was a very beautiful and cultural town. The arts were very strong. There were several museums, an art conservatory, and a music conservatory. The music conservatory is what drew my attention. Every day a variety of classes would meet. These classes ranged from private lessons to theory and ear training classes. In addition to these classes, the music conservatory also provided a variety of concerts for Durazno to enjoy. The musicianship of both the students and the teachers was remarkable. Yet, even more incredible was the relationship held between the teachers and their pupils.
The very first concert I attended was an orchestra concert. There were about thirty-five students in the orchestra. Their ages ranged from eighteen to twenty. They played very well. A third of the instrumentalists were violinists. There were five violists, two flutists, four clarinetists, two bass players, and several cellists. These students were very talented. The neatest thing about this orchestra was that it was obvious they all tried very hard to play well. Most importantly, they seemed to love their conductor. The students played very expressively. It was obvious they wanted to play well. My favorite piece this orchestra played was a traditional piece from Uruguay, called the Pericon. The melody was played by two violinists then echoed by the orchestra. This piece was loved by both the orchestra and the audience.
This concert was full of variety. It was held in the "Pequeno Teatro", a beautiful little theater in Durazno. The concert began with Virginia, Jamandu's wife, playing a piece by Chopin. Then Jamandu, the director of the music conservatory, joined her and together they played duets. This was followed by Jamandu playing solo pieces. Then a soprano, who taught at the music conservatory, sang several songs. This was followed by a guitarist from Montevideo. The guitarist, Maximo, was a student of Eduardo Barca. The concert ended with an adult choir conducted by Jainandu. He was a very expressive conductor and the choristers sang with all of their hearts. The audience seemed to enjoy this part of the concert the most.
This choir concert was held in a Catholic church near the center of town. This concert was full of variety. The concert began with a small children's choir. It was followed by a second choir very similar to the first. A third children's choir, which was the size of the first two choirs combined, came next. The conductor was very good and the children responded by singing very expressively. Next came the high school choir. This choir was very large and very good. It was amazing to see the participation of the students. They sang very expressively and very musically. Then came the same adult choir that sang in the "Pequeno Teatro" which was directed by Jamandu. The last choir was a city choir with twenty choristers about the age of twenty. This choir was incredible! They sang acapella. The director conducted with all his might and the choir responded by singing with all their hearts. The whole choir swayed and danced to the music they sang. The audience went wild. What took place after this last choir sang was truly amazing. All of the choirs rushed to the front of the church and papers were quickly passed out to the audience. Then all of the choirs joined in one song and encouraged the audience to sing (which did not take too much encouragement). After we finished singing, everyone wanted to sing again. We all sang this song several times and then went home. Everyone left in happy spirits!
I had the incredible opportunity to play a concert in Durazno! I played the first half of the concert and Maximo, the student from Montevideo, played the second. This concert was held in the music conservatory. It was a cold, dark night, but the atmosphere in the music conservatory was everything but that! We played next to a warm fire. The beautiful high stained glass ceiling and large wooden doors created an almost mid-evil affect. Maximo and I each received an introduction and a warm applause before playing. The audience was wonderful! They were attentive to each piece, and very encouraging after the performance. This truly was a wonderful experience!
I had the opportunity to watch a cello lesson at the conservatory. Every Monday a teacher from Montevideo came to Durazno to teach. She played the cello very well. I watched her give a lesson to a beginning student who looked about fourteen. This teacher expected no less than perfection. If the student played a wrong note in a scale, even if only a little off, the teacher would correct him. He would then have to play it again. This teacher taught this student to keep his third and fourth fingers together. For example, the student placed his first finger, his second, and then his third and fourth fingers together on the flngerboard in order to play scales. It was as if the third and fourth fingers were unable to move if separated. Sometimes we use this technique in classical guitar.
There were several piano classes for students who were interested in studying. One of the teachers that I observed was the same teacher who taught the theory and ear training classes for children. This teacher was firm, yet patient. She encouraged her students to play well. She explained to me that it was very important that the hands be held in the correct position.. .a slight curve to the fingers. She explained to me that it was very important that the hands be held in the correct position.. .a slight curve to the fingers. She expected no less than perfection from her students. Another lesson I observed was that of Jamandu teaching a nineteen year old. This student was incredible! Every day he spent hours in the conservatory practicing. Jamandu, an incredible pianists, knew how to encourage this student to play better. Each of these teachers were well respected and loved by their students.
I had the incredible opportunity and privilege to meet Abel Carlevaro. After walking several miles, as a result of not being able to find an "omnibus", we finally arrived to 18 de julio, his street. Having received permission, we anxiously made our way to the second floor of an apartment. A kind gentleman, 82 years old, welcomed us into his home. Mr. Able Carlevaro briefly shared with us about his school. In the summer months students from various places studied guitar with him. The rest of the year Abel Carlevaro traveled the world, gave concerts and taught master classes. When I asked Mr. Able Carlevaro how long he practiced each day, he replied, "I only practice to remember." I consider meeting this famous guitarist an incredible honor - something I will never forget.
Condembe is a style of music very popular in Uruguay. I had the opportunity to hear this style several times. I watched about 50 people march down the streets of Durazno playing congas one evening. Every few blocks they stopped and heat their drums around a campfire in order to change the drum's pitch. Then once again they marched down the streets.
In Montevideo I also had the opportunity to hear condembe. In contrast, to the condembe
I heard in Durazno, these groups were much smaller and geared more towards tourists.
One of the most interesting classes I observed was an ear training class designed for children. Many of the same things taught in a college ear training class, these children were able to do on a much lower level. They were able to sight read the music and sing solfeggio, write notes to a simple melody played on the piano and write rhythmic phrases. To help them learn their notes there were specific colors for each of the notes on the scale. They even sang a song to help them remember their solfeggio. This was very interesting!
This concert was designed as a field trip for young students who attended the elementary schools. Two of the students who studied at the music conservatory dressed in old-fashioned clothes and read information about different composers. Various students from the conservatory played pieces by each of these composers. There were many different performers in order to keep the concert interesting for the children. This concert was repeated several times as different classes were brought to the music conservatory. The children were well behaved and very attentive to the concert.
The professor of the guitar, Eduardo Barca, came every week from Montevideo to Durazno to teach guitar. I had the opportunity to take several lessons from him. He also had a television show in Montevideo. He invited me to play the guitar on his show. I was sooooooooo excited! A friend and I rode a bus to Montevideo. Then Eduardo Barca met us at the bus terminal and took us to the television station. There I was taken to a back room and a lady put make-up on me. I then went to the room where they did the recording. I was asked several questions, the lady translated for me, and then I played my pieces. The television program lasted thirty minuets. This was a very exciting experience!