Gustavo Dudamel, Deborah Borda and Maestro Abreu in Caracas
Sunday night at about 6:30 PM the LA Phil flight back from Caracas touched down at LAX. At that precise moment, an enormous cheer went up from the entire orchestra and staff.
People cheered not simply because they were glad to be home but truly in celebration, pride and recognition of making history. It was a moment in which our LA Phil “family” acknowledged they had just pulled off one of the most audacious and challenging projects in recent symphonic history. The Mahler Project: 9 Symphonies/2 orchestras/one Gustavo.
LA Phil keyboardist Joanne Pearce Martin gives a little one-on-one instruction to a young pianist.
Many unforgettable memories have already been forged this week in Caracas and it’s an impossible task to summarize my impressions in a few words...but I'll try anyway with this short list:
• Maestro Abreu himself greeting us at the gate as we got off the plane!
• The unbridled enthusiasm of the Caracas audiences
• The joy in Gustavo's face as he joins together his Caracas & Los Angeles musical families in Venezuela
• The sound of a 1200+ chorus warming up in unison before our Mahler 8 rehearsal yesterday (I really can't remember the last time I did the "wave" during a rehearsal…)
I've joined forces with Dudamel and the LA Phil in Caracas, who have in turn joined forces with the young people of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (also under Gustavo's direction). I'll be doing hosting duties for the LA Phil LIVE broadcast of Mahler's gargantuan 8th, the "Symphony of a Thousand," in cinemas all over the US tomorrow at 5pm EST. I also get to see two extra Mahler concerts here, to see Caracas for the first time and to hang with the big LA Phil gang like a member of the family (or I suppose more accurately like an interloper at an enormous family reunion).
Editor's note: While in Caracas, the LA Phil's VP of Marketing Shana Mathur and YOLA Manager Dan Berkowitz made an unscheduled visit to the Sarria Nucleo in a Caracas barrio. They collaborated on the following.
Sarria is located in a barrio of Caracas. It is poor and quite dangerous. It is part of a school, unlike most nucleos, that is owned and operated by the government. The children, ages 3-15, come from split homes, rampant with drugs, gangs and often abuse.
In the mornings, the school, with its peeling and crumbling walls, offers academics to its 600 students. In the afternoons, most students engage in the music program, at various levels, taught by the 26 music teachers.
In addition to our excellent institutional sources on the ground in Caracas - who shall remain, of course, known only as "LA Phil Staff - there's no shortage of press coverage of the LA Phil's visit to Caracas.
It's a good story, after all - Gustavo Dudamel, favorite son of the famed El Sistema music education system, becomes classical music superstar and returns home to Venezuela to combine his two musical families. Add to that the fact that no major symphony orchestra has been to Caracas in over two decades and you've got a situation ripe for coverage in the press.
That said, the media coverage of the LA Phil's trip - and of Gustavo and The Mahler Project in general - has been plentiful, comprehensive and really interesting. Here's a quick sample:
Editor's note: ClassicalKUSC's Brian Lauritzen is traveling with the LA Phil during their trip to Caracas and reporting on the orchestra's activities for the radio station. We're incredibly gratified that he took some time out of his own reporting and producing duties to pen a guest post for us. You can see his updates from Caracas by following @BrianKUSC on Twitter or at the KUSC Blog.
It has been a great honor and privilege for LA Phil Board members and patrons to accompany our terrific orchestra on tour here in Caracas, Venezuela for the second half of our ambitious Mahler Project. The dual highlights of the trip for us all have been the incredible concerts performed by both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, as well as our life changing exposure to the music and participants in Venezuela’s El Sistema social action program.
It's safe to say the LA Phil's inaugural performance in Caracas was a success.
There's been no shortage of excitement surrounding the orchestra's first visit to the home city of Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. After all, the orchestra was warmly welcomed at the airport by El Sistema founder and Dudamel mentor Maestro José Antonio Abreu. The LA Phil's concerts in Caracas - ticket price $8 - sold out in mere hours. The energy surrounding the visit has been, as they say, electric.
However, according to all reports, the orchestra wasn't in any way prepared for the welcome given them by the audience for their first performance of Mahler 9.
LA Phil violinist Robert Vijay Gupta takes a moment to practice during a break at the dress rehearsal for Mahler 8 at the Shrine Auditorium
Editor's Note: LA Phil violinist and Senior TED Fellow Robert Vijay Gupta penned this post after completing the first performance of the orchestra's trip to Caracas - a performance of Mahler 9. In this post, he's saying farewell to the piece, but it also serves as a fine farewell to The Mahler Project from the orchestra.