Memorable Moments in Caracas

Memorable Moments in Caracas

LA Phil keyboardist Joanne Pearce Martin gives a little one-on-one instruction to a young pianist.
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…)

But this afternoon really took the cake. We were taken to the Teatro Teresa Carreño, not to rehearse or perform this time, but to witness an extraordinary event - multiple performances by thousands of El Sistema musicians who had gathered here from all around the country, JUST TO PLAY FOR US!

Upon exiting the buses, we were greeted by a rousing brass fanfare. Then a huge chorus, singing their hearts out, lined our passage from the street into an outdoor plaza. Here were three large orchestras, (one of them was 600 strong!) that we heard in sequence. All of them played from memory, and with every drop of energy they had. (a side note: one of the conductors looked like he was about 12 years old!)

Then we moved to an indoor theater with the stage jammed full of still more young musicians. WHAM! They launched into the last movement of Tchaikovsky 4 with vigor that was staggering, also all from memory. The audience went nuts, and the happy kids cheered and held their instruments high in the air with pride. The afternoon closed with an inspiring chorus of special needs youngsters. By the end of all of this, there was not a dry eye to be found anywhere.

Long before The Mahler Project started, I knew this trip was going to be special – I just didn’t know HOW special.