Sunday, May 11, 2014

There And Back Again

And so we come to final day, and it is suitably grandiose.

The day began with a performance in the cathedral we had visited a few days ago. It's one of those spaces where the music rings in the air moments after you finish each phrase (in other words, a real joy to sing in). Margaret did a fantastic job of conducting us, though in truth this was almost a practice for the performance tonight.

Before the evening activities, however, we were able to eat at a small restaurant run out of a lady's home. It was very nice, though I spent most of the time (indeed, most of the day) with my nose in a book. (Hey, it's 800 pages and after one day I'm only a third of the way done--and I want to finish it before the trip is done!)

From there we went to the massive outdoor church where we would be performing in the evening. Someone resourceful managed to forage for a few towels, and we enjoyed some cold showers (literally enjoy--unlike in Canada, cold showers here are WONDERFUL) after our sound check. Then we went backstage and waited for our half-hour of fame.

And I'm not sure that's an exaggeration. This church apparently broadcasts their services in 40 countries, and I think I heard numbers around 10,000 describing the church attendance itself. I'm not sure about the others, but this was definitely the largest audience I have ever performed for.

We only had half an hour, so we weren't able to perform our entire repertoire (the Bach went unsung) but we gave it our best as our last concert. A prayer session beforehand reminded us all that this was an act of worship to God. The greatest joy, though, came for me when the worship band started performing a song we all recognized (though I actually forget what it was now), and we started singing backstage in English. Then we went up on stage while they were still playing, and I looked out over this incredible crowd of my brothers and sisters in Christ, with arms and voices raised, worshipping him. I'll admit, though my mouth was moving the whole time, I sometimes was forced to remain silent lest my voice falter as I sang, I was so overcome by the moment. It was (to use the word of the day) transcendent. We then closed the evening with one final song.

After this we enjoyed a final feast at a Churascaria (I may or may not have butchered that spelling... get it?... butchered...). Think meat. Lots of it. Think of servers coming around bringing you various steaks and slicing bits off onto your place. Yeah. It was pretty cool. And all-you-can-eat. I'm sure my brother is incredibly jealous of me right now.

But now we have had our final evening together, and some are in bed already, and the rest of us are sitting around postponing it. It has been a fantastic tour with fantastic people. It will be sad to leave each other when this is all over, though there is a time for everything. And for my part, I am ready.

We are coming home.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Rest is Mozart

Today was both relaxing and stressful, in a slightly confusing way. This morning was completely free of commitments, except for brunch at 10:00. Several students went to the beach for some swimming and relaxing, while others stayed at the hospitality centre to read, swim in the pool, pick up some food gifts at the local supermarket, or catch up on laundry.

The rest of the day? Well, the rest is Mozart! Today was the culmination of our five-day-long mad scramble to learn Mozart's Missa Brevis in C Major. Originally, the piece was to be performed as part of a mass choir along with an orchestra. It was only last weekend that we found out we were the only choir participating, and consequently needed to find four soloists and learn the better part of 30 pages of music by today.

After lunch (and a marvellous snack of homemade cinnamon buns!), we headed off to an opera house that was completed in Fortaleza circa 1910 to rehearse for this evening's concert. And let me just say, the building was stunning. Despite being currently under renovations, it was absolutely beautiful! Apparently designed and built by the same company that designed and built the Eiffel Tower, the auditorium had floor seating, as well as several storeys of balcony boxes à la Phantom of the Opera.

In true Brazilian fashion, the trio rehearsal that was supposed to begin at 4:00 began at 4:30, and the choir rehearsal scheduled for 5:30 finally got underway at 6:45. Oh well. Hakuna matata, right? Wracked with nerves due to our hectic rehearsal schedule in the past week and a rushed dress rehearsal, the concert was nevertheless beautiful!

The Brazilian university put together a string quartet, which performed several pieces to begin the night. After they had finished, Drs. Sunabacka and Friesen performed alongside the orchestra's first violinist, and Dr. Friesen played one of Dr. Sunabacka's piano solo compositions. Then, after a brief intermission to reset the stage, it was time for the choir!

Our somewhat shaky dress rehearsal gave way to a confident, well-performed mass, and soloists Margaret, Janelle, Ben, and Darryl positively shone! Arriving home late, tired, and very glad to be finished with Mozart, the choir headed to bed for our last full day in Brazil tomorrow.

It's hard to believe we'll be headed home in less than 48 hours...

Banana Pizza... 'nuff said

[Just, you know, in case you're curious, I am writing this now--as opposed to last night--because last night I had the mental capacities of a very tired person.]

So the morning was beautiful--mostly because we got to sleep in, with breakfast only being at 9. For me, however, it was one of those mornings where you wake up a bit earlier than planned, but not early enough as to merit going back to bed. So, I arose and watched some professional League of Legends matches. (The All-Stars are happening right now in Paris, France. The game between Fnatic and Taipei Assassins was particularly tense. Though I suppose none of this is relevant.)

The action for the day picked up around 2... kind of. At least, our rehearsal with the University orchestra was supposed to start at 2. In true Brazilian time, it began at 3:45. Once that was finished, we went to the beach marketplace once again so people could finish their shopping. I, being already finished, was able to sit and read my book (I am just now discovering the joys of Terry Pratchett) and listen to Professor Karen Sunabacka play her cello. It was terribly cute to watch a small girl in a purple dress slow down and stare at Karen as she passed, though eventually she hurried to catch up with her mother.

After this, though, came the highlight of my day (and something I have been looking forward to all trip): the pizza place. More specifically, the all-you-can-eat-and-drink pizza place. The servers came around with various pizzas and asked us if we wanted a slice.  And these were not just your typical cheese, Hawaiian, pepperoni, etc. There was corn, chicken, beef, shrimp... oh, and the dessert pizzas. You know, the usual: chocolate, caramel, guava, and banana. Oh, the banana! I mean, really, if you haven't tasted banana pizza, you haven't... tasted banana pizza, I guess. But you should, you really should. Especially with cinnamon on top.

Here's proof of how many slices were eaten between myself, Ben, Jon and Stephan:

Though admittedly, only six of those were mine

After that, we headed back to get some rest for tomorrow's (well, I guess today's) big concert. And to think, we've only got a couple of days left. I wonder if I'm going to miss the cold showers...

Thursday, May 8, 2014


I'm just throwing in my two cents here regarding our (the guys') trip to the centre for juvenile delinquents. We got a tour of their compound, which was very beautiful, and were told how the centre worked. It was for teenage guys who have committed small crimes (at worst, attempted murder, but mostly thievery or drug dealing). While here, they receive education (at their actual level, not their age level). They are also accommodated in buildings made to look as much like houses as possible. They also receive training in art, practical crafts, and information technologies, so that they can be productive once they leave the centre. Their artwork is then sold, and half of the money goes to the boy's family. During the tour we got to meet some of the guys, and a few of them asked if we were from another world (I'm guessing it's the blonde hair).

After the tour we all gathered in their "chapel" (it is government run, so not officially a religious place, though the church is heavily involved). We sang a few songs, and Jon and I shared parts of our testimonies (which somehow both had to do with learning to accept God's love). After they asked a few questions (about Canada and Brazil and music) and we sang another song, they invited us to eat "lunch" with them, which was a sandwich and some delicious drink that we failed to get the name of. Finally, a little later than we had planned, we bid them adieu and went to join the other half of our choir. But hey, it's Brazil, so we run on Brazil time.

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

My apologies for any panic attacks caused by the lack of blog posts! Alas, when one relies on technology for reassurance that one's children are still alive, lack of a post is mildly concerning. Rest assured, however, we're all alive and well and recovering from our computer problems and a Professor-hating stomach flu.

And so, today we post yesterday's update! Wednesday, May 7th was mostly spent at the University (also known as the local cat shelter. There's cats everywhere!).

Darryl spent the morning teaching a piano master class to several Brazilian students, with a substantial audience of both Canadian and Brazilian students.

In the afternoon, the choir had its first rehearsal of the Mozart Missa Brevis with the Brazilian string orchestra. After an hour of intensive practice, the director pronounced us in fine form, and we heaved a collective sigh of relief that we muddled our way through the entire mass without falling on our faces!

The evening was a more relaxing one. A local Capoeira marital arts group came to the retreat centre and invited us to participate in their stretches and one of their training exercises. Initially designed for slaves to defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat, the entire art of self-defence was disguised as a dance to avoid being punished by their masters. Consequently, the entire demonstration was set to indigenous music!

The day then ended with a hot dog/marshmallow roast over a fire under the mango tree in the back yard.

Today began with a choir performance at the University. We were a little nervous when only several students were in the room at the beginning of the concert, but by the time we were finished, all of the chairs were full and the room was bursting at the seams!

In the afternoon, the choir separated by gender and headed off to several prisons in the area (Go directly to jail!) to minister to the inmates. I (obviously) joined the ladies, and we then joined a local church ministry to visit a maximum security women's penitentiary just outside of the city. We visited the portion of the prison that houses pregnant inmates, or those who have just had children. With mother's day coming up this week, we shared several stories of our own mothers, and shared some of our choir songs with just female voices.

Having cancelled the faculty concert tonight due to a passing stomach flu in two of our professors, we all met up and headed back to the compound for an evening of swimming, reading, and (finally) blogging. (Insert obligatory sunset picture here...)

Good night from Fortaleza!

Some photos from the past week!

Sorry for the delay...we are doing fine, but we've been having some computer issues and Darryl and I (Karen) (who have the two main computers) have been sick with what we think are food related issues. I can report that we are on the mend and back at the University teaching masterclasses and having rehearsals for the big concert on Saturday.

Hannah will be posting later today about yesterday (Wednesday May 7th) once we are all back together again.

In the meantime I thought I would share some photos that Karl took over the last week:

From our day on the beach -  May 1:

Then that same evening at a church service:

This is from Monday May 5th - Sightseeing in Fortaleza:
The Catholic Cathedral

Jumping off the Schooner into the Ocean:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making Friends

There is really only one thing we did today: singing. All day long. Over and over. We left early in the morning (who needs sleep anyway?) for a grade school. There, we were the stars of the show for their chapels, and we received a very warm welcome.

First, we had Grades 1-5, and they were quite loud and happy and we all smiled a lot. We each introduced ourselves and what we were studying. When I said I was studying Media with a focus in video games, they all cheered really loud for some reason. Come to think of it, so did both the other age groups... They also loved it when Roberto (our translator) introduced Vaughn as Bon Jovi. And Harley as a surfer.

This same process was repeated for the junior highers and high schoolers as well. We introduced ourselves, sang a few songs, and had a couple of us share testimonies. Between the older two age groups, though, the students had recess, so we joined them. At first the language barrier was a little awkward, but a picture is worth a thousand words, they say.

In that case, I guess, we could have written a short novel. Tons of the students (girls especially) wanted pictured with each of us, and many also wanted us to sign their notebooks. A few of the guys played basketball with some of the older students, and Jon, Harley and I played a bit of table tennis (I got beaten pretty bad and decided to just watch after that).

We got back to our "home" in time for lunch, then spent a bit of time relaxing before launching into a Missa Brevis rehearsal (I must say, we are actually getting pretty good at it). After a snack/supper, we headed out to a Bible College, where we sang a few more songs. Harley got to conduct one of his compositions, and Margaret conducted a song as well. Honestly, we have such talented people in this choir. Professor Cameron also gave a lecture/message on the Old Testament in contemporary society, which was as thought-provoking and enjoyable as ever.

Now everyone else is in bed, and I shall be in a minute as well. Tomorrow is another early morning and a day at the University. Professor Karen was already there all of today doing Master classes, which went very well.

In other news, here's a video of the goal that tied it up in the soccer game we went to a few days ago:
Now, what would have made for a great video was this one guy who I'm pretty sure would have punched someone in the face if they had been close enough whenever the home team made a mistake. Wow, he was emotionally involved. Pretty entertaining. But anyway, I digress. My bed calls. Good night.