This past week, on Thanksgiving, I gave a recital in the island capital of Santa Catarina, the city of Florianopolis.  The concert was held in a church built in the mid-1700′s, on the side of a mountain.

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It was a new way for me to spend the North American holiday, playing solo cello music in this resonant ancient space, for other music lovers of Florianopolis.  My program, of Bach, Saariaho and Geoffrey Gordon, felt different under my fingers.  Partly it was due to the cello du jour – - the quick adjustment for each concert has been an interesting challenge, and I am beginning to have more empathy for pianists.  Partly it was the particular energy of the listeners who not only had to locate this remote, remarkable venue, but drive a vehicle that was agreeable to the steep climb and rough terrain of the old cobblestone streets. Hans Twitchell, the cello professor drove us up there. During the drive, we got slightly lost and then when we did find the right road, it was so steep that we lost traction and were forced to sort of roll down the hill, backing up fortuitously into a driveway.  One gets the feeling that Brazilian driving is not for wimps!   Lastly, to finish my thoughts on this concert experience, I was aware of the incredible 3-dimensional feel of the acoustic.  Creating sound in that church was like tracing rapturous curving waves that would hang delightfully from the ceiling.

In order to play well… Or at the very least, not fall on my face, I usually try to follow a few rules for concert days: I take a nap, be alone backstage, and do not teach at all during the day.  This particular concert day, I broke all of the rules, plus the enough-sleep rule, by rising at 6 am to catch the plane that morning out of Rio.  Perhaps because everything and everyone was so new and interesting, I didn’t feel a lag in focus, even during the memorized portion of the program.  I wonder if its possible to recreate this kind of energy in the future!  Maybe the ocean also had something to do with it?  We arrived in the morning and Hans delivered us to a hotel with a great view!


By the hotel pool:


That afternoon, I gave a two-hour masterclass for Hans Twitchell’s students at UDESC, which is an acronym for University of Santa Catarina, the name of the state we were visiting. They were all really good players!  I heard Haydn D Major concerto, Piatti 3rd Caprice, and Kabalevsky Concerto, among other pieces.  They were also really warm people and passionate about the cello. The concert that evening took place at 7:30, and it felt to me as very much related to the teaching of that afternoon because several cello students were there in the front pew.

The next day was another opportunity to increase my excitement with this place.  Early that morning, I was taking in the glassy surface of the bay, the low hanging clouds, and the sounds of morning roosters, when suddenly two very noisy, green and red birds flew past me along the shoreline.  Why didn’t I take a photo?  I think I just saw some wild parrots for the first time in my life.

Later that morning, we went on a hike in the very south of the island with Hans and members of his cello “family.”

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We climbed up through mountainous jungly forest (we happened upon delicious wild Pitanga berries growing on a tree along the way) to a beach called Lagoinha do Leste. Its not possible to drive to this beach, which makes it seem to the sun- and wilderness-starved North American like paradise. Its easy to lose track of time, of place, of… Lots of things. I had to remind myself that I would be flying back to Rio that evening.


I am grateful to Hans for showing me such a different and beautiful aspect of Brazil.