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Caracas: Day 6

Buenos Dias!

Today was one of the pivotal ones.  Our first with the new choirs here in Venezuela, this rehearsal for Mahler’s 8th was a mass of people and a wall of sound created that swept through the hall and into our hearts.  A monumental influence in the world of music:

Approximately 12% of choral forces on stage are pictured here

After seeing our old friends the “Bolivars” again, around 13 of us headed over to the nearest nucleo to see and hear what was going on at the Simon Bolivar Conservatory of Music.  It turned out to be an absolute stunner.

Learning center to some of the finest musicians in Venezuela

Most of us didn’t know exactly what to expect.  When we entered their rehearsal room we were greeted by 75 pairs of open, eager eyes:

Ready to play!

Once we all piled into the room, people started getting used to each other.  One of our group, Clyde Mitchell, was inquisitive and asked different musicians all kinds of questions:

It wasn't just the excellent coffee, there was real excitement in the air


It was fascinating to see how a completely different group of musicians handles performing and rehearsing the same works we do in Los Angeles.  A technical difference to start: The concertmaster tuned each section individually, under the strictest of quiets.

"Silencio, por favor"


Once the orchestra was tuned up, we were graced with the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.  Wow:

Meredith Snow reacted as we all did:

Violist Meredith Snow grins from ear to ear while section-mate Leticia Oaks Strong looks on

To be so close to a force as powerful as these young orchestral musicians was life-changing.  The potential in each one of these people is enough to change the musical landscape.  It was from a nucleo not much different than this one our daring and brilliant Gustavo came.  There was complete absorption, total attention, passion and excitement in these students.  The sections each breathed together.  When the conductor, Sergio Rosales, rehearsed the flute section, the rest of the orchestra hummed along with their respective parts.  Perhaps more telling than the music we heard was what we saw in their eyes:

Most if not all of the students here had their Tchaikovsky parts memorized.

Following the performance, the winds and brass moved to another room for a sectional while the strings remained in the initial rehearsal room.  We had the chance to play Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for strings, sitting next to them and rotating throughout the section.  A fascinating learning experience for us to be so close to these tuneful souls!  After an entirely too short visit, it was time for us to go and perform the heavy and brutal 6th symphony of Mahler.  Before we left the nucleo, we each took many photos with the students:

"Come back, come back!"

The concert went as planned; the Philharmonic and audience were equally thrilled with Mr. Mahler and his intense emotional roller coaster.  And of course, we must not forget his hammer of fate.

That’s it for today- tomorrow we have a muestro of combined El Sistema forces from throughout the country followed by a performance of the 10th and first symphonies.  That should be equally informative and inspirational.


Hasta Luego!


Posted on: 3 Comments
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3 Responses


  2. Julia says:

    So incredible to be integrated with the Venezuelan musicians during rehearsal! Will you perform together as well? Your pics are fabulous!

    • Ricky says:

      We are playing side-by-side with one of the Simon Bolivar Orchestras this Saturday in a live broadcast performance of Mahler’s 8th. We did the same at the Shrine a couple weeks ago. We just had our penultimate concert tonight of Mahler’s bookends: #1 and #10. It went really well and the crowd loved it. Fun times!

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