Aurora in Brazil: Part Two

25th April 2014

This morning sees us en route to Belo Horizonte in Minais Gerais province, filled with a particularly warm afterglow from last night’s memorable concert in São Paulo.

Following the arrival of the main group of Aurora players on Wednesday we worked for two more afternoons with a group of twenty local students, many drawn from the music education centres operated by the Guri Project in the outer districts of São Paulo. Ranging in age from 10 to 20, the students were an absolute joy to work with: full of enthusiasm, ideas, and excitement about experiencing a new kind of shared music-making.

John Barber’s extraordinary knack for harnessing the creative energy of a group of young people of widely varying ages and abilities meant that over the course of just a couple of sessions, the students had produced three new pieces of music, working alongside John and the Aurora players to build up their melodic, rhythmic and harmonic structures.

This was the first time that the students had experienced this kind of composition workshop, and it was thrilling to see them embrace it so fully, improvising alongside the Aurora players and steering us in all sorts of (sometimes completely unexpected!) musical directions. 15-year old pianist Daniel gave us some brilliantly unhinged circus music for piano four hands; 12-year old Herbert conjured a real ear-worm of an opening melody for a new song; and the sax section produced some epic filmic moments that were straight out of Hollywood.

The project culminated in a joint performance at the auditorium of the Faculdad Santa Marcelina (FASM), in which the new pieces created and performed by the students alongside the Aurora players were interspersed with music ranging from Bartok, Berio and Brahms to Thomas Ades and Anna Meredith.   Attended by a capacity crowd – mostly comprising other students from the Guri project – the concert was an electrifying occasion, and one of the most moving any of us could remember.

And after that of course, it was time for some São Paulo sushi.