“Music is the medicine of the mind” (J.A. Logan)

This morning I had delightful breakfast with my Peruvian host parents who were excited to hear about last night. When I said it had gone very well, they turned off the radio and happily put on a CD of Andean folk music from Cuzco (the mountainous city in the south where my host mom grew up), a CD we had listened to before. This time they highlighted two songs which they are convinced I need to learn on the violin: “El Cóndor Pasa” and “Las Virgenes del Sol”. We didn’t talk much over breakfast, pero sí, disfrutamos la música (but yes, we made the most of the music). When I went upstairs to grab my things for work I could still hear the peaceful flute and guitar melodies and rhythms floating their way upstairs.

My day could not have started out any better.

So, last night turned out completely different than I expected it would when I left the Centro Esperanza (CE) office at 1pm. While walking home I spontaneously decided to enter in the music school I pass everyday on my way to work, hoping to get the names of some musicians with whom I could play. There, I was introduced to a fourth-year music student specializing in violin who told me I was a person “caída del cielo” (who had fallen from heaven) because yes, they were looking for violinists. In fact, there would be a rehearsal at 7pm for the Bach concert he and some other classical musicians were preparing for November. We agreed to meet at 6:30pm at the music school to head to the rehearsal together. My goal had been accomplished in less than five minutes.

When I rushed home just after 6pm from my second visit for the day to the CE site ‘Antonio Raimondi’ for ‘Reforzamiento Escolar’ (homework help/tutoring) plus a mini English class, I had just enough time to eat a quick dinner (delicious sliced avocado in a mini baguette…ñam, ñam, ñam…), grab my violin and head out again. I was not alone as my host dad was also heading downtown to visit his son at the bank where he works. My host day insisted that he was not going to let me carry my violin with the reasoning that I had had a very long day.

We had a great chat while walking down the avenue leading to the school. Miraculously, at a time when traffic is heavy in Chiclayo, we had no problems crossing the streets; as a former police officer, host dad Isaac was confident to calmly direct oncoming traffic with his right hand to make sure we didn’t have to wait for eons to be able to cross the streets. When I told him it was as if he was still wearing his policeman uniform he chuckled.

The chamber orchestra rehearsal was in the living room of a friendly conductor, the first Peruvian I have met who is part German. There were three 1st violins, two 2nd violins and a violist. My fellow musicians were happy to see a new face and I was happy to jump back into something that is familiar to me. And as a dog lover, I was amused by the fact that we had an audience: Harry, a Dalmatian, on the other side of the sliding glass door. (Unfortunately Harry was not always as amused with our high notes as we were with his with adorable sporadic sounds, which usually happened in between one take and another of any given passage).

After rehearsing Bach’s Concerto No.3 in E BWV 1042 and Bach’s Concerto in Fm for piano, humorous violist Marco made the same sort of viola jokes that one would hear anywhere else in the world—classical music has its ways! A round of kisses on the cheek and “hasta luego” greetings were given by all before we headed out onto the busy streets, much more relaxed that we’d been upon arrival. Instant friends for real!

I was simply exhausted when I walked in the door at nearly 10pm and only briefly mentioned my successful chamber orchestra rehearsal before saying “buenas noches” and retreating to my room. I still had the third movement of Bach’s Concerto No.3 in E in my head, but this was (unfortunately) evicted all too soon by the cumbia music coming through my closed window–probably the first time I was not happy to hear Latin dance music since arriving in Peru!

* * *

Before going to bed I read news about Pat LePoidevin, a singer-songwriter and talented musician whom I have known for several years now. He is about to release a new album in the Yukon and yesterday he was featured on CBC Radio about the release. In April 2013, this past winter, Pat asked some other musicians from my university and I to record our respective trumpet, trombone, voice and violin tracks on his new album: American Fiction. Here it is: https://patlepoidevin.bandcamp.com/album/american-fiction 

American Fiction

That recording day on a cold Easter weekend seems like ages ago now, yet I can hardly believe the album release is so soon! I played a minuscule role in the creation of the album, but had a blast heading from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia for about 36 hours to take part in the project. We crashed at a big communal house in Halifax, we had a good night out and then the next day we headed to a studio along the coast and spent many hours there with a Chilean sound technician and his giant dog Penguin!! I am excited for Pat because this is a stunning album. It also involves his childhood friend Lewis who wrote short stories to accompany each of the album tracks, named after actual small towns in the U.S.A. Pat is half American and since he “has never felt American”, he chose a theme which would allow him to connect to his roots by exploring his passion for history through research, which he blended into the song lyrics.

Hearing the CBC recording reminded me of Canada, of my musical past. I couldn’t help but listen to the new album tracks (which I have advanced access to), songs which are more like stories than anything, as I continued reminiscing–and the loud cumbia music from outside added a…special beat, even through my headphones 🙂

I was delighted to read that Pat will soon be playing a show about 12 minutes away from my parent’s home, at the same venue where I first saw him play during the winter holidays of my second year of uni. Less than 6 weeks later, I played with Pat and a dozen other musicians in a sold-out show on the stage of the university’s conservatory concert hall, one of my most memorable moments at university. I was thrilled to be able to play several other shows in various places in Atlantic Canada that winter and spring. I spent the following year abroad in Europe, but had a wicked time playing with Pat in a packed hall in the first month of my last undergrad year. Then in April, my last month of my degree, I was lucky to be able to add some violin to American Fiction. It was not something what we wrote in advance; it was improvised. I’ll always remember both the shows and the road trips with Pat and his girlfriend Ally (and all the funny moments along the way).

Last night as sleepiness gained the better of me, all those moments felt like a very distant blur of creativity–and as I write this post while taking in the quiet buzz of Spanish, of phones ringing and of cars and motorcycles (and their respective horns) passing in the street, it feels even farther. I am so thrilled to have found some talented musicians here in Chiclayo! There is so much I would love to both learn from and share with them in the months to come. Music will indeed be the ‘medicine’ I need in my long, busy days doing work in a non-profit here in northern, coastal Peru. Sending much love to you!!

4 thoughts on ““Music is the medicine of the mind” (J.A. Logan)

  1. WOW! What a cool experience Ciera! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to following your musical journey.
    Alisha 🙂

  2. Cristian was close – he meant to say ‘caída ángel del cielo’….Wishing you peace, happiness, and just enough annoyance from Latin dance music to keep you energized!!! 🙂 “Music is love in search of a word.” – Sidney Lanier

  3. Thanks, everyone! It is always great to know that people actually read what I write and that although you are far away, we are still connected. I send you each mucho ❤

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