Friday, June 18, 2010

Long Live the Good Life: Touring in Central America

After our cultural immersion in Guatemala, the rest of the Central American tour could not have been more opposite in lifestyle, circumstance, and societal interaction.

There's something about the people of Central America that is so fundamentally different from any other cultures with whom I've come in contact. Central Americans are warm, outgoing, laid back, and very disarming. It's shocking how quickly you find yourself dropping your guard on every level. (For what it's worth, the only cold person I met while there was an American...) Moreover, the people seemed affected by Barrage in ways I'm not sure I've quite ever witnessed (or rather, I'm better able to articulate them after my second tour in the region).

If I had to crudely bastardize all culture south of the border into some defining characteristic, it would deal with a strong appreciation, in every aspect of life, for passion. Whether that be in cooking, in relationships with people, or in the arts, those cultures crave connecting with passion and emotion. For a relevant example, think of the exciting traditions of dance and its music which come to us from Central/South American culture: salsa, rumba, tango, etc. Those dances are all extremely visceral in nature. That being said, audiences in Central America seemed to feel our music and be affected emotionally by our performance in a very right-brained way. It was as though they accepted Barrage immediately for what it was ("Dancing, singing violinists? But of course!") and were experiencing the show with us after only a few songs.

[In stark contrast, I find, are some European audiences, who often seem to experience Barrage in a left-brained way, actively listening to and analyzing each piece at face-value as an independent statement of Barrage's artistry. Ultimately, however, they also find themselves swept up by the final package. I'm by no means a sociologist or anthropologist, but I'd point to the rich--though distinctly different--musical and cultural heritages of both continents as the primary causes behind the differences in audience type: European art/music is traditionally affected by an intellectual, aesthetic bent (see: your local Italian restaurant with its sculptures, muted colors, and classical music), whereas Central American art/music is much more affected by vibrancy, emotion, and rhythm (see: your local Mexican restaurant with its vivid piñatas, bright color palette, and salsa music). I don't think that either type of audience behavior is better or more viable than the other, but it's fascinating performing for both and witnessing their cultural differences from the stage.]

Especially considering that this tour included our premieres in El Salvador and Honduras, with second visits to Guatemala and Costa Rica, the turn out for our shows and the support of Barrage was jaw-droppingly incredible. At our debut in San Salvador, which by far had the most publicity of the shows (multiple newspaper, radio, and TV interviews and appearances), the 1,400 seat theatre was not only sold out, but tickets were also being scalped outside the venue for $95 USD. Ninety-five dollars! Crazy. In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, we were performing at the invitation of the First Lady. The First Lady! Furthermore, we had security detail escorting us to most of our performances. What violinists have security detail?! (Admittedly, it seemed a little unnecessary at first, until we experienced some stranger-than-usual fan behavior which made me glad to have back-up.)

This oddly unfamiliar celebrity-like status also provided very different experiences on a professional (and dare I say political?) level. We found ourselves--thrice!--dining at the homes of Canadian Ambassadors/Attach

With Canadian Attaché Ram Kamineni and his wife in Guatemala.

With Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador, Claire Poulin, and her husband Gaston Gauvin. The Japanese Ambassador to El Salvador, Shisei Kaku, and his wife are at the far right.

With Canadian Ambassador to Costa Rica, Neil Reeder, and his family. This visit marked our second time having the pleasure of his company as he also invited us last year!

All things considered, touring in Central America definitely provides such a exciting change from touring as usual in the States. It's crazy enough just getting to go to the home of one ambassador! As I've mentioned previously, something I really miss on the road is being in a home, so not only were these dining experiences really neat, but it was also just so nice to be in someone's home.

In Costa Rica, they say, "
¡pura vida!," which literally translates to "pure life," but means so much more--it embodies the whole philosophy of passionately enjoying every moment to the fullest. So, it seems oddly poetic to wrap up this post by combining a bit of Costa Rica with the title of the Coldplay tune we cover in the show...

¡Viva la pura vida!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Finally Home and Finally Updating!

So we just got back from our 3.5 week China tour a few nights ago. Not only am I glad to be back in the States, but I'm also just glad to be back home for three weeks (the most significant break we've had since last August!). I anticipate heaping amounts of the following: practicing, running, sleeping, and hanging out with family and friends.

I've also planned for a lot of blogging, especially since I wasn't even caught up with Central America by the time I went to China, where I didn't have access to blogger...which means I need to get started!


After our first two days off in Guatemala, the rest of the tour had significantly less free time as we had performances in Guatemala, El Salavador, Honduras and Costa Rica, which meant a lot of traveling.

Here are some pictures of a few miscellaneous tidbits which should be thrown in prior to posting my wrap-up entry on Central America (which I've already composed).

Public buses in the area are all American school buses that have been repainted in wild colors. See above. Not the best ones I saw, but it didn't occur to me to try and snap some photos until the last few days there...

We sat in this 15 passenger van for hours as we traveled back and forth between San Salvador (El Salvador) and Tegucigalpa (Honduras). Below are some pictures of the beautiful drive.

[This photo was snapped out the car window as we sped down the highway. I was pleasantly surprised to see it turned out so well!]

I was shocked to see my friend Carla, who did her Masters in violin at ASU while I was there, at the show in San José! (Sorry Carla, again, that I was so sweaty! Wearing a vest on a hot, humid stage isn't always the smartest idea...)