Posts Tagged ‘Latvia’

NYU Ensemble Latvian Tour – Part 2

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Life and work have conspired against a timely follow up to my Latvia Part 1 post, so here we are more than a month later picking up the pieces. OK, let me see if I can remember what happened next….

The morning after out marathon day in Riga we left the big city for a”run-out” to Jelgava, which was about an hour or so away. We’d be returning to our hotel in Riga after the day’s activities; a master class, dinner and the concert at night. The cats were in great playing shape after all the gigging yesterday, and really stepped it up to another level. Back to Riga to catch some z’s and pack….

The next day we checked out of the Radisson (we’d be returning for a few hours of sleep after the last gig before the flight home) bright and early and hit the road in earnest, now a four hour ride to Reskene in the eastern part of the country. Things felt a bit different here; certainly more down home and a bit somber, but not in a bad way if you know what I mean. We visited a pretty incredible place, a famous church and shrine of the”Old Believers”, which are the Orthodox worshipers of the original, archaic version suppressed at the time of Peter the Great. Many of this faith fled Russia proper to surrounding lands such as Latvia, both in the olden times and after the Revolution, I believe (I would need to do a little more research to be sure). Very severe, spiritual folk, with a feeling from another time. The church bells were incredible, and their sound transfixed me! I had recently read about the Russian Orthodox church bell tradition and their mystical aspects in a magazine article, but here was the real thing; an amazing, stupefying edifice of harmonics with the most shattering attack I could ever conceive of. I could not tear myself away from the sound.

A good concert, and a fun gathering for dinner in the hotel after. This was a much more modest establishment than our Riga hotel, but the food was good and the atmosphere seemed to promote conviviality. There was something about this area that I liked very much; its quietness had a calm intensity that opened the mind up a bit.

Next morning another longish bus ride to the most historic and gracious city of Cesis. After a causal lunch, the first order of business was the tour of the castle. Going back to the 13th century, the castle was the hq of one of the Germanic orders of warriors, a cross between knights and monks, that controlled much of these parts in those times. I would imagine those badasses were similar to the cats that Ivan the Terrible put a hurting on, as in the Eisenstein film. A pretty amazing place, well restored without a fake “medieval” treatment. We had a great guide and it was really interesting stuff – I often opt out of touristy activities, but this was another diversion well worth the time.

Cesis is known as an artistic and culturally active city, and proof was in the next activity. A presentation of a special art work to the Cesis Art Museum (located on the grounds of the Castle), donated for just this occasion of our trip by co-sponsor New York Foundation for the Arts, was given by our own Peter Cobb. Our bassist Jin Park and I played as a duo for the dignitaries present, including the US Ambassador and the Mayor of Cesis:

Afterwards at the reception I had a most enjoyable talk with the Mayor. Turned out he was an ex trumpet player and had worked his way through school! I had him almost halfway convinced to start on the long tones again….

Our last concert was a great summation of all the hard work the cats had done all year and the growing they had done on tour. It was quite an achievement to learn to function successfully as a Latin Jazz band when most of them had never played this idiom previously to our project. Everyone did very well, as you can hear here:

The Brian Lynch NYU Afro-Caribbean Jazz Ensemble

Brian Lynch – trumpet, leader, instructor
Peter Cobb – alto sax, liaison with NYFA, student tour coordinator
Casey Berman – tenor sax
Brad Gunson – trombone
Steven Feifke – piano
Jin Park – bass
Jamie Eblen – drums
Alex Raderman – percussion

Thanks to the NYU, the US Department Of State, the US Embassy, and NYFA for making this possible. Special thanks to Davida Baxter and Lauma Bruvele, our US Embassy guides and tour coordinators.

NYU Ensemble Latvian Tour Roundup – Part 1

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Effective leadership and successful teaching share the factor of selection in that if you have a good team or good students it makes the task a lot easier and good results more certain. I must have selected well judging by the way my NYU student ensemble came through in our just completed tour of the Baltic country of Latvia; they hit the ball completely out of the park, fulfilling and exceeding expectations on every level.

Followers of the blog know that this trip was a reschedule of a tour originally slated and prepared for April during last semester, but travel difficulties arising from the Icelandic volcano situation resulted in a dramatic last minute cancellation of the trip. This was a real drag for all hands; certainly for us since we had been preparing musically and otherwise for the tour all semester, and equally a disappointment for our hosts in Latvia (the US Embassy and their Latvian presenter partners) who had invested time, effort, and resources into making this opportunity happen in collaboration with NYU and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). It was touch and go for a while whether we’d be able to get a second chance, but largely due to the efforts of NYFA’s Peter Cobb (also a NYU Jazz grad student and our alto saxist!) along with everyone on the Latvian side, we were able to pull off the remake. I was quite elated to meet the rest of the band at the Riga Radisson hotel on Tuesday, the 24th of August, the students straight from New York and I having flown in the day before from Copenhagen, where I had been playing my music in quartet form the week before.

NYU Ensemble in Latvia

I took the cats out for dinner the fist night. Peter was getting some rest...

The first order of business was for everyone to get reacquainted with the music through a rehearsal. We hadn’t played together since the end of the semester in May, but there was no rust and the cats had kept the clave consciousness together that I had worked with them on in preparation for performing the Latin jazz program of music for this tour. We also commenced to getting to know our liaison and guides from the US Embassy, Davida Baxter and Lauma Bruvele, who we became quite close to over the next few days. They made everything easy and smooth for us from a to z! OK, time to get some rest and have the cats try to deal with that jet lag, because we would have quite a day of music to play tomorrow…. (more…)

Latvia Tour: Volcano 1, NYU Ensemble 0

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Sad to say, the bad winds and ash won out. My NYU Ensemble and myself were supposed to leave for Latvia today, but the tour has been postponed due to the unique travel difficulties posed by the Icelandic eruptions. We will be rescheduling the tour for sometime this summer, and our hope is to make a positive out of this situation by using the extra time to prepare even better, particularly in the realm of our cultural diplomacy efforts.

This rescheduling is certainly going to involve some added expense with ticket rebooking fees and such, so we are going to be keeping the fund raising conduit open. Tax deductible contributions to the project can be made at http://nyfablog.wordpress.com/support-this-project/ (don’t forget to put “Latvia” in the comments area when making a pledge).