Tuesday, August 10, 2010
What a lovely surprise. This really is a GREAT city...no offense but I didn't expect much from Quito. I thought it would be a dingy small city, typical South American capital. Plus, Bogota didn't really impress me....but wow. Quito is Andean, warm, welcoming, clean, great food, great people.
The trip to Quito started off on a bad note. One of our musicians got sick, so we had to take her to the airport medical center and hang out there for a while. When we got to the hotel we saw that MANY of the musicians were sick...I guess this is when the tour really began to take a toll on people's bodies.
The Hilton Colon was a GORGEOUS hotel. Huge rooms, organized and helpful staff, GREAT food. We all felt a sense of relief because we were at a good hotel, and because we would be staying put in one place for a week...FINALLY!!! Access to luggage!!!! No moving around.
The days in Quito kind of blended in because they were busy....there were some highlights nonetheless...
Casa de la Musica was a place where we spent lots of time. It was the venue for both our concert, and the organization helped us with logistics throughout our entire stay in Quito. Unlike the Colombian organizations that helped us (don't get me wrong, they were great but had SERIOUS infrastructure issues), Casa de la Musica was top-notch. We went there every morning for the entire day. Here musicians engaged in hard-core rehearsal, mostly because they had to learn 2 new pieces: Mahler's 4th symphony and Phillip Glass' concerto for cello. This was invigorating for everyone because musicians were tired of playing the same thing....and frankly we were tired of hearing it! For the Mahler piece we welcomed a guest soloist, soprano Disella Larusdottoir. For the Glass piece we welcomed Phillip Glass himself (pressure much???) and guest soloist on cello, Wendy Sutter. I'll talk about them a little later.
So while the musicians rehearsed, Emma and I did administrative work on Casa de la Musica grounds. It was a bit boring but it was nice to get stuff done.
I should note that at this point lots of folks suffered from altitude sickness. I only felt it a little bit (especially going up the stairs, true life) but we had oxygen tanks because many of the musicians (esp. wind instruments) ran out of air and got dizzy. It was kind of scary. Also, I gave in to the collective sickness and was really under the weather for a while :(
One of the first nights in Quito we went to a chamber concert/cocktail reception at a GORGEOUS monastery in the colonial part of town. WOW what a beautiful place! The Ecuadorian YOA musicians played string concertos by Ecuadorian composers...then some Ecuadorian trombone players teamed with our low brass boys and played everything from Carlos Santana to Caetano Veloso...it was GREAT!
One of the random duties I was assigned in Quito was taking care of Siri Danielson, Wendy Sutter's daughter. What a sweet girl. At first I was weary of taking care of a 10 year-old...I'm not exactly great with kids. But we had a blast...plus I got a chance to see some cool places in Quito. We went to the "Center of the World" (where the equator line is) and took pictures, went to a theme park, a mall, a hand craft fair and a park. I went on a swing and a bunch of weird playground games I had never seen before. I felt like a kid again!!! So much fun. Oh yeah, and we went shoe shopping. That was fun too.
Food in Quito was really good...it was nice to have potatoes instead of rice, big corn, ceviche, etc. No more agua ardiente...thank GOODNESS!!!!
The concerts went well. The audience was a bit cold...probably because they were snobbish. The tickets at this venue were $50 dollars each, which is kind of a lot for a youth orchestra.
I should also mention that in Ecuador the currency that is used is dollars. It made things a lot easier for us. Also, the cost of living in Quito, at least from what I could see, was SUPER low...which made shopping for souvenirs and stuff really easy. But it definitely made me think about sovereignty and I can't help it wonder why the HECK U.S. currency is used in this banana republic.
Quito was diverse but mostly indigenous. The few Black people I saw were picking up trash, cleaning hotel rooms, etc. Not surprising, unfortunately.
Another highlight in Quito was one of the best full-orchestra parties I have been to. One of our Board members is infamous for being old, and throwing crazy parties with bottomless booze for everyone. Of course, everyone got pretty wasted...me included. I mean, when the cocktail that is being served is called "Esperame en el Suelo" what can you expect?! I danced my life away and got home at 3am. Unfortunately I got in trouble the next day because I woke up late. What can I say though...IT WAS WORTH IT!
Quito felt kind of like a mini-residency....musicians got to practice, staff got to do work, and we all got to know the city we were in. There was a decent amount of R and R and we all felt ready to take on the next city....LIMA. More on that next!
Love and miss you all!!!!