Mùsica to Their Ears
Music has the capacity to inspire, to impassion, and to unite people of different backgrounds. Musicians share beauty and build amity through their art. The members of the Colby College Chorale, under the direction of Paul Machlin, arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 28 to do just that.
We had rehearsed for several months to master pieces that included Argentine folksongs and works by Maine composers, which we would present during spring break at churches, a school, and a U.S. ambassador's home. We hoped our repertoire would both appeal to our Argentine audience and introduce elements of our culture. At the same time, we expected the trip would broaden our understanding of a foreign culture. It didn't take long to realize we were right.
Our first experience was lunch in Buenos Aires. If you’ve never seen a group of 60-some-odd confused college students bustle into a tiny restaurant in a foreign country right in the middle of lunchtime, believe me, it’s quite a spectacle. The restaurant staff was clearly overwhelmed, and we, having just been plopped down in a foreign culture, were too. But our guides and Spanish-speaking students worked with the waiters to turn a possible disaster into an enjoyable experience. As we explored the city stores, parks, and museums, we discovered how wonderful, amiable, and exciting Argentine culture is.
We performed four concerts during our stay. Our first was at the San Pedro Church in Buenos Aires. The concert was well advertised, so the audience included many residents of Buenos Aires and foreign tourists. Since this was our first time singing to an Argentine audience, we were nervous; we weren’t sure how they would receive us. Our fears were alleviated when, at the end of what seemed to us to be a beautiful performance, the audience applauded endlessly. Many congratulated us as we exited, and we were ecstatic that we had done so well.
Our other concerts included one at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, where the ambassador spoke with us for a while and expressed his gratitude. The ambassador and his wife said that we should be honored that, through our art, we had represented our school, our state, and our country well.
After a concert at St. George’s School, a private high school in Buenos Aires, we took a tour of the campus and met with students, discussing Argentine and American cultures.
Our best concert was at the Capilla del Colegio San Jose, a church in the small town of Tandil. The acoustics were incredible—the music seemed to echo around the sanctuary endlessly and surround everyone. And the audience was amazing. They gave us standing ovations in the middle of the performance, they cried after particularly beautiful songs, and they applauded so long at the end that we did two encores. When we sang a couple of Argentine folksongs, some of the older audience members sang along. At a reception after the concert, our hosts thanked us for spreading the gift of music, and our host choir performed a beautiful Argentine song for us in gratitude.
We will always fondly remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience and the music we sang, which, a grateful priest from Tandil said, “will echo in these halls forever.”