Making music with the conductor is an uplifting experience
Mezzo-soprano Justina Gringyte travelled to Caracas to perform with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela for the country's socially transformative El Sistema programme on July 27 and 29. She writes about her experience...
I quietly walked in - the choir were rehearsing with Maestro Gustavo Dudamel. The first sounds of the Agnus Dei mesmerised me straight away. The quality of the sound, precision, and care that they took in order to serve the music was extraordinary. From the corner, I watched how Dudamel was working with them. And the word ‘working’ is not a good description of the process I saw. It was rather an explanation by the maestro to these young, wonderful people that music is too important to not be made with great accuracy and deep feelings. And for sure I felt their hearts in the sound.
I need to say that as much as I was carried away with the magic in the room, I started getting nervous before my turn. It is not the easiest thing to meet people for the first time and to allow yourself to be vulnerable. In a very short while, I realised that only open hearts can create real musicianship. Every person in the room was listening to and reading Verdi's Requiem. The great composer gives a great responsibility! We took it. Even Maestro Gustavo told us that every time he conducts this masterpiece, he feels nervous, as if he were conducting it for the first time. These hours of reading through the score flew by, and with more confidence than I had when I started, I got back to the hotel.
The next day, we rehearsed orchestra and chorus all together. Again, I was so nervous. I saw how the orchestra’s musicians were practising every difficult corner of the piece, and they looked as though they so enjoyed going over and over a few bars of music. I felt so inspired by them. I wanted to shout out loud to every child and adult in the world of music: 'Let’s not forget why we are in music!!! Because we love it!'. So why not make it the best we possibly can, and why not enjoy the process of getting there? Throughout the long rehearsal, I didn't see tired or passive faces. They were all so professional and dedicated. I was so happy sitting in front of the maestro. From the very close distance, I could analyse his gestures; his way of inhabiting the music. Not even one minute of the rehearsal felt tiring or boring. We were all there together, we were doing our best for the sake of this important piece. The first concert was just about to start, and I still couldn't believe that I was part of it. Gustavo took us on this incredible wave and carried us until the very last second of post-performance silence.
For the second performance, I felt even more nervous - my perfectionism can drive me mad, but seeing how these wonderful youngsters are aiming for the best, I could not resist feeling part of Team 'Let's Create Something Special'! I really felt their magic, humanity, and pure souls who want to live in a moment of beauty, yet also of sorrow or even grief...
I must say, El Sistema is a very important creation. It is important to all the world. I feel extremely privileged to have met Gustavo Dudamel and every other person in the Sistema. They gave me the most beautiful and enriching time and experience in Venezuela.
All the way back to London, I was thinking 'what was that phenomenon?'. After visiting this country, gaining more knowledge about Venezuelan life, and hearing from the locals about the level of crime, it is probably no wonder that people need an 'escape planet'. On the other hand, the connection with nature, pure senses, and kindness makes the community very strong, and brings them together. They are continuously welcoming other people from all over the world, letting them know that we all can be part of the same family.
Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Justina Gringyte studied at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and National Opera Studio, supported by the Lionel Anthony Scholarship. She is currently a participant in the Jette Parker Young Artists’ Programme at the Royal Opera House 2011-13 and gave her debut as Maddalena /Rigoletto /Act III in the Placido Domingo Gala. (photo: Lukasz Rajchert)