Friday, February 15, 2013

The Outspoken Tune of El Sistema: Choir

With a little over a week left before the big departure, I have decided to write up an entry with my hopes of what I will see while I am down there. Coming from the choral side of things, I realize as are many of the fellows this year, not the "traditional" El Sistema aficionado, having no experience with the strings side of things. But recently, I think people are unaware how renowned the choral side of El Sistema is, specifically Schola Cantorum and the White Hands choir. I'm not sure why this side doesn't receive the same amount of publicity or touring that the SBSO seems to, but I really want to correct the notion that El Sistema is only for orchestras. I certainly understand the argument that most children have exposure to choir, but many do not have exposure to the instruments involved to be in an orchestra. But even if children sing in a group at their church (this was the main assumption where access would be provided) is it with the rigor and excellence that could be manifested through an ES-inspired program?

 Finally, El Sistema choral programs are starting to emerge: Sister Cities Girl Choir and Atlanta Music Project's AMPlify. But we still have a long way to go in terms of awareness and publicity to be on par with orchestras. I don't mean this solely in a competitive tone. I mean this to illustrate the demonstrative power choir can have on a community and the excellence that can be achieved through this. The fact that anyone can sing, parent, child, 3 yr old, 70 yr old. The fact that it can be performed anywhere. And the fact that in addition to children intrinsically reading, the power of words can add that extra "heart-tugging" layer that orchestras simply cannot do. Of course this is a biased statement, but how many of us carry around that famous quote, adage, or mantra daily. Imagine if that could be exemplified and multiplied through children's voices!

Yesterday, I had a very unique and blessed experience to participate with Afghanistan National Institute of Music's students, learning ragas and other Indian classical concepts, Afghan folk songs, and a melodic dance song that is still ringing in my ears. Whenever I will reflect on this song, I will think of the two girls playing a piano duet, or the gaggle of girls who taught us the song, so innocent and softspoken, or sitting on the carpet listening to the tabla drums and sarote, all memories realizing that ANIM is one of the few co-ed schools where young girls like these can have access to things like piano lessons. Yesterday was the type of event that is hard to blog about, actions speak louder than words. I can say it was an incredibly memorable day, not only learning about new musical concepts and repertoire, but once again seeing the true power of music in a community where music was banned less than a decade ago.

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