Then a group of five men came to the forefront of the room and introduced themselves. They sang and their intonation was impeccable. Not only were they in tune, but their syllable matching and cutoffs were perfectly together and there was a precision that I think can only come from having such sensitive ears that are heightened due to the fact that all members were blind. Watching them read the musicography on which I had had a workshop with their fingers was so touching. They then did a typical Venezuelan song and of course one of the members Gustavo is also a phenomenal cuatrista (person who plays the cuatro, a traditional four stringed instrument). As an aside, he was also the piano accompanist for another choir. I had heard Barquisimeto was the capital for musicography in the world, that there was no global comparison, but it's one thing to hear about it and actually hear it. The word amazing is overused, but these voices were truly amazing. They had all studied at the conservatory and were members of Camera Larense, the professional chamber choir that won first place for folk music at the World Choir Games in Cincinatti in June
I greeted Gustavo and told him how amazing his voice was and how he made me cry and thanked him from the deepest part of my soul as I let the tears fall. His reply shocked me, "No, thank YOU for coming and listening. Without you as an audience, we'd have no reason to exist." While he does have a point of an audience being a requisite for an ensemble to have a purpose, I can't think of another time in my life when I have congratulated a performer or been congratulated and given all the credit to the person who made a compliment. We get so caught up in stardom, fame, and thanking people for coming to see you, that we forget the reason behind all of it (or at least IMHO the reason that should be there) of bringing people together through music and the community it manifests and the spiritual experience it CAN be when excellence is achieved. I used to think El Sistema always cared about firstly producing citizens and then musicians, but I realized it's not a sequential process; it's integral THROUGH the musical excellence, and that must be the foundation.