Notes from a member of the audience.
(Salamanca, June 15th, 2019)
It was 9pm and a soft light was still pouring in through the windows of the church Purísima Concepción. The Spanish superlative “purísima” means “very pure.” The task at hand was simple, yet extremely challenging: could Groton’s Orchestra be as superlative as the sacred place that was hosting it? Could the music be “purísima”?
The first piece of the recital was Mozart’s Magic Flute
and by the time it was over, the sun had finally set, and the church had filled up with people. It is not a small temple, but a majestic baroque building, with marble brought from Italy and a mesmerizing painting of the virgin Inmaculada Concepción that embraced our entire orchestra composed of 27 talented musicians. It was time for magic, time to show that music has no borders, no limitations, no nationalities.
The Italian painting of the Immaculate Conception exudes a powerful light that seems to come from within the virgin and the surrounding angels. I only mention this because the orchestra was now playing Beethoven and every note seemed to turn the light on the painting even brighter, broader, pristine. The people from the audience were leaning on the edge of their seats, lured into the altar by the music that rippled out of the instruments. Perhaps they were leaning forward on their seats because Allison Jiang was also leaning at the edge of hers, carried by who knows what supernatural powers. Julien Lee Heberling, the first violin, was leading with brio: no hesitation, but pure serenity, all charisma. Mr. Terranella, the orchestra conductor, had found a way to make the audience dive into the music. It all seemed like a powerful dream made of some strange substance that exceeds the power of light. Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture had produced such complex emotions that it was difficult to even find a name for them. The audience was enraptured.
The String Quartet played Antonin Dvořák and when Gloria Hui initiated the first notes of the Lento, I came to the discovery that, perhaps, humans are also made of strings, strings that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but that can be sensed through music. As I heard Montanna play the cello it became clear that our insides are deeper than we think. Some of the notes, especially the bass notes a cello can play -if played well- reveal that we have as many secret chambers and caves as oceans do. It is in those caves that unpredictable emotions are hidden, and music can certainly bring them up to the surface.
The most magical moment of the evening was yet to come with Bizet’s Arlésienne, the last piece the Groton Orchestra played. It is energetic, festive, joyful. Wind instruments -especially flutes- play an important role as also does the tambourine. The music was fizzy and spread around the church like colorful fireworks. It was then that I noticed three blurred images behind a smoked glass to the left of the orchestra: cloistered nuns! They had come to listen to immaculate music. It was 10:15pm when the musicians played their last note. There was a standing ovation and many “Bravos!” bounced off the church’s portentous pillars. The locals were ecstatic. They knew that if their magnificent temple could speak, it would produce the kind of music the Groton Orchestra had played that evening, for it was a voice that was very pure, “purísima.”