On Thursday 10 April, the City of London Sinfonia is embarking on a journey around South America with innovative cellist, Matthew Barley. Taking inspiration from his own travels and musical experiences in Brazil, Matthew has arranged music by some of the most well-known South American songwriters ready for a debut performance with the City of London Sinfonia. In anticipation of this exciting cultural event, we asked Matthew to give us an insight into life and music in Brazil as well as the songs featured in the concert.
In Brazil, music is a way of life, and is spiritually connected to many people through their religion in a way that is unfamiliar for Europeans – and even in a non-religious sense, as you walk the streets of Rio de Janeiro, you see how music is so deeply embedded in their life. There are bands busking that people would pay good money to hear in a London jazz club and the music is so completely absorbed into the body that it is inextinguishable from dance – this is most obvious in the Carnival. All of this music expresses a love that is rare – a love of “the stuff of music”…
The first song in Thursday’s programme, Ela e Carioca by Caetano Veloso (possibly familiar to some ears through its feature in the Pedro Almodovar film Talk to Her) is a yearning love song – the sort of song that nobody does quite as well as the Brazilians. Beatriz by Chico Barque is similarly love-fuelled, with extraordinary lyrics about a young student who falls completely and hopelessly in love with a tightrope walker from a circus. So many popular love songs around the world are cliché-ridden and based around a very small number of chords, Beatriz, however, has over 20 chords and a fabulously unpredictable melodic line. Mantequeira Range by Paulo Jobim & Rolando Bastos and Milonga del Ángel by Astor Piazzolla – the great Argentinean genius of Nuevo Tango – are both instrumental pieces originally. They are both such wonderful pieces and fit in perfectly in this context.
Águas de Março (‘The Waters of March’) by Antonio Carlos Jobim is a song about the floods of water that cascade down the mountains of Rio in March. The lyrics are a list of the bits of litter and bric-a-brac that the water carries with it, making it a truly fascinating piece of music. Many think of Jobim as the greatest song-writer of all time, and many think of Águas as Jobim’s greatest song, so it’s not hard to see how highly the song ranks in Brazilian repertoire. I have played many of these songs with Brazilian musicians, and their love for their music, and the very natural way they play, is infectious.
Matthew Barley, March 2014
Want to know more? Come and hear Matthew Barley’s arrangements played alongside John Tavener’s profound The Protecting Veil on Thursday 10 April at Christ Church Spitalfields. Meanwhile get ready and listen to our playlist of the songs featured in the concert and other South American hits!
Concert will also be performed at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds on the 5 April.
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