Sunday, November 30, 2008
It's now Sunday morning, November 30. It took us just about 24 hours to get home, and luckily this time we didn't have any delays or mishaps (save some scary turbulence for a little while over the Atlantic). Here's a brief recount of our last days in Russia:
When I left off it was Thursday. In the morning, Dr. Meyer arranged for us students to take a walking tour through St. Petersburg with a well-versed English-speaking Russian, Eugene. The tour took us through a large open area which we were told was used originally for military training. An "eternal flame" burned there continuously to honor fallen soldiers. We then moved onwards over the Neva River, the main waterway that runs through St. Petersburg as an historic relic of trade and the place of inception for the nation's navy. On the other side we toured the home of Peter the Great, who founded the city approximately 300 years ago. He lived very modestly in a log cabin that was essentially 25 ft x 50 ft in area. The home was encased in a brick building to preserve it as it was, complete with furniture and personal belongings inside. The tour was much appreciated and helped give me a historical perspective on the city that hosted us for a week.
Shortly afterward, we had to head back for rehearsal with the St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra. The musicians performing in this group were very well-trained musicians. Their technical facility on their instruments was evident and they played with a great level of musicality. From my perspective as a horn player, it was interesting to note the subtle differences the other horn players exhibited in their own playing. For example, they used a rather wide, quick vibrato during sustained notes. Their hand position in the bell was more closed than I am used to playing myself, and resulted in a more subdued tone. The principal horn's sound was beautiful nonetheless... an inspiration to me as a model musician. His name was Alexander (Sasha) Chevnosky... I wish I was able to converse with him more, but as you might expect, our conversing was limited to "bravo" and a series of facial or hand gestures :) The concert was the following day and was well attended and very well received! It was admirable to observe Dr. Meyer transcending the language barriers to run rehearsals, and ultimately, a successful concert. It's also interesting to observe the reactions of the Russian musicians while playing "Death of Klinghoffer," a series of choruses from the opera by the contemporary composer, John Adams. A trumpet player behind me said in broken English, "Is good music, but is crazy!" Amazing how they would not have an oppurtunity to perform this music if it weren't for Dr. Meyer's direction of the group.
As I said, our journeys home went smoothly, and we arrived back in ithaca at 10 PM (it felt like 6AM to us). I luckily was able to stay awake the whole way home, which allowed me to more or less get back on schedule to EST. All in all, this was a wonderful trip and collaboration between students, teachers, and international colleagues in music. I'm very thankful to have been given the opportunity and to be a graduate student studying at Ithaca College. It was an experience I will never forget.
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