Friday, June 27, 2008

Next Days in Sofia

Yesterday and today I have been spending more time with Angela, and staying at her apartment in the center of the city with Martha, who is rejoining the choir from Athens. We have been walking to the National Palace of Culture (NDK) for the TV show and rehearsing for our concert tomorrow. This morning we visited the Philip Koutev choir. Then I came to Angela's apartment to sleep since I have gotten a bad cold, while the rest of the group went to Bistritsa to meet with some "Grannies" who have a vocal ensemble. When they came back, I had slipped into a mind-altering, exhausted slumber on the floor for 5 hours. We took a cab to a local restaurant with excellent live musicians and folk dancing. A few of us got up to sing one of our Pirin songs with the band, and plug our concert.
The Philip Koutev ensemble was an emotionally saturated meeting and I am still replaying the scenes in my mind. Tzvetanka introduced us to the conductor of the past 13 years, who had been her first teacher when she was just 14 tender years. He came out of an office as we entered the corridor leading to their sunny, stifling rehearsal studio. She told us "The most important person in my life was this man." He seemed quiet and approachable, of small stature and large-hearted. They had prepared a mini-concert for us, during the first half-second of which we were spellbound and devastated by their collective voice and the beauty of the music being executed with such power. We did our best to put more feeling into two tighter songs from our repertoire. They seemed to genuinely appreciate us, and made remarks about our perfect pronounciation and how much Tzvetanka's daughters have grown. To me, the power in this ensemble is really the story of all these women who have invested their lives to it, throughout so much turmoil - personal, social and economic. None of these superb musicians and performers can make ends meet without a separate career. And yet what they do together is incomparable.
When they opened their mouths, a sonic force entered the space from the center, creating a single, dimensionless portal in the fabric of reality. Words fail me now.
Maybe I'll post some images of other things later.

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