Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Music Knows No Borders

Three concerts in two consecutive nights? That’s nothing special for the travelling musicians of Poetica Musica, a New York-based consortium of Soprano voice, flute and guitar! But what if I told you we had to cross an international border over a river that separates the European Union and Russia to make it happen with concerts in both Narva, Estonia, and Ivangorod, Russia? Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Concert at Narva Nursing Home

Poetica Musica, played and sang in various locations in both Estonia and Russia on their most recent tour last week – and I had a front row seat to some of their best concerts! Prior to their performance in Narva, my colleague Tiiu Vitsut took the group – including Eleanor Valkenburg (soprano), Oren Fader (guitar), and Jessica Han (flute) – to play in Padise Manor, Tohisoo Manor, Paldiski High School, Tallinn Tondi Middle School, Tallinn Linnamäe Russian Lyceé, The International School of Estonia, and the Hopner House in Tallinn Old Town (in the Town Hall Square, no less!) where they performed songs and melodies by Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, and George Gershwin; as well as spirituals by J. Rosamund Johnson and Betty Jackson King; and Nuevo Tango pieces by the King of Tango Astor Piazzolla.

In Narva Castle 

Even though Narva greeted us with stormy weather and city-wide road construction, the positive emotions of the elderly tenants of Narva Nursing home made us forget about the elements and let the musicians’ inner sun shine bright. Once Oren announced Piazzolla’s Tango piece (and I translated it for the audience), a small grey-haired lady in a wheelchair asked at once, “Will they dance for us, too?”

Most people I bring to Narva only get to have their photo taken on the Estonian side of the river, with Ivangorod fortress in the background. Well, not Poetica Musica! Read on!
On the Estonian side of the river

Our next concert was held in the Refectory, which serves as a concert hall in Narva Castle, and it filled up quickly with Narva’s music lovers and connoisseurs. Altogether, about two hundred people attended and many shouted “bravo!” demanding an encore. What I really liked about these concerts is the instant feedback we got from the audience. A woman came up to us after the performance and said she loved Rober Beaser’s Mountain Songs, and told us about how they reminded her of Hutsul shepherds in the Carpathian Mountains, where she used spend a lot of time.
On the Russian side of the river (Narva Castle in the background) 

The next day, courtesy of Narva City Government’s Culture Department, we boarded a van and crossed the border into Russia. The first thing we saw upon entering town was a hand painted poster announcing the concert at the local Cultural Center! Later, as I walked around in town, I saw more of them.

My colleague Tatyana Kosmynina from the Public Affairs Section of the Consulate General in St. Petersburg took us to the Ivangorod fortress, a first for Poetica Musica and me as well. Similarly to the Narva Castle, it has a long and interesting history. This is where I took a snapshot of Eleanor, Oren, and Jessica with the Estonian caste in the background – a rare occasion for American (or any) performers.
Hand painted signs advertised the concerts

We were pleasantly surprised at least three times more that day. First, when a man at the hotel approached us and said he attended the concert in Narva the previous night. He lives in Narva but he liked the performance so much that he, too, crossed the border to hear Poetica Musica play once more on the Russian side of the River! In addition, after the concert, which was well attended, a local woman approached the musicians and said her daughter was on a high school exchange program in Minnesota and asked for a photo with them. She said she would send it to her daughter to show her how she, too, is getting familiar with American culture and that it would be the topic of their next Skype conversation.

Finally, the Cultural Center Director Zoya Pogodina graciously let the group keep one of the hand painted poster. As I helped them detach the poster, we saw that the artist had used old wallpaper. What a great way to recycle!
Poetica Musica in Ivangorod, Russia

I bid farewell to my new friends after I took this photo and crossed the border back into Estonia on foot, walking along the “Friendship Bridge.” Tatyana told me that the gang explored The Russian Museum and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg yesterday. They also gave their last concert in the Kochneva House concert hall.

The bridge connecting Narva with Ivangorod and Estonia with Russia is named “Friendship Bridge,” first and foremost because it connects people. Similarly, Poetica Musica is connecting and uniting people all over the world with their music. After all, music is a language that every single person in the world knows and, luckily, it knows no boundaries, nor borders.

Post and photos by Social Media Assistant, U.S. Embassy Tallinn.