Saturday, 23 January 2010

When In Rome

Do as the Romans Do.

From Wikipedia:

St. Ambrose displayed a kind of liturgical flexibility that kept in mind that liturgy was a tool to serve people in worshiping God, and ought not to become a rigid entity that is invariable from place to place. His advice to Augustine of Hippo on this point was to follow local liturgical custom. "When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are." Thus Ambrose refused to be drawn into a false conflict over which particular local church had the "right" liturgical form where there was no substantial problem. His advice has remained in the English language as the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

For more information on MJWB's personal encounter with St. Ambrose, click here

Monday, 18 January 2010

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I spent the first days of 2010 in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas. About half my time was spent in the state's capital, Puerto Ayacucho. The other half was spent on the rivers that head into the rain forest and lead to Cerro Autana and the lands of the Piaroa and Yanomami.

I brought my video camera and a few instruments with me. I wanted to continue exploring working with a click track while filming performances in different locations, as I did with Candy from Strangers. I took about 45 minutes of performance video at several locations and hope to edit a few more pieces together. This was my first time working with Final Cut Express.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Venezuela, December 2009

I arrived in Venezuela at around 3am on November 30, and the next day was at work rehearsing as an accompanist for the Coral Infantil Empresas Polar (Children's Choir of Polar Companies.) During December, there were a bunch of performances at Polar, which is the main distributor for beer and soft drinks in Venezuela. Polar supports the arts wholeheartedly, particularly choral groups from around Venezuela. This was the 18th year of the Festival Coral.

The performances went well, and I was able to hear a lot of music performed by different choral groups who came from all over Venezuela. They performed mostly Venezuelan Christmas music, which is called aguinaldos. The music is infused with rhythm, melody and joy.

In between all of the choral concerts I wound up playing with a wedding band. I had no idea what I would be playing and totally flew by the seat of my pants. I haven't done a gig like this in a while. I enjoyed it very much, and was able to experience a lot of Venezuelan wedding traditions, such as the "crazy hour." This happens late into the festivities when stilt walkers, dancers, clowns, etc come out onto the dance floor and all pandemonium breaks loose.

We were up very early the next morning as there was a choral performance at a shrine out in the country. We drove about two hours in a bus with all of the children. We arrived at a small village called Betania, which I had never heard of. We were there a bit early so I was able to look around. There were a lot of messages of thanks along all of the rock walls surrounding the outdoor chapel. Some people also left photos, id cards, flowers, candles, hair (!) etc. I soon started to realize that this was no ordinary shrine, as more and more people were showing up with huge bouquets and cradling statues of the saints of all sizes. The mass was soon underway, and the kids performed a few songs. Then we were back on the bus to Caracas. (We broke down on the way back, but it was still fun!) Here are some pics from the shrine:
Our Lady of Betania
When I had some down time I looked into Betania and learned that it was one of only four sites in the world where apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been officially approved by the Catholic Church in the 20th Century. People from all over the world travel to Betania hoping to catch a glimpse of the Virgin. All of this started with a woman by the name of Maria Esperanza.

My research led me to this outstanding video, which is narrated by none other than Fantasy Island's Ricardo Montalbán!!!

A few days after Christmas I ran into a decoration of Santa Claus playing an accordion at a travel agency. After I left, I stumbled upon the graffiti in the photos below right around the corner. A lot of the graffiti in Caracas is beautifully rendered. This one is my absolute favourite. I mean how often do you encounter a Santa Claus playing accordion followed by an incredible work of graffiti featuring a dazed monkey and another old man playing accordion??? Venezuela! I love you!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Treny Rehearsal at Jordan Hall : XI Zal Ojcowski

MJWB's Treny, movement XI Zal Ojcowski from May 2009 rehearsal at NEC's Jordan Hall, Boston, MA

Dawn Upshaw - soprano
Gilbert Kalish - piano
Guy Fishman - cello
Laura Heinrichs - flutes
MJWB - hyper-accordion

Text : Tren VI of Jan Kochanowski's Treny
A translation of Tren 6 by Adam Czerniawski

Audio Recording by Joel Gordon
was commissioned by the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Pics from Severance Hall

Pics from Alisa Weilerstein, Jamey Haddad and friends November 20th performance at the CSO's Severance Hall posted on flickr.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Trenzinho do Caipira

A performance of Trenzinho do Caipira by Heitor Villa Lobos.

Alisa Weilerstein - cello
Jamey Haddad - percussion
Keita Ogawa - percussion
Dylan Moffit - percussion (out of frame)
MJWB - accordion

From a live performance on Cleveland's WCPN Around Noon Program.