Greetings from Buenos Aires!
A few days ago on November 18th, Craig and I finished a 40+ day cruise itinerary from Montreal, Canada, to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Looking back, we have given over 130 performances in this time. We continue to be amazed at how fortunate we are to have this opportunity to travel the world and perform music.
Since our last post we have traveled down along the coast of Chile (where I was nearly sent to court for accidentally bringing an apple off of the ship and not declaring it on our declaration forms) and through the Chilean Fjords (we performed an arrangement of “Let it Go” from Frozen as we pulled up to a glacier, and it was one of those unforgettable moments for us and our audience). From there we passed along Cape Horn (the southern most land mass on the South American continent) - we woke up at 5:30 AM to catch the once in a lifetime view . . . even though we will see it three more times! We had calm seas, but the area has a history of being one of the most turbulent places in the world to sail with waves reaching up to 100 ft high! The port of Ushuaia, Argentina was one of my favorites. I felt like I was both in Switzerland and Colorado at the same time, with the southern most city in the world nestled just below steep mountains. We were lucky to have good weather so that we could dock in Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands — supposedly ships don’t make it here often due to the turbulent weather conditions. The British ruled country was a miniature version of England, featuring high prices, currency in pounds, and the characteristic red telephone booths. I was surprised to find absolutely 0 free WiFi anywhere in the port, making it very difficult to keep up with the outside world which was even worse given we had a couple days at sea prior to and after the Falkland Islands.
Next up, we docked in Montevideo, Uruguay. To our surprise we were put on a guest excursion to a winery and enjoyed a three course meal and five wine selections in addition to a bus tour of the city. From there we cruised west to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, on the famous “Florida” shopping street, we heard locals everywhere yelling “Cambio, Cambio, Cambio!” They were looking for people to exchange American dollars for Argentinean currency, because the currency in Argentina fluctuates constantly while the US dollar remains stable. After a couple more days at sea we had a much needed beach day on the oceanside city of Santos, and then we finally docked in Rio. Rio had only been on my radar for around a year, and I instantly fell in love with the geography of the city, which seems to have been built around the wondrous Christ the Redeemer monument (even though this wasn’t built until the early 20th century). This is a city I will surely be revisiting, but unfortunately not on this cruise contract.
It has been such a different experience to travel in this way with usually around 6-7 hours in port and no repeated ports during this particular itinerary. I usually prefer to travel alone, but I have come to find a balance between getting out and enjoying time with my co-workers for drinks and meals in port. If you are ever in Buenos Aires, there is amazing steak there — the best I have ever had, actually. And the best part, it cost $6 (USD)! I am not sure if I would want to return to most of the port cities we have visited, but the wonderful thing about cruising is that you get a nice sampling of different areas. Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Rio are all places I would love to spend more time in — and lucky for us the ship continues on between all of these except for Rio.
You might be wondering how we fit in these “120+” performances when we are out wine tasting in Uruguay and tanning in Brazil. Truth is that we (or I, more specifically) have a problem stressing throughout the day about our three nighttime performances. This job is so interesting because the culture in the entertainment department is one that assumes you either don’t need to practice, or if you do then you only practice minimally. Days at sea provide the best time for practice, but we are oftentimes doing large classical programs with less than an hour of practice and almost zero rehearsal. This is where our past three years of touring has come in handy, because say we spent the full day out in port and have to come back on the ship and perform a Brahms Sonata — we have developed a way of practicing in just the right way to give the best show possible on essentially no preparation. Sometimes we aren’t happy with how we play, but it is an important skill as a musician to learn how to perform under such circumstances. I just don’t know how we went three years performing one program for 2-3 months at a time, where now we do a large classical program almost every day. I wasn’t sure how audiences would respond to the viola repertoire, but we’ve had a really devoted “fan base” who have immensely enjoyed hearing unfamiliar works. About a week ago we performed the full Rachmaninov Cello Sonata and audiences couldn’t believe they had never heard the piece. This is where I get a little less concerned that maybe a phrase wasn’t so good, or this another note was out of tune — because as we are discovering, audiences really just want to be entertained and hopefully they find something new in the process.
Next Stop: Montevideo, Uruguay
Brandin & Craig