September 18, 2015

Tzigane in Brunei

Posted in Uncategorized at 00:01 by Miracle

“The music interval of the fifth is a tickling of the eardrum so that its gentleness is modified by sprightliness, giving the impression simultaneously of a gentle kiss and of a bite.”

Every time I hear a violin tuned to perfect fifths this comes to mind. Having read that line from a book prior to the trip, it certainly did not escape my thoughts months ago during the Violin Camp in Brunei; but we were surrounded by dozens of innocent children, and we were in a conservative Muslim country, so I kept the passage to myself and silently reproached Galileo Galilei for writing those words and tainting perfect fifths with a tinge of sensuality forevermore.

The Violin Camp held in April this year was arranged by Expression Music School through dear friend, Franz.  They invited Noel to conduct a violin workshop and master classes for their students.

Demoted from travel partner to personal assistant, I accompanied. So, when asked by the inquisitive little student, Donovan, “What are you?”
“Assistant,” I replied.
“Of the ‘Master’?”
“Yes, dear. Assistant of the Master.”

Nevertheless, Master or Assistant, we were treated equally – like royalty.  The teachers and students were all so warm, appreciative, and welcoming.  In the sovereign state, every meal was special, as were the pastries in between meals, thanks to Franz’s ample knowledge of Brunei’s culinary diversity and wealth.  The pretty office staff of the school ensured that we had our coffee on time, mornings and afternoons.  Every day was gastronomically and musically filling and fulfilling.

Our evenings spent unwinding were memorable, too – from satay-hunting leading to the Franz and Regie videoke showdown that would have silenced all the muezzins in the land. That showdown that ripped the stillness of night in the Abode of Peace. Somewhere in there, I did a little dance: Don’t ask how, don’t ask why.  And ah, audacious Regie who, undaunted by the hostile immigration officers, steered around Brunei’s alcohol ban and pork scarcity by driving us in her hot pink car with her killer smile and uproarious laughter across the Malaysian border and back.  To have our passports stamped for barbecue and beer was certainly one for the books.

Before I impart the wrong notion that all we did was eat, drink, and be merry, it must be mentioned that the Master conducted private lessons, master classes, and ensemble workshops from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. daily.  But one can easily forget exhaustion when working with such adorable kids!  Their shining eyes and enthusiastic faces were reward enough for all the hard work.

We will always remember Zacc and his lightning moves, Donovan and his never-ending questions and how he eagerly observed every class, the paradoxical shy girl donning a hijab who played a short piece called Tango Lovers, and especially Kay Cee Galano who is an extraordinary young violinist waiting to surprise the world. We may not remember all the names but we will remember all the smiles. I definitely have residues of their smiles in my heart.

Expression Music School turned out to be such an ideal venue.  The pianos are in great condition, there is a Steinway, there are enough practice rooms, and one can get a soothing view of the river through wide glass windows while immersed in music.

We were not able to explore Brunei for lack of time, but we did not feel as if our trip lacked anything.  But we hope to be back.  When the red durian is in season, perhaps?

For the culminating event, Noel and I performed just a few hours before our flight back to the Philippines.  The first piece was the virtuosic Tzigane by Ravel.

“Tzigane” means gypsy.  I now realize how appropriate it is for traveling musicians.

Next time an eight-year-old asks, “What are you?” maybe I should consider answering, “Gypsy.” 😉


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