On Thursday, July 17, the ensemble performed their final concert of the tour as part of the Staromestský Letný Festival, in the city of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. The festival, in the Zichy Palace courtyard, and other venues around the quaint and popular Old Town, featured artists from Slovakia and abroad.
The ensemble’s time in Bratislava, a city of half a million on the Danube river, was brief, with only a couple hours for sightseeing before dinner and the concert, but we certainly enjoyed what we saw in the Old Town district.
As the final concert of the tour, this night was especially poignant. Each piece in the repertoire has been embedded in the minds and hearts of the ensemble members, and this blogger could feel the collective absorption of each phrase, as if the performance was as much for the players as the audience.
By the River by Aaron Copeland
Shall we gather by the river,
Where bright angels’ feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God.
Yes, we’ll gather by the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river.
Gather with the saints by the river
That flows by the throne of God.
Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease,
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.
As baritone John Seesholtz tenderly, yet powerfully, sang the final stanza of “By the River,” our summer pilgrimage felt complete, our own melody of peace proclaimed by exploring of the core and edges of both our music and Europe. How fitting to play here, on the Danube river.
Following the concert, another impacting moment occurred at the Camel Pub, one of dozens of packed Old Town bistros. The group will forever remember our waiter, Tomas (pronounced Tomash), the punk-band lead singer from Galánta, Slovakia.
Finding out that we were classical musicians, he asked if we knew of Zoltan Kodály, to which Copper Ferreira exclaimed that Dances of Galánta was well-known by the ensemble.
Tomas was truly exuberant, taking out his phone to show us the view from his bedroom window in his home town, Galánta, of Kodály’s disrepaired castle. “I am touched that you are here and know of Kodály, and my home,” our endearing waiter enthused. Since the Kodály method is an intricate component of Colorado State University’s elementary Music Ed Program, the special moment was not lost on us.
Tomas travels about 35 miles into Bratislava to wait tables, but is not as enthusiastic about the city as we were from our limited exposure. “You’ve only seen the part they want you, the tourists, to see,” he stated. “It’s not always a nice place.”
This seemed in direct conflict with the opinion of this blogger’s friend, who lives in Vienna and often spends long weekends in Bratislava, his “favorite place, next to Vienna.” “It’s such an up-and-coming city, so chill – it’s wonderful to just hang out in the park by the river,” my friend had told me.
As the bistro was closing for the evening, Tomas delivered some take-away wisdom as he claimed, “Americans live to work, Slovokians work to live…” I think it’s safe to say that we’d all live for the chance to come back to Bratislava and find out more about this slightly exotic city for ourselves. Thanks, Tomas!
~ posted by Jennifer Clary