The Friday evening performance of Sao Paulo Estate Symphonic Orchestra at Worcester's Mechanics Hall was such a big deal in the area's Brazilian community that a few people from Framingham and elsewhere even called in sick just to make sure they wouldn't miss it. Led by Cincinnati trained conductor Kazem Abdullah, an approximately 120-member ensemble kicked off the 150th season of the local Music Festival. “I was very touched by the presentation of Brazil’s national anthem. It brought me memories from a time when I was back home,” said Lucimeire Rosa Freitas, a nursing assistant from Framingham. The audience was about 95 percent American, and the rest were proud Brazilians, who according to a new survey released last week make up for the second largest immigrant group in Massachusetts, after the Chinese. Many of them never had a chance to catching the grandiosity of an orchestra presentation live.
“If it were a concert by the Berlin or Moscow Orchestra I probably wouldn’t be here,” said Wesley Medeiros, who drove from Revere to Worcester. “The musicians’ synchronicity and harmony were the higher tones of the night, and knowing that such a fantastic show comes from my countrymen made it even more especial.”
At one of the first pieces, solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie stole the spotlight with one of those perfect performances that earned her a Grammy Award in 1988. Dressed in a long blue gown, Glennie strolled the stage barefoot – to sense the music, since she’s severely hearing impaired – between drums and congas to play James MacMillan's “Veni, Veni Emmanuel,” which was written especially for her.
On the second part of the concert the Orchestra featured Alberto Nepomuceno's “O Garatuja,” and Bela Bartok's suite “The Miraculous Mandarin,” which brought the audience to a standing ovation.
For Elson Ferreira, of Milford, the realization of a dream wasn’t complete for one major detail.
“My father was a band conductor in Brazil. I have always dreamed of watching a live orchestra alongside him. He passed away 10 years ago. But I’m sure tonight he was here in spirit,” Ferreira said.
In the middle of the audience, Wando Resende, a Brazilian maestro, was attentive to every detail.
“It’s not any musician who plays for Sao Paulo Symphonic Orchestra,” said Resende, who for the past five years has hosted a radio show at Framingham’s WSRO (650 AM) station. “You have to have at least 10 years of experience, and the standards for acceptance are set very high.”
The execution of “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” drove Resende back decades ago, to a time when he was allowed for one day to conduct the National Theatre Orchestra, in Brazil’s capital Brasilia.
“There’s no other form of musical performance more moving than a full orchestra. It touches the bottom of all emotions,” said Resende.
At the end, the musicians strayed from the original concert program to present Cesar Guerra Peixe's “Mourao,” a string encore arranged for the orchestra by Clovis Pereira Dos Santos.
Worcester’s concert was the first USA Tour presentation at the East coast.
Now the Sao Paulo Estate Symphonic Orchestra has four US concerts left: on Oct 20th at the Alumni Hall, Annapolis (MD), next day at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda (MD), on Oct 23rd at the Eisenhower Auditorium, in University Park (PA), and finally at New Jersey’s State Theatre, on Oct 24th.
After the Mechanic Hall’s performance had concluded, Kazem Abdullah came out to surprise a small crowd of Brazilian fans who lingered around for a photo with the conductor.
“Am I Brazilian? No, no Portuguese. I’m an American,” Abdullah said.
Eduardo A. de Oliveira is also a health reporter for the New England Ethnic Newswire at UMass-Boston.