While much of the world’s attention was focused on Brazil earlier this month, Della Mae was touring the country spreading the bluegrass message on behalf of the US government. Mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner sent this brief report on their activities.
In the midst of the excitement of the World Cup games we headed to Brazil with a mission to continue our work as cultural diplomats, sharing music and forming friendships with people around the world. The tour began with a SOLD OUT concert at the Teatro do Paiol, an old Gunpowder Store turned concert venue in Curitiba. Too many people waited in line to get in to the show. We had to add another concert to play for all the excited fans! This was an extremely warm welcome, but not surprising after spending a short time with the people of Brazil who are welcoming and affectionate by nature. That night we played the Brazilian classic song Cajuina in which Celia crooned the Portuges lyrics as the crowd swayed from side to side while singing along.
During a stop in Sorocaba, a town outside of Sao Paulo, we were pleasantly surprised to visit a group of students who spent a month prior to our visit learning about bluegrass and memorizing the words to Pine Tree! As we played they sang along. We spent the morning sharing stories with them about our home states and of how we came to play music. When our time with them came to an end, the beautiful class of smiling faces, not one of them over the age of ten, presented us with a song book that included pictures that they drew to go along with the lyrics to Pine Tree. We plan to share the book with Sarah Siskind (Pine Tree author). Fingers crossed, maybe these kids will one day start a bluegrass band!
￼At night we spent our time performing concerts to packed houses and collaborating with local musicians, while much of the days were spent teaching Master Classes and workshops to students. We told how the Blue Grass Boys got their name, after the color of grass in Kentucky. We were able to demonstrate what bluegrass music is and how the mandolin chop and bass work together to form a driving rhythm, how the banjo was originally an African instrument and how Earl Scruggs INVENTED a whole new style of playing it, and of how the fiddle IS technically a violin, but that’s not what we call it in bluegrass.
I will leave you with only a few of the high notes from our tour and one question… What better way is there to make friends and lasting relationships than through MUSIC? A huge thank you goes to Levantine Public Diplomacy and the U.S. Embassy.
While in Brazil, the ladies were musical guests on Brazilian TV. They played some tunes, and talked about bluegrass music – through a translator, of course.
You can find more photos and tales from Della Mae’s trip to Brazil on Facebook.