Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rehearsals in Perm - Part One

Mark & Carmen outside the theater in Perm

Close-up of poster - my name in Russian

After 4 hours rest (sleep would be an exaggeration) in the hotel, we pulled all our gear together and headed for the van to take us to the theater where we will be rehearsing.  The van driver seemed a bit confused, and then we realized it was because the concert hall is just across the street from the hotel. We started to set up, when the director of the festival came in and yelled at us "Eat!".  We said we were not hungry, and would eat later, but he kept insisting, "Go - eat now!".  It turned out that they had set up a welcoming feast for us, a table full of typical Russian food, and we were told by the managers that it would be very rude not to sit and consume it all.  So we had the first of many "mandatory meals", and wound up spending the first 2 hours of our rehearsal eating.  It turns out that in lieu of the per diem we were expecting, a decision had been made to give us meals. So every day, whether we are hungry or not, we eat lunch and dinner at a prescribed time in the same dining room.  The food is good, but there is always way too much, and the meals scheduled so close together that we are never really hungry enough to finish it all, leaving us feeling bad about leaving so much.  We asked if we could have just one meal, but were turned down.  We are grateful for the food, and there are lots of good things, but after a couple of days of potatoes, tons of mayonnaise over much of it (yuch  I am allergic and cannot eat any of those things) we are hoping they will get the hint and put out less food.  There is so many carbs that even a marathon runner would be taken aback.  I never thought I would complain about catered daily meals, but all of us are feeling a little bit like Hansel in the fairy story being force fed to fatten him up.
Eat! Eat now!

At our first mandatory lunch
We did get to meet our interpreter, Tatyana at the lunch, and she is a welcome addition to the "Eternal" team. Smart, funny and beautiful, she not only helps us with all our interactions with the staff and the musicians (Huun Huur Tu and the string players), but she also gives us great insight into how things work in Russia, and how to navigate our way around Perm.  She is an actress, but has a strong musical background, so it works out well.  When she is not available, we have a second interpreter, Valeria. She is quite young, and studying to be an opera singer, so sometimes she is a bit overwhelmed by the craziness of a touring band, but she is also excellent at her job, and fun to have around.
Our interpreter Tatyana, and yours truly
(Photo by Carmen Rizzo)

Loren and our second interpreter, Valeria

The theater where we are rehearsing is the actual venue of the performance, a 1000 seat theater that belongs to the Philharmonic.  When we arrive, we see posters and flyers for our concert - these people definitely know how to promote!
Setting up the gear
Carmen sets up his rig
Loren & Carmen tweak set up the visuals on a temp screen

Mark, Sayan & Kaigolo working on a song

The first two days of rehearsal were very tech-heavy.  The show relies a lot on sonic textures, so it took quite a while to get all the computer and synth audio working correctly and then getting the miking for Huun Huur Tu to a place where we could all hear each other.  The tech director at the theater is a very nice man named Alexander, who is often a bit overwhelmed by all the setups and the gear, and there were some trying moments. By the end of day two, we actually were able to go through a couple of songs with everyone.
The band performs a song

Carmen in action

Working out an arrnagement

On the first song, we realized that the key was different than the way Huun Huur Tu perform live, and Radik's flute was off by a half step.  It would be too much to re-do all the programming, so to our amazement, Radik had one of the workmen acquire some PVC tubing, and he created a new set of flutes using the tools at the venue.
Radik builds a "C" flute from pvc tubing

Kaigolo patiently waits while the tech is worked out

Ancient Instruments, Modern Sounds

In some of the downtime while Carmen and Loren were working on the tech, I got to hang with Sayan, Radik, Alexi and Kaigolo. They are truly wonderful people, and have a perspective on life so different and so inspiring.  When asked where in the world is their favorite place they have traveled, they all respond "Tuva".  When asked where they have enjoyed performing music the most, the answer is the same - "Tuva".  They are excellent musicians, and playing music with them is a joy.

Radik & Kaigolo

Alexi drums on "Ancestors Call"

Radik, Mark & Kaigolo
Once Carmen got the sound and lighting to where it was acceptable for rehearsing, we started the process of finding how to create a live version of the songs on the record.  There is much layering of sound, and working on dynamics, arrangements and learning to gel as a band. By the end of the third day, the songs are starting to sound really great, and the next step will be adding the string players to the ensemble. All of us share the feeling that we are creating something very new and very exciting.
The full "Eternal" band in action


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