A Piano in the Amazon

A Piano in the Amazon
10/04/2018
by Nigel Scaife


With help from sponsors, it will be possible later this year to see an incredibly uplifting and inspirational film which documents how the piano and contemporary piano music were introduced to remote communities living by the amazon. A Piano in the Amazon was the brainchild of Brazilian pianist and educator Carla Ruaro. She worked with a small team of collaborators, including filmmakers and composers, to transport a piano deep into the amazon in the only way possible - by boat.

This amazing venture had both artistic and social intentions. On the artistic front the pianist wanted to get closer to the natural environment and to seek the roots of the piano music she was interpreting. On the social front it was a case of bringing the piano to communities who were able to experience it for the first time and to hear music written by local composers who use elements of their natural environment as a source of inspiration.

The first tasks were to buy a piano and to hire a boat. Having bought an average quality but clearly very sturdy upright made by ‘Brasil’, the crew started their journey in Santarém on the banks of the Tapajós river aboard the ‘Jorge Olinto’. Very little marketing was done, so while a few of the communities had some prior notice that the crew were coming, mostly when they pitched up the locals were taken completely by surprise.

Each day the crew held between two and four workshops about the history and mechanics of the piano, as well introducing the Brazilian composers and their works inspired by the river, the forest and the nature that surrounds them. In the evenings they gave concerts on the boat, with the audience sitting on the sandy riverbank. During the three weeks of the trip over 1000 children were given access to an instrument they had never heard before.

At the end of the trip the sturdy piano which had to endure extremes of temperature and humidity, not to mention the attention of many curious children, was donated to the Santarém Philarmonic Orchestra, a nonprofit organisation that did not have an acoustic piano for classes at its headquarters.

Raizes (meaning ‘the roots’) – A Piano the Amazon will be released on CD and DVD and is scheduled for release in July 2018. There is an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds – details here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/raizes/x/18540138#/

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