Santa Clara Chorale Experiences the Splendor of South America

When we asked then artistic director Ryan Brandau for a few quotations to include with the article we were writing about Santa Clara Chorale’s tour of Uruguay and Argentina, he took the ball and ran with it. We love it when directors give feedback, and it doesn’t get much better than this:  

The trip crescendoed beautifully, starting in the urban capital of Uruguay, Montevideo; continuing to an adorable, historic coastal town, Colonia; and peaking in the urban and cultural splendor of Buenos Aires, in Argentina.

Our performance venues were beautiful, intimate, and nicely suited to our needs. Each of our three performances was well attended, by enthusiastic, warm, appreciative audiences. They were unabashed, showing their enjoyment on their faces so much that my own singers’ faces lit up in a way I’d never seen before. I only wish I had had eyes in the back of my head to see it too! During our first concert, in Montevideo, two of our singers sang The Flower Duet from Lakmé, beautifully. The rapt audience burst out into the most enthusiastic, untempered applause one could imagine. We loved the sense of connection they gave us while we sang. 

It was a delight to perform with local ensembles on each concert, to meet the singers and listen to their music. We loved having a workshop with a local director in Buenos Aires. The reception put together for us by the local choir in Montevideo provided us a great opportunity to ’talk shop’, meeting halfway in the middle between Spanish speakers with a little English and English speakers with a little Spanish. Discussions about music were easiest: it’s a language we all understood!

All of the trip logistics flowed along without a hitch. I was delighted, as the leader of the Chorale, to have seemingly nothing to take care of or worry about except the music.

The highlight of the stay in Montevideo was, for me, getting dressed up and heading out for a modern dance performance at the beautiful, historic Teatro Solís. To see such a great performance in such a beautiful space was truly special. 

Colonia offered an entirely different feel from the two capital cities we stayed in during the tour. A quaint collection of centuries-old cobblestone streets and colonial-era buildings, perched on the banks of the massive Rio de la Plata, Colonia offered all of our singers the chance to stroll around and take in the history of the colonial era in Uruguay.

Buenos Aires throbbed with an urban, high-energy beat. We felt it immediately at the tango show our first night. Some of the members had been preparing for our trip by taking a series of tango lessons with an Argentine native back in California in the months leading up to the tour. They went out for a fabulous evening of dancing to try out their newly acquired skills. On a later night, everyone was feeling the energy of the city so much that we had an impromptu sing-a-long and tango dance in the hotel lobby. 

Food, naturally, played a big part in everyone’s experience in all three cities. Singers sampled a wide variety of restaurants, from tiny local cafes on side streets to major restaurants considered to be among the finest in their cities. Steak was a highlight for many; I shudder to think how many pounds of beef we consumed. And yet the vegetarians among us ate like kings, too. We enjoyed the local delicacy, dulce de leche, in all sorts of ways – ice cream, alfajores, and more. 

Having traveled on an ACFEA tour before, I had high expectations and hopes for our courier and guides. They didn’t disappoint. Our courier, Claudia, and our guide during our time in Uruguay were both fantastic. They exuded the South American warmth and hospitality we were hoping to find, and readily and happily answered every question we had. They were natives of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, respectively, and their love for their hometowns was infectious. Everyone was emotional when it came time to say goodbye.