Music recorded by Fred Sturm

Villa-Lobos Miudinho (Bachianas 4/4)

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FIFTH STAGE

Alta Sorocabana, September/October, 1931

 

Avaré

 

            After a rest at the end of the fourth stage, we returned to battle in this city.

            After a journey of more than 16 hours in a night train, and in a shaking bed, we arrived.

            We were received a little coldly. Only the Prefect and a few people were at the station. We were surprised, as we had become accustomed to large receptions in lower Sorocabana.

            The concert was in a cinema, with a reasonable stage. A good public, and reasonable enthusiasm. In his lecture, Villa-Lobos was moderate. He spoke very calmly, and was applauded.

            Resuming our journey, Villa-Lobos was a little worried about what we would find ahead. This region was a newly settled frontier.

            Close call – I was still in Avaré, in a very beautiful garden. The sun was just setting. I was returning to the hotel from the theater after setting up the piano on stage. I was walking distracted by the beauty of the garden, when there was a sudden blow against my tool case that I carried with my right hand. This hit against my leg, and I turned quickly to see what had happened. A jarraca snake had made a false strike, hitting the tool case. I immediately jumped back. The snake was ready for a second strike. This movement got the attention of the gardener who was nearby, and he ran to attack the snake. With a hoe, the tool he had in his hand, he cut the snake in half with one blow. Afterwards, with the hammerhead of the hoe, he smashed the head. There wasn’t anyone else in the garden. Afterwards, people began to gather. The gardener reported that this was the second case of a snake in that garden, in spite of there being no forest nearby.

            This case was much talked about, both in the hotel and in the theater. I was the one who was happy, because I had missed being bitten by that snake, which would have caused great harm not only to me, but to the whole group and the concert. The Jarraca is a very poisonous snake. I thank God to have had the good luck that the snake gave a false strike.

 

Cerqueira Cesar, Xavantes

 

            Two small cities, with the third program.

 

Ourinhos

 

            We had great difficulty in this city preparing the cinema for the concert. It was necessary to construct a platform. It was difficult to find the wood for this. The concert was reasonable, with little applause.

            Villa-Lobos was afraid that in continuing our journey it would be difficult to obtain the wood needed to construct a platform. He asked the Prefect if we could take his wood along with us, which he freely granted. For us, there was no difficulty in transporting it, as there was plenty of room in the railcar reserved for the piano. From then on, the platform became a routine. We only had to borrow the gasoline barrels, for better acoustic effect.

 

Salto Grande

 

            A train station with a small nucleus of  houses around it. An avenue with a few commercial houses mixed with residences. All in wood construction. At the end of the avenue, which was short, a plaza, as there is in all cities. On this plaza, a chapel, the cinema, the hotel, the school, some houses, and the prefecture.

            Red earth, with much dust and mud. When it rained, it became difficult to walk.

            The concert was given in that cinema. It was a barracks, built all of wood, with a galvanized roof. There were common chairs for the audience. A screen hung from the wall, and a tiny booth behind the screen, where the film projector was installed, one of the antique variety. The screen had to be kept wet.

            With the platform installed, and the acoustics and lighting improved as much as possible, the theater was all right. At the beginning of the concert, the artists all sat in the front row, along with the commission. There was no possibility of dressing rooms for last minute touching up of makeup. And improvised stair gave access to the stage for the artists.

            The Prefect opened the concert. He presented the artists, something that rarely happened.

            The concert began. It was the first program. Villa-Lobos played, then Nair Duarte Nunes, then Souza Lima, who stole the show. The concert went well, in spite of being in a wooden barracks. The acoustics, with the platform, and with the galvanized roof, which wasn’t high, left nothing to be desired. The second part began. Villa-Lobos spoke, thanking them for the attentions paid to the excursion, and following with his lecture. After that, he played his cello, and the singer came on for her song. She was singing A Casinha da Colina when a hard rain started. The galvanized roof wasn’t a problem for the movie spectators, since the movies were silent, but for us it was an enormous disturbance. Imagine a strong hailstorm on a metal roof! The singer was forced to cut short her program. The concert was stopped. Happily, the rain shower was brief, and the pianist was able to perform without difficulties, and was deliriously applauded.

            The artists did encounter difficulties in leaving the theater to get in the car that was to take us to the reception, prepared by the teachers in a classroom in the school. They had to walk with their footwear covered in mud, in their fine shoes and long dresses.

            The commission was headed by the Prefect. It was made up of people of the city and some teachers of the school.

            In attendance were prefects from Cambará and Jacarézinho, cities of the north of Paraná, very close to the border of the State of São Paulo. These prefects were enchanted with the concert, and asked Villa-Lobos to go to their cities. Villa-Lobos responded, “Paraná is outside our route, but I will go, due to your enthusiasm and for the purposes of our crusade. Senhores Prefects, organize concerts in your cities, arrange for us to be transported by automobile, with a truck for the piano, and we will be there. He asked Cleto Rocha urgently to make preparations for these extra concerts. We stayed three days in Salto Grande, intending to rest a little, while they made preparations for the concerts in Paraná. But the commission didn’t give us that opportunity: we traveled those three days, visiting large coffee plantations, country estates, and sawmills around the city. The commission was diligent in arranging for cars to take all of us, and a truck for the piano, to Cambará, with additional automobiles accompanying us, forming a caravan, confronting the dust and mud.

            Our arrival at Cambará was also festive. A crowd awaited us in front of the prefecture, with a band to greet the artists. Following, we were all lodged in the only hotel in Cambará, made entirely of wood.

 

Cambará

 

            The city was much larger than Salto Grande, and was well prepared to receive the artists of the Villa-Lobos excursion and to attend the concert. The Prefect, a very dynamic man, had organized everything in three days: they sold tickets, made publicity posters, reserved lodging and a theater. It was a cinema, but without a galvanized roof. By early afternoon, the platform was already constructed with wood from a local sawmill, with adequate lights and other details taken care of. All that was left was the arrival of the piano, getting it installed on stage, and tuning it to be ready for the concert. A few hours passed, with us awaiting the arrival of the instrument. And there was no sign of it. The artists in the hotel were prepared for the concert. And no sign of the piano. I was in the theater waiting. Six hours passed, seven hours, eight hours, the hour for the concert to begin. No piano. The theater packed with spectators. After a little more than eight hours, the truck with the piano arrived. It was covered with mud. It had got stuck in the mud, which was the reason for the delay.

            The public was anxious. The artists, who were already in the theater, still more so. Hands to work, without losing any time. We had to get the piano out of the truck and set up on the stage. So the spectators saw their first spectacle: how you move and set up a grand piano. In a little more than half an hour, the piano was set up on stage, ready to be played. That day, the piano wasn’t tuned before the concert. It was the only time during the excursion that this happened. It was also the only day in which, due to the delay, I went without dinner.

            Everything was ready, and the concert began. First, Villa-Lobos at the cello, then the singer, and finally, closing the first part, Souza Lima.

            During the intermission, as was usual, the audience members went out to drink some coffee, smoke a cigarette, buy some peanuts, etc. When the signal was given to begin the second part, nobody returned to the concert hall. There was just a row of men in the back of the hall. They were the men who were charged with moving the piano on to Jacarézinho. Since that day, due to the delay, no program was distributed, the audience thought that the end of the first part was the end of the concert.

            Afterwards we were told that there, the cinemas were not accustomed to take intermissions. When they raised the lights, it was the end of the show.

            Thus, the caravan from Salto Grande which went to Cambará, to attend the second program, was frustrated because they saw only the first half. After the concert came the reception, the good-byes, and rest before proceeding on the next day.

 

Jacarézinho

 

            Courtesy of Cambará, we went by automobile to Jacarézinho. This time, the truck with the piano went in front of us to that another delay wouldn’t happen as it did en route to Cambará.

            Our arrival in Jacarézinho was also received festively. The concert took place also in a cinema. With a good stage, there was no need to construct a platform.

            The concert was good and well applauded. The commission offered us an ample reception, and also honored us with their presence.

            On the day after the concert, we remained in Jacarézinho. We visited local industries: a factory of artifacts made of bamboo, wicker, and cane; a factory that made lumber for construction. We also went to a quarry which made stone plates called mineiras, which are used for anti-skid pavement.

            Our return to Salto Grande was also by automobile, courtesy of the commission of Jacarézinho.

 

Palmital

 

            A tiny city hidden in the midst of the forest. Few people awaited us at the station. Our lodging was very insecure, being in the only hotel in the city. A small cinema, with the platform erected, almost full. A bit of enthusiasm. A novelty about the railroad: On the train, there was no dining car. There was a stop at this station for lunch. A collective lunch. The various passengers sat around a table that had been set. The passengers who wanted to have lunch, had to disembark, and hurry over to have lunch at the only restaurant close to the station. The train was there for thirty minutes, as frequent visitors to the restaurant related to us. The tactic of the manager was to begin by serving a very hot soup. The client would lose a lot of time eating the hot soup, and would have very little time to eat the other delicacies. When there were five minutes left before the train’s departure, the engineer of the train would blow the whistle to alert the passengers. Everyone would run out, failing to eat the best dishes. There was no risk that anyone would fail to pay the bill, as there was payment in advance.

            We didn’t get out to eat at this restaurant, because this was where we got off the train. We ate at the hotel in the city.

 

Assis

 

            Among the cities in this region, Assis was one of the most progressive. The people appreciated music. At our arrival, the station was filled, between people and authorities. We were lodged in a hotel of wood, as was the common construction in the area. The cinema was also a barracks of wood, but it wasn’t covered in galvanized roof tiles, but wooden shingles. It was a novelty to have a roof of this type. We constructed a platform, without difficulty, and set up the piano. The concert was much appreciated and applauded. A small reception ended our day.

 

Presidente Prudente

 

            A city already somewhat large, being the largest we found in Alta Sorocabana. At our arrival, as almost always, the commission, authorities, and people awaited us at the station. They were tired of waiting for us. The train arrived very late. It stopped for a long time to load wood for the boiler, and then went on, discharging large cinders.

            We were lodged in a hotel, again of wood. In spite of the attentions of the manager, it was uncomfortable.

            All the artists were much applauded. A small reception and farewells.

 

Cándida Mota, Paraguassu, Rancharia, Martinópolis, Álvares Machado, Santo Anastásio, Presidente Bernardes, and others

 

            All tiny cities, located in a clearing in the woods. They were colonies of immigrant Italians, Germans, Lithuanians, Hungarians, and others, who, coming from Europe after the European War of 1914-1918, founded and populated these cities. Their inhabitants had never seen a musical concert, and much less a grand piano.

            Special programs were prepared, with very accessible music.

            Since it was a concert patronized by the Prefecture, taken together with curiosity, the people filled the little theaters, and ended up liking it, applauding with enthusiasm.

            Villa-Lobos gave a concert in each of these little cities, saying in his lecture that he considered himself a “Banderante de Música”, with the obligation of bringing to this people the knowledge of some musical artists, good music, and some of his compositions.

            We didn’t have any difficulty with the cinemas. We had our movable platform, which was erected easily and rapidly. We also had great collaboration with the people of those cities. All of them were ready and eager to get us empty metal barrels for the base of the platform. Sometimes, due to difficulties of transport, they brought the barrels by hand and on their head.

            In one of these cities, it is difficult to say which, there weren’t enough barrels for the base. The solution was to stack a number of crossties from the railroad, abundant in the station, to substitute for the missing barrels.

            For us, this stage of the excursion was laborious and tiring. We suffered with the accommodations and the food, but all were satisfied with the affection, good will, and attention which this population always showed us.

 

Porto Epitácio

 

            The last city of this journey, if one could call it a city. In reality, it was a village, a little larger than others due to the movement of the port.

            The concert in this city was a little better. Around one hundred people were in the audience. I say a little better, because there were places where the spectators numbered between fifty and eighty.

            There was also a little more enthusiasm.

            The commission was composed of the Prefect, his wife, and his daughters. We were lodged in his house. In spite of the lack of space, it was much better than some of the hotels in which we stayed, which didn’t even have indoor toilets.

            On the day following the concert, the Prefect took us on a barge trip on the Paraná River. From the city we went by car to the port, properly speaking. He chartered a boat from the Mate Laranjeira Company, and took us on a beautiful trip down the Paraná River. We entered the State of Mato Grosso via a tributary, whose name I have forgotten.

            On return, he offered us a large snack at his home. Very gratified, we said farewell to embark on our return journey to São Paulo, which lasted twenty-six hours, on the little train of the Sorocabana Railroad.

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