Brazil Northeastern Railroad, January, 1932
First city of this eighth stage, and first of this zone. Our arrival and concert were much different than usual. There wasn’t the warmth which we encountered in the Central Railroad area. We were very surprised.
A city I already knew. I had been there a few times, tuning and repairing pianos at a school for girls of São José, whose name doesn’t occur to me. This is an interesting city. It is divided into two distinct parts. One was really called Cafelândia, and must be the newer part. Mostly residential, with the school, hotel, church, cinema, bars, and retail businesses.
The second part is called Pena, the older part, with stronger commercial sector, hotel, cinema, church, and bars.
It was in the cinema in Cafelândia that we put on the concert. It was much better applauded than the one in Pirajuí, and better attended. Considerable enthusiasm for Trenzinho do Caipira.
Lins, Promissão, Avanhandava, and Penapolis
All these cities with good attendance, but little enthusiasm.
Birigüi and Araçatuba
Two cities close to one another. Many people from Birigüi went to Araçatuba to attend the concert a second time.
In that city there was more interest in the concert and in the artists.
In both there was a school for girls of São José, with conservatory. Many people studied piano. The people were very interested in music.
A fairly large city which received the Villa-Lobos group with many flowers and festivities. We were lodged in a hotel owned by Japanese. There is a large Japanese colony in this city.
The concert surpassed expectations. The cinema was completely filled. The piano on the platform produced a magnificent acoustic effect. Enthusiasm and much applause for Villa-Lobos, for Trenzinho do Caipira. There was also much applause for the singer, who had to return to the stage to acknowledge. And Souza Lima had to play an encore.
A very hot city. The thermometer reached 41 degrees Celsius within the hall. Full Summer. It was January of 1932.
During the day, there was a surprise. I received from the factory of Piano Brasil a telegram calling me to return to São Paulo for an important mission. Another technician would be sent to replace me. I needed to accompany Guiomar Novaes for three concerts in the interior of the State of São Paulo: São José da Boa Vista, Campinas, and Santos.
I was sorry to leave the excursion, now nearing its end. But I was happy to be able to serve the great Brazilian pianist.
Before I left for São Paulo, my replacement arrived. It was a German technician, also very good. His name was Hermann Schunvenk, today no longer with us.
All the artists were very sorry about my departure, but they had to continue the excursion to the end.
Next cities (without my presence):
Guaporé, Valparaiso, Mirandópolis, and Andradina
Returning to São Paulo, after completing the eighth stage, Villa-Lobos considered complete his task proposed to the Interventor of the State, Lieutenant João Alberto Lins de Barros.
He was very content with the success he had had in more than a hundred cities visited.
The enthusiasm awakened by the music, especially among the young, inspired him to think about doing the same in other states.
Completing his excursion, after great success in all the cities in the interior of the State of São Paulo, Villa-Lobos chose the Capital of the State for his final farewell performance.
With a great deal of work, he organized a large chorus, with around five thousand voices, a large orchestra, composed of two hundred music teachers, and the band of the Public Force of the State of São Paulo, now the “Military Police,” with about one hundred men.
He gave this chorus the name of “Villa-Lobos Civic Exhortation.”
On the 12th of April of 1932, Tiradentes Day, the spectacle was presented to the public, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, in the open air, in a football stadium in the capital.
Organization and Rehearsal of the Chorus
During the travels of the excursion, Villa-Lobos prepared his program for the closing. He composed a piece to be sung, entitled “Forward, Brazil.” It is worth saying that this has nothing to do with the music of the Copa of 1958. I don’t remember if the lyrics were also by Villa-Lobos.
At the beginning of February, soon after the beginning of the school year, under the authority of the Interventor and the Prefect of São Paulo, Villa-Lobos invited all the public schools of the capital to take part with their students in this grand chorus. He distributed to the Directors the program of music to be performed, for the necessary rehearsals in their schools. And he also recommended that only children thirteen years old and above be included.
Besides the public schools, Villa-Lobos also invited the young men and women of Ginásios, Colégios, Normal Schools, Superior Schools, and various groups. Many military, padres, seminary students, men and women also gave their contribution.
The primary school teaches had to rehearse the children very well in the established program in a single voice, so that when they were joined to other schools, they could sing together. The adults needed to form a chorus in their schools, rehearsing well in two or three voices, so that when they joined the others they wouldn’t have difficulties.
There would be no general rehearsal. For that reason all had to be very well prepared. Villa-Lobos visited the schools constantly to attend the rehearsals, directing some of them personally.
Each participant in the concert was furnished a badge by the municipal prefecture, to be worn on the chest, with the words “Villa-Lobos Civic Exhortation” as well as the name of its bearer, residence, school, teacher, and the director of the school. And in a color easily visible, the type of voice, as bass, tenor, baritone, soprano, first voice, etc. This badge was very important to be able to group the voices on the day of the concert, and also so that, if some child should get lost, it would be easy to return him to his group.
On the day of the concert, all the children were transported from their schools to the field in electric “bondes” [streetcars], provided courtesy of the electric company. The adults went to the field with school passes and standard tickets.
The FINAL PROOF– From very early in the day, all members of the excursion team were found on the field to organize and mark the location where the children and adults would be, and everything else that was necessary.
A little after noon, the children began to arrive. There began also our hard work: to locate the children on the terrace in the determined places, school by school. Later, the adults arrived, and were also grouped on the terrace, in pre-established positions according to their voice.
At last, all that multitude of singers completely filled the terraces. Musicians of the orchestra and of the Armed Forces Band took their place on the field, to the left and right of Villa-Lobos’ podium. Meanwhile the public was filling the general seating. Admission was free. It was a present Villa-Lobos offered the city of São Paulo.
The Concert: April 21, Tiradentes, National Holiday
A great deal of strength and energy were needed to maintain that large quantity of singers in their places and without a great deal of noise. A bandstand was erected on the field, nearly two meters high, courtesy of Piano Brasil.
Maestro Villa-Lobos, ready to direct the concert, mounted the bandstand, wearing his tails. While he waited for the hour to begin, he directed the arrangements, and asked the children to be silent. The arrangements were successful, but the silence, no!
It was sunny, and the day was hot. Villa-Lobos took off his coat for the time being and put it on a chair by his side. He wore only his blue shirt, the one he generally used in place of a vest. Thus he was more easily able to move about to direct the arrangements.
Exactly at three o’clock, the hour set for the beginning of the Orpheonic Concert, the Interventor and the Prefect of the capital arrived at the field. Villa-Lobos wanted to start the concert. He insistently asked the children to be silent. That wasn’t possible to achieve, with that multitude of children. Time was passing. Villa-Lobos, always very punctual and not wanting to be late, was becoming nervous. Suddenly he gave a shout. The children were startled. They stopped, as if by enchantment. Immediately he directed them all to stand.
Without losing time, he started the concert, with the Band of the Armed Forces and the orchestra playing the national anthem, sung by that enormous number of students. At the same time, the national flag was being raised on the flagpole. An enormous applause greeted this ceremony. At that moment, the maestro realized that he had been conducting in blue shirtsleeves, not having had time to put on his tails. Rapidly he followed with the prepared songs, some for two and three voices.
It was an admirable spectacle. The children and the adults sang very well in tune and on the beat, following the conducting of the maestro.
It is impossible to reproduce here the program. An original which I had in my possession for many years, was lost as was related at the beginning of this book.
In accordance to my memory, the songs were almost all civic: National Anthem, Hymn to the Flag, Independence Hymn, Song of the Soldier, Forward Brazil, some cirandas, and others.
All went as foreseen by Villa-Lobos. The beginning of the concert happened at three o’clock, in spite of small delays, and ended at the predicted time: four thirty. Enough time for the children to return to their schools while it was still daylight.
Before bringing the celebration to a close, Villa-Lobos directed with his megaphone some words of thanks to the Interventor and the Prefect, to the participating singers, to the teachers and directors of the schools, who gave him the possibility of presenting so well this chorale. He also thanked the public, which attended his chorale with such order and enthusiasm. Afterwards, he asked that all stand again, and he closed the concert with the National Hymn sung by all, while the national flag was lowered, which was collected by officers of the armed forces. There was another thunderous round of applause, and the children waved thousands of green and yellow pennants provided by the Prefecture of the capital.
While still on the field, Villa-Lobos was much complimented by the authorities and a large number of friends, musicians, teachers, officials, and many other people.
Villa-Lobos had completed his task.
For us of the team, another began. To conduct all those children to get on their streetcars and busses, which were waiting to take them back to their schools.
Cleto Rocha mounted the bandstand, and directed the departure from there, school by school, in the same order in which they had arrived.
Everything finished, I, Kekim, returned to my occupation in the Piano Brasil Factory, in São Paulo.
Cleto Rocha went to Cruzeiro to resume his post in the Viação Sul Mineira Railroad.
Souza Lima, Antonieta Rudge, and the singers stayed in São Paulo,
Villa-Lobos moved back to Rio de Janeiro.
I am the only survivor of that marvelous team. I give thanks to God for having had the opportunity to participate in that beautiful journey.