Mogiana Railroad Company – Alta Mogiana, March/April, 1931
On this stage we didn’t have the pleasant company of Antonieta Rudge and her daughter Helena. Also, Nair Duarte Nunes, the singer, didn’t return for this stage. Antonieta Rudge felt tired, because she wasn’t young enough for such a heavy schedule. Nair Duarte Nunes began to feel ill in Araraquara. There, Dr. Mílton Fonseca had examined her and recommended she return to São Paulo for intensive treatment. With difficulty she made it to the end of the stage. But for the second she didn’t return.
Replacing Antonieta Rudge, the pianist João Souza Lima joined us, traveling in company with his wife Dona Maria do Amaral Souza Lima. For voice, Anita Gonçalves joined us.
We lost nothing with the changes. The new members were very much up to the task. For me, a new duty was assigned, that of assisting the piano accompanist with page turns. This task was easy for me, because I read music well. I had studied much solfeggio, from the time I was a child. Only one problem worried me. I had to purchase a suit coat [“smoking”], to present myself with the other artists. At that point I ceased to be an anonymous artist.
On the decided date, more or less the beginning of March, we journeyed by night train directly from São Paulo to Batatais. It was a tiring journey. The first transfer was in Campinas, from the Paulista to the Mogiana Railroad, with a one meter gauge. We were on a sleeping car, but it shook so much during the journey that nobody could sleep. Everyone ended up with an upset stomach. Even I, who never had problems with travel, joined them. In Riberão Preto, in the morning, we had another transfer. This time, it was to change from a night train to a day train. In the end, after 16 hours of travel, we arrived at the city that would be the first on our second stage.
A crowd awaited our arrival at the station. The warmth of our reception made us forget the troubles of the journey. At the hotel, we had lunch and rested a while, and in the afternoon went for a walk through the city. Among other places we visited, a school, the club, the cinema where the concert would take place, and the garden of the main plaza. What impressed us the most was the garden. The gardener was a true artist. He gave his bushes various animal forms, such as elephant, giraffe, camel, and others. And to the small plants, the form of small birds, like ostrich, stork, etc. In addition to the art of giving plants whatever shape he wanted, he also took pains in creating various nooks with various animals. And he was very good at putting together colors of flowers and foliage. It is a shame that I didn’t have a camera at hand to fix this image.
On the next day, the day of the concert, the work began very early, to end late that night. Getting the piano from the station wasn’t an easy task. We got it on stage without difficulty. Uncrating was much, much easier than before. To open the crate was just a matter of removing screws. With the piano itself, there were no problems, as it had come from a thorough going over in the factory of Piano Brasil. Everything prepared, lights checked, acoustics reasonable, though a little worsened because of having many doors onto the street, the theater being on a corner, for easy exit of the audience at the end of the program.
Everything was ready. It was the debut, for the excursion, of pianist João Souza Lima and singer Anita Gonçalves. Kekim also debuted, as assistant to the piano accompanist. It was a show filled with debuts!
Villa-Lobos enters, with his cello, sits on his chair on the platform. The lights are turned out completely for a few seconds, then a small spotlight is lit, focused on the strings and bow of the cello. Of Villa-Lobos can be seen only a shadow. A light comes up on the piano, and at that moment the piano accompanist and her assistant enter. The music begins. It appears that the cello is playing itself. Soon after the beginning, there can be heard a racket and very clearly the words, “Diabo…diabo…” [Devil, devil] which makes some of the spectators laugh. It was some boys who, from the outside of the theater, were spying through a gap of one of the doors. Villa-Lobos couldn’t see this, and thought that they were mocking him. The blood rushed to his face. He stopped playing, He ordered that the lights be lit and spoke to the public, in an angry tone and with that directness that was peculiar to him, “Be quiet, it is necessary to listen to the artist. Let him play. If you like it, applaud. If not, you can boo. I am well accustomed to this. Prefect and authorities, command an end to this uproar!” These are the words Villa-Lobos said, and we were all back stage, astonished to hear him speak in this tone, after such a courteous welcome from the people of the city. These words were so impressive that even today I can hear them vividly in my mind.
After a few more words, he returned to the cello more calmly, proceeding through the concert to the end of the first part. At the beginning of the second part of the program, when Villa-Lobos entered for the second time on the stage before the lights were lowered, a man from the audience stood and spoke to Villa-Lobos in name of the city. He made it clear that the incident came from outside the theater, and that the people of Batatais knew very well how to listen to any artist and respect him. Referring to artists, the orator emphasized, among other words, that to be an artist isn’t anyone’s privilege.
In response, Villa-Lobos said, “Yes, to be an artist is a privilege. It is a special gift which the individual has in a specific field.” And he continued with his lecture, that which he had intended, but which in the first stage he didn’t do in all the cities. He referred to musicians of poor inspiration, and to true musicians, criticizing popular American music, criticizing records and criticizing opera, saying that Carlos Gomez was a composer of Italian music. He criticized football [soccer], saying that the intelligence of the young passed into their feet, and many other things. Those of us back stage were horrified to hear him speaking this way.
Following the lecture, the concert continues, without any public enthusiasm. Only Souza Lima received warm applause.
After the concert, everything seemed more calm. I stayed at the theater with the men from the prefecture, to oversee the moving of the piano back to the railcar, which would need to be coupled to the train in which the artists traveled.
Meanwhile, Villa-Lobos and his entourage, together with the organizing commission, went to a bar in the city where a reception had been prepared. In that same bar, the students of the city gathered, and began to attack Villa-Lobos. There was no violence. The students wanted Villa-Lobos to leave the city immediately. He was considered persona non grata in Batatais. They threatened that he and all his companions would have to sleep in the station waiting for the first train to leave the next morning. By the intercession of Souza Lima, whom everyone respected, not only as a pianist, but also as a person, the students agreed to withdraw their demand on condition that Villa-Lobos would issue a written retraction in the local newspaper, saying that he had not intended to offend anyone in the city, and asking forgiveness for any misunderstanding.
I wasn’t present. I was still in the theater, overseeing the loading of the piano. I went to the bar to get a drink, and found there all the uproar, and Villa-Lobos, head down, revising the words of his retraction. Souza Lima was at his side, helping him. The women, after being freed by the students, returned to the hotel with headaches. I found out then that all the members of the organizing commission had disappeared. They looked for the Prefect, who couldn’t be found anywhere in the city. Only the artists and the students remained, who fortunately reached an accord honorable for both the city and for him.
On the first train that left for Franca, we continued our journey. Thanks to Souza Lima, we didn’t have to sleep in the station.
After a short trip, we arrived in Franca, shoe capital. All of us traveled upset and shocked by what had happened the night before. We didn’t know what kind of reception we would receive in Franca. Happily, we were well received, and everyone deplored the occurrences of the night before.
After being lodged in the hotel, the artists only went out for the concert. The performance was applauded with much enthusiasm, and Souza Lima had to play an encore, even within the concert. During the intermission, there was much discussion of what had occurred in Batatais.
A very nice reception was offered to us.
They didn’t allow us to leave immediately following the concert, keeping us there to visit the city. Franca is divided into two very distinct parts, which are called new city and old city. The new city is more residential, and the old city is more industrial, with a great quantity of factories and workshops making shoes. We visited one of the larger factories. One of the owners said that he started making shoes in his home, working with his wife and children. Paying close attention to quality, he progressed little by little to arrive at the point in which we found him now. We also visited other factories, some very small, just getting started.
The enthusiasm of this city raised our morale, and we went on to the next city.
In spite of being a small city, many people awaited us at the station. The third program was presented. It was reasonably well received, although by few people. We went on to…
Also a small city, with the second program.
Entering the railroad branch of Igarapava, we stopped in this city, home of the great artist, the painter Cândido Portinari (1903-1962). We visited the mother church, where his paintings enchanted all. The second program was presented here, with much success. Continuing to the next city…
First program. There wasn’t a stage for the piano. We had to construct a platform. Nothing special to record about this city.
As always, the excursion was received in a festive way. We were lodged in the Recci Hotel, close to the principal plaza, where the theater we would use was located.
This hotel I already knew well. I had stayed there a number of times, on inspection trips for Piano Brasil.
The concert was in the Dom Pedro II Theater, which, in spite of being private, was similar to a municipal theater, with all the resources needed for a musical concert. It was beautiful and very fine, with an admirable lighting system. It was the poster place of the city.
The concert, with the first program, was very good. Great enthusiasm. The lighting effects were marvelous, with the gradual change in intensity. It was strongly applauded, and a rare success. The theater wasn’t full, because it was very large.
We made a trip to the plantation of the Prefect. We were impressed with the sea of coffee bushes, the drying racks, the coffee cleaner, the grounds, and other beautiful things on the plantation.
Continuing our journey, we went through…
Jardinopolis, São Joaquim, Ituverava and other places where either the second or third program were presented. Nothing of importance occurs to me to record.
Igarapava – Uberabinha
While the excursion climbed to Alta Mogiana, city by city, until reaching the final stop of the stage, in Igarapava its success arrived ahead of it and crossed the frontier of the state, entering into the Mineiro triangle within.
Cleto Rocha was in Igarapava, organizing the concert for that city, when he received a visit from the Prefect of Uberabinha. He wanted to know if there was any possibility of extending the excursion to his city. Since Uberabinha is in the state of Minas Gerais, Cleto Rocha told him this would not be possible, because he had permission from the Paulista Interventor only to present concerts in the State of São Paulo. He advised him, however, to direct himself to Villa-Lobos in person, as he was in charge of the excursion, and could give him the last word. The Prefect, therefore, went to Villa-Lobos and told him of his wishes, guaranteeing that in his city they would have a great success, because the people were anxious to hear him. Villa-Lobos received him cordially, but responded that unfortunately it was impossible to grant his wish, not only because it was outside the State of São Paulo, but because the time available to be in the area was so short. He couldn’t delay there, in order not to cause difficulties with the next stage of the tour. He offered him several tickets, so that he could return with his family and attend the concert. The Prefect, very gratified, returned to his city and resolved with his assistants, “The excursion can’t come to Uberabinha, therefore Uberabinha will make and excursion to Igarapava.”
He organized a caravan, with around one hundred people, and chartered a car from the railroad, with round trip passage to Igarapava. At that time it wasn’t easy to obtain a chartered railroad car for caravans and excursions; and there was the additional advantage of getting a discount on the price per passenger.
On the day of the concert, there was the caravan, led by the Prefect, helping to fill the theater to its limit.
In the customary lecture, the maestro thanked the Prefect and his caravan, for their sacrifice in order to be able to attend a spectacle never before presented in that area. The Prefect of Uberabinha thanked the maestro and the artists for those kind words, and offered them the flag of his city.
In Igarapava the concert was the best attended and most applauded of the entire stage. After the concert came the compliments, and the reception to which the Prefect and his family were invited. The people of Uberabinha, in caravan, went to the station and into their chartered car, and waited there until morning for the train that would take them home.
I didn’t participate in this reception. I stayed in the theater, overseeing the removal of the piano and its placement in the railcar, which would, early next morning, be coupled to the train that would take the excursion to Casa Branca.
Who knows Uberabinha? I believe not many people. In 1924 and 1925 I was in this city working for Piano Brasil. At that time, Uberabinha was already a progressive city. Situated in the Minas triangle, on the Mogiana Railroad line between Uberaba in Minas Gerais and Araguari, in the State of Goiás. With its rapid development, in a few years Uberabinha felt itself diminished by its name. The name was changed from Uberabinha to the Uberlândia of today.
They call this city the “land of the goatbeard,” the “army ant,” and the “beautiful girl.” In truth, these names are appropriate. There are large fields covered with goatbeards. I saw few army ants, but there were plenty of beautiful girls. In this city there is a school of education where a large number of girls study. On our arrival, the station platform was crowded with these girls and the people of the city. Some rockets were fired into the air. A musical band greeted our arrival.
The concert was the first program, and went very well. The audience included a large number of schoolgirls. The commission served an abundant reception, and on this occasion a student from the school greeted Villa-Lobos and the artists with a short discourse.
Concert with the first program. Sparse attendance. Nothing of importance occurred, just a visit to a farm.
Espirito Santo do Pinhal
Now they call it simply Pinhal. A concert with the first program. I remember very little of this concert. It must have been a normal concert. I just remember that we visited the country house of a close friend of my mother.
The warmth of reception and the attentions we received in all the cities relieved the hurt of that sad night at the beginning of this stage.