Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bulletins From BA #15

Bulletins From BA #15
30 junio 2013

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

“Cementerio de la Chacarita”

If you’re interested in Argentine history, one of the places you have to visit in Buenos Aires is the Cementerio de la Chacarita, also known as the National Cemetery. Anne and I previously visited Cementerio de la Recoleta, which is downtown, compact, and crowded with turistas. Chacarita is located in the western part of Buenos Aires and is a much larger and quieter city of the departed. It is also the site of the tomb of Carlos Gardel, who died tragically in a plane crash in 1935.

It is impossible to overestimate Gardel’s importance to Argentina. He was a brilliant singer, gifted composer, and genuine Latin superstar. Historical comparisons can be dicey, but in some Spanish-speaking countries of Latin and South America, Carlos Gardel was as idolized in his day as Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson were in theirs. 78 years on, many people, mostly locals, still make the pilgrimage to his gravesite, where they honour him by placing a lighted cigarette between the fingers of his statue. A fitting tribute, if kind of gross.

[Musical Sidebar - For my part, I have managed to learn and memorize two of Gardel’s most beautiful and famous compositions: “El Día Que Me Quieras” and “Por Una Cabeza.” When I play them, my breath and that of my accordion become one. (Por favor, perdona el interludio rapsódico.)]

Speaking of tango, last evening, A.J. and I went to a performance of Orquesta de Tango del IUNA (Instituto Universitario Nacional del Arte), a 13-piece ensemble that performs classic arrangements from the 1930s and 40s. Listening to a real orchestra play this wonderful music is a thrilling experience and the ensemble was excellent.

There was, inevitably, a catch. The venue is a converted house, so the performance space is bifurcated, with one room facing the musicians and the other room facing stage left. As a musician, I found this arrangement to be the stuff of nightmares. Also, the sound suffered somewhat from the fact that every surface in both rooms was reflective. Nonetheless, the group played con brio and the packed house was most appreciative. And, the concert was free and the venue is a five-minute walk from our apartment, so…

In other news, we’re headed Stateside on July 4, after the humongous official reception at the Ambassador’s residence. This is a business trip, since Anne has a conference in DC. Afterward, we’ll go to Fairhope, AL for a few days for visits and appointments, and then fly back to BA. FYI, we do expect to return to the U.S. in December for R & R and a longer visit, during which we’ll have more time to make the grand circuit and catch up with family and friends.

Meanwhile, hasta luego; and if you aren’t familiar with the music of Carlos Gardel, I sincerely recommend that you check it out. La música es la vida.



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