#2 Composing for Vesperata

Vesperata pre-Covid, at Rua da Quitanda
Vesperata pre-Covid, at Rua da Quitanda


One of the main events during my residency is the Vesperata, which is a music festival in Diamantina held throughout April-October. A musical tradition deeply rooted in the Culture of Diamantina, the performances are held in the street at Rua da Quitanda, where musicians perform from balconies of buildings, surrounding the audience.

When seeing these photos and hearing about the performance structure of Vesperata, I was immediately drawn to the unique architectural element of the performance. 


As I had been given the opportunity to write a new piece for this festival, to be performed by the Diamantina Brass Band (along with my Solo Violin), I was given this diagram of players’ positions: 


Diagram of player positions - with audience in the middle!
Diagram of player positions - with audience in the middle!

As I was gathering some ideas for my piece, my questions were: 

-How can I effectively use this structure?

-What new elements can I incorporate into my music which I have not explored before?

-How can I effectively balance the violin and brass band in this structure? 


Given that my violin part had to be filmed prior to the Vesperata performance and it was to be put together with the Brass Band remotely, there were some logistical points I had to take into account. The main one was the necessity of a click track. But, this was certainly a new way and an interesting process of composition, and in some ways these restrictions guided me towards a new direction. Therefore, in order to create an ostinato-like theme that continues throughout the piece, I decided to explore rhythms in Brazilian music, which then became the main motifs (I will write more about this later on!) 


Yesterday, I was able to meet the 33+ musicians of the Diamantina Brass Band, who will be playing my piece. For these young musicians (11-20 years of age), the Vesperata is a musical tradition they grew up with – I am looking forward to working with them over the next few weeks! 


Thanks to Ânderson Arcanjo, the fantastic translator in Diamantina who has been translating everything for me in this residency, these communications between Portuguese-English language has been running smoothly. (I wish I could speak Portuguese!)


In one of our conversations, Ânderson mentioned that someone once said: ‘in Diamantina, every household has a musician or a poet’. 


The more I find out about the traditions of Diamantina, it is becoming apparent to me that music is such an integrated part of history and everyday life in Diamantina. 


Tomorrow, I will be delving further into the history and Brazilian music genres as I meet the local music expert and researcher, Wander Conceição