Monday, June 14, 2010

Jazz, Mini-Vacation, and Final Performances

Bill has had the opportunity to play with a variety of groups during his stay in Latvia, including Riga's City Jazz Big Band.  He recorded two pieces with CJBB (click on the title to hear each composition), as trumpet soloist on an arrangement of Mongo Santamaria's Afro Blue and a new composition, minimalist-influenced Stevie-R by Swedish composer, arranger, and big-band leader Matt Holmquist.  Here's a picture of the trumpet section at one of the recording sessions.
Moving on, the conductor of the Latvian Brass Band is Andis Karelis.  He's married to Inga Meijere, a saxophone player who just graduated from the J.V.L.M.A.  Here's their picture at the graduation ceremony this past Friday.
Anyway, Inga's saxophone and composition "Exam Concert" was Sunday, May 30th, and she asked Bill to play on some of the pieces.  One her original compositions, K7, can be heard (here).

Last Wednesday and Thursday Bill was able to rearrange trumpet lessons to take a quick trip to Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland.  In Tallin he met fellow Fulbrighter Eric Showalter, who has taught engineering this spring, and Eric's son Nathan.  Nathan has been performing piano in some jazz groups and for a dance studio in town.  Old Town Tallinn has really embraced the medieval part of their history.  In comparison with Riga's Old Town, Tallinn has retained much more of the exterior wall surrounding the area and has many hills.
Later in the afternoon Bill met with Estonian jazz vocalist Maria Vali (the singer on Inga's piece, K7).
Here is the Estonian Prime Minister's residence.
An Estonian song festival is held every few years in this large amphitheater.
Here's the home of Estonia's President.
Later we ate dinner and listened to some really great music at a jazz club called Clazz, located right in the heart of Old Town Tallinn.  Overall an excellent day!

On Thursday, June 10, Bill hopped on the Tallink Shuttle boat for a 2-hour trip to Helsinki, Finland.
That's right, you are seeing "big rigs" that were transported in the belly of the beast!  While not a luxury cruise liner, this was a really impressive ferry with shops, restaurants, and plenty of interesting views.
With fewer than 5 hours in Finland, it seemed the best plan was to catch a 90-minute bus tour around the city.  Here are some pictures taken from inside the bus.
The tour stopped at Helsinii's Church in the Rock, a Lutheran church and concert hall designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainien.  It's walls are granite and the entire ceiling is made from copper wire.  One can only imagine the excellent acoustics for a brass performance in this place!
Our second and final stop on the tour was the Sibelius Park and Monument, a tribute to Finland's most famous composer, Jean Sibelius.  The park is very "natural-looking" and the monument was designed by sculptor Eila Hiltunen.  One section of the monument is an image of the composer.
The other section portrays an image of a Norwegian forest.  It looks like the "trees" could also be organ pipes, which would make sense tying the whole music-thing together.
Very cool.

After an action-packed day it was time to take the ferry back to Tallinn, where Bill walked to the bus station and caught the EuroLines Luxury Express (with a coffee machine, wireless internet, and a bathroom!) for the trip back to Riga.  An excellent trip all the way around.
Yesterday Bill played flugelhorn at the Riga Reformed Church.  It was his last time to attend worship services here and is also his last scheduled performance in Latvia.  Feel free to listen to Be Thou My Vision from yesterday.  Becky and Carl Chaplin had a party at their apartment after church, and we all had a great time. 
This is Bill's final week of teaching at the Music Academy.  It has been a great experience meeting new people, sharing ideas, and experiencing a different culture.  More blog posts to follow!