Last week I had an extremely great surprise from Maria. Last Tuesday she discovered that there were still some tickets left to see Paul McCartney in São Paulo that night (I didn’t even know he was here) and so without any hesitation she phoned up for two tickets, so fulfilling a lifetime dream to see him play live.
Of course with heroes of years gone by there is always the danger of disappointment. However, with McCartney this was absolutely not the case and I have to say the set he played was absolutely blinding.
He still has it, and he has it in buckets. Playing for around two and half hours, Paul McCartney surely has one of the world’s greatest back catalogues to tap into, and not only does he take us through the years, he plays old tunes with a gusto, still looking for an edge in his soloing, playing huge hits from the sixties as if he wrote the songs last week with joy, energy and phenomenal musical mastery, even including an extremely accomplished rendition of Purple Haze as a tribute to Jimi Henrix which was mixed in to the end of one of the Wings songs.
Here’s a video recorded by Cristiano Souza of Paperback Writer. I’m a huge Beatles fan, but especially the more rockier tunes, and this is a great recording. As Paul says as he introduces the song, he brought with him the original guitar he played when recording the song in the sixties. That is dedication.
On our way home, walking many blocks in search of a taxi while happily getting drenched in the torrential rain of which São Paulo is so desperately in need, we talked about how we had just been in the presence of absolute greatness, having the experience of such a great master who is able to somehow pull magic from a seemingly spiritual source of inspiration, and harness his talents in order to be able transform this magic into something tangible in our human world.
McCartney is utterly authentic in his desire to perform to the very best of his enormous talent, with a huge amount of energy, but also humility, constantly thanking the audience, and also the entire crew at the end who all worked together to make the show possible.
This week the music continued as we were invited to the Premio Criança award ceremony run by the Abrinq Foundation with Save the Children. This awards ceremony provides recognition to the very best social projects relating to the health, education, care and protection of children in Brazil. This year there were 310 entries, and these were whittled down to a shortlist of ten projects, all who received a prize.
Maria was one of the technical judges, as she was in 2012. One of the great aspects of Premio Criança is that business leaders and experts such as Maria offer their free time to visit those entrants on the shortlist in order to evaluate them. This is extremely important especially for those projects who may not current be being running extremely professionally. The point is not to criticise, but each project benefits from extremely professional advice and feedback on how to improve. For example, does the project need to be managed a little better, does it need to define how it measures success, does it need a little more advice on managing finances?
It was quite emotional to hear the first winner of one of the four top awards come on stage and tell us how they had been trying to win a prize for the last fourteen years. That is perseverance and the desire to win did not come from a place of ego, but from a desire to do the very best social work of the highest professional quality, and of course ensure that each and every member of the project receive such richly deserved recognition.
After the awards had been handed out, we were treated to an extremely special performance by João Carlos Martins. During his his career as a concert pianist Martins was widely recognised as the greatest interpreter of Bach, but this career was cut short to a number of different accidents and incidents with his hands which meant that he lost the ability to play. In Bulgaria, Martins was attacked by thugs, receiving injuries to his skull and brain, and lost the use of his right arm. Illness would also mean he lost the use of his left hand, causing him to retire from piano playing and becoming a conductor.
The life of Martins has been tragic, dramatic and full of triumph over adversities which would have left many lesser people distraught and bitter. But not so for Martins, who continues to inspire, and also contribute to events such as Premio Criança where he accompanied the Orquestra Experimental Pró-Morato youth orchestra, tenor Jean William, and four members from the Vai-Vai school of samba.
I have to say my camera struggled all night with the challenging lighting conditions, and although this video below is not in focus, it does manage to capture just some of the magic of Martins’ piano playing, which he somehow still manages to continue to do, with I think just one finger of his right hand.
In her notes in the programme of Premio Criança this year Maria began with the famous quote from Nietzsche – “Without music life would be a mistake”. Maria continued by writing that:
In fact, music is one of the most democratic and integral arts, opening windows and doors to the imagination, creativity and well being. These are windows and doors which could be seen being open in this beautiful project of Music in Early Infancy from Liga Solidária. Their music is made with great love, dedication and broadens the children’s horizons.
The project Música na Primeira Infância (Music in Early Infancy) was one of the ten projects to receive a prize, and one which Maria visited as a judge, and it was created to promote the teaching of music to infants up to 3 years and 11 months of age, in order to help develop cognitive, motor and social skills in children.
For a third and final time, apologies for the visual quality, but here is a video Maria recorded during her visit to the project.
So who is a musical maestro? Of course in Paul McCartney and João Carlos Martins we see two humble, enlightened absolute masters from Britain and Brazil, still reveling in their musicianship and bringing joy and happiness to all who hear their music. While the vast majority of us will never reach their levels of musicianship and worldwide fame, we must never forget the magic and joy of music which comes from an authentic place in our hearts. There are many instruments that do not take long to master technically, but which if played with sensitivity and curiosity can inspire, uplift, and take us all to higher levels of meditation or simple happiness, as we experience when we hear the children singalong to the piano.
Pretty awesome huh?