Anna McDougall: In which MYSO plays in the Factory of Art

Day 5, Part 2

After a dinner at several different nearby restaurants, MYSO loaded into the buses and headed for the Usina del Arte. Usina del Arte literally means “Factory of Art” or “Art Plant.” The building does produce art, but the name has a more literal meaning. The building used to be an electrical plant, but today, the place had been gutted and transformed into a concert hall.

The interior still retains some of its electrical plant trimmings–metal rafters and brick walls are visible between the wooden sound panels.

Dress rehearsals are always tough. They are a fast-paced, stop-and-start complication of all the tough spots. And today, we had more music and less time than usual.

The hall was also not as friendly to us as Theatro el Circulo was– it was especially hard on soloists. Because the hall was a little dry, we had to vibrate more richly, accent more sharply, balance with other sections more carefully, and end our notes more gracefully. Mr. Simmons called out who needed to be louder or softer from the back of the auditorium, and Ms. Helson (the string coach) approached the stage several times with tips.

Our biggest challenge was livening up the music with emotion and movement. At one point, Mrs. Deutsch got off the conductor’s podium and walked through the ranks, encouraging us to move.

So the rehearsal required focus, the hall required precision, and the music required emotion. And a lack of sleep is conducive to exactly none of these virtues.

And the timpani was broken.

Despite all this, the musicality improved as the rehearsal progressed. (Mrs. Deutsch suggested that that was because she had told us that we were going back to La Boca tomorrow and we were motivated by the prospect of more shopping.) We broke for a dinner of a rice, avocado, and chicken dish, then waited downstairs for the concert to begin. Some of the violins and violas organized a pre-concert warm-up session that involved playing our pieces from memory, improvising, and a lot of Lindsey Stirling music. It was loud, but it also got everyone involved pumped for the concert.

We trickled onto the stage slowly and settled in for a long concert. Mrs. Deutsch had informed us that because of a time limit on the performance, we could not take an intermission. Thankfully, we had practice with skipping the intermission; we had done this in an attempt to beat a thunderstorm at the send-off concert two days before we left for Argentina.

Concerts are the exact opposite of rehearsals. Where rehearsals stop and start, concerts are continuous. Where rehearsals are all about fixing past mistakes, concerts don’t give you time to dwell on slip-ups. So once the downbeat fell, we just had to go all out.

The performance went over very well with the audience. The orchestra’s playing was much more emotional than in rehearsal–the second and first violins even had a competition to see who could play more dramatically during a section in the Cappricio espagnole. The increased intensity was likely because of the concert adrenaline and the audience feedback. And the audience delivered. They hooted and yelled after every song, and gave standing ovation after Cappricio, Libertango, and Caravan. The more we got from the audience, the easier it was to give back.

After the performance, everyone seemed happy with how it went. Mr Simmons went on to all the buses before we left to congratulate us. The only disappointment seemed to be the absence of Juan in the audience. Juan was Bus 1’s tour guide in the Theatro Colon, and Julian had made him pinky promise to come to the concert. If he did, no one saw him.

Even though the building was called an art plant, I was reminded at this concert that music cannot be produced mechanically. It requires all of your attention to transfer the emotion of the music to the audience, and this can be hard to give when you’re tired. But if you give all your attention to the music and are open to what it wants to say, the rest will take care of itself.

Scroll to Top