Organ and Piano Music in Brazil

Organ and Piano Music in Brazil
by Shelly Moorman-Stahlman

I have been fortunate to have had a life filled with rich musical experiences. I have had some amazing recital experiences on some incredible organs. I love my job at Lebanon Valley College and I have been able to teach some amazing students both at the college and through my experiences serving as a faculty member in numerous Pipe Organ Encounters throughout the country. However, nothing has struck me quite so deeply as my upcoming sabbatical project to Brazil in the spring of 2015.

When I was a senior in high school, my family hosted a girl from Brazil. We immediately became like sisters and when she returned to Brazil, I promised her that I would someday visit her. Although she was no longer a part of my life, she remained in my heart and I was constantly curious about Brazil. During my Doctoral program, I did a research paper on the organs in Brazil and was fascinated by the Cavaillé Coll organs that were imported to Brazil. Thanks to modern technology and facebook, I was finally able to reconnectwith my Brazilian sister in 2012 and in January of 2014, I was able to visit her and her family in Brazil. Since this was a family vacation, I had not planned on being able to see organs during this trip. However, my path was to lead me otherwise. During a tour of the city center of her town, Jundiai, (in the state of Säo Paolo), we stumbled upon a beautiful church and I asked to stop and enter. Little did I know that this was the exact church where one of the three existing Cavaillé Coll organs in the region that I had studied about in grad school resided. The Priest was excited by my interest in the organ and proudly announced the history of the organ and shared the location of other Cavaillé Coll organs in the region. During the next two days, I was able to visit the organs in Itu and Campinas as well. My heart ached to see such amazing historical instruments that no longer worked. I promised the Priests in these churches that I would do my best to help them with their cause.

My Brazilian family are not musicians but they proudly reported that the Cathedral in Säo Paolo had the largest organ in the country and they were eager to show me this historic Italian organ. However, this organ, too, did not function. Instead a small electronic organ is used for the services. The Priest allowed me to tour the pipe chambers and to see the massive damage to the organ. Through the help of a translator, I had a long conversation with the Priest who lamented about the current conditions. According to him, there was no funds for restoration and there was a lack of trained organists to play the pipe organs. Again, I prom

ised to help.

My long term goal is to help raise funds for the eventual restoration of these historic instruments. However, before that can be accomplished, I believe the first step is to increase the interest and awareness for the organ culture in Brazil. My goal is to offer several Pipe Organ Encounters to youth in the Säo Paolo area and to perform benefit recitals in numerous places throughout the country. This summer in preparation for my sabbatical project, I have had the great fortune to connect with numerous Brazilian organists. I have learned that there are pockets of thriving organ communities and some outstanding Brazilian composers and organists working hard to create a healthy organ culture (including Anne Schneider and Domitila Ballesteros as examples of outstanding women organists). For example, there are some outstanding organs in Rio and some teachers there indicate that they have a healthy studio of organ students. However, this is certainly not the case in all locations and I hope to make a difference in these communities.

As a pedagogue, I believe it is important to involve students in research and experiences. Thus, I have enlisted the help of my organ students at LVC as well as some private students to help create a video about the pipe organ with subtitles in Portuguese which I will share with elementary schools in the suburbs of Säo Paolo.

My sabbatical preparation has also included not only an in depth study of the organ and piano music written by Brazilian music but also a study of the Portuguese language. Even though I only began my pursuit of Portuguese after my return in January and I have no formal teacher (my Brazilian sister has taught me through conversations), I hope to become fluent enough that I can have

meaningful conversations with the musicians and composers in Brazil as well as to be able to share information about the pipe organ to the youth and adults in the country. (wish me luck on that one!)

Mildred Andrews, a great organ pedagogue is quoted to have said, “The one unchanging fact is that the truly great, the inspired teachers are those stimulate and challenge the strong student, support and encourage the weak, and by their own ideals and enthusiasm instill in all their students a love for the best in their art.” As I continue my own personal journey of lifelong learning and service to the pipe organ and its music, I hope that I will instill in my students and in my audiences a love for the best in their art.

Dr. Shelly Moorman-Stahlman
Professor of Music
Lebanon Valley College
101 North College Avenue
Annville, PA 17003

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