On this, Day #8, we were approaching the end of the trip, and everyone knew and felt it. Still, there were more things to do and see, more opportunities to seize, and more chances to learn and grow; and the hard-core “gang of eight” who joined Dr. A and me would not be denied! Today’s goal was to visit one of the two campuses of the University of Rio de Janeiro which have established music programs. The location of this particular campus was at the foot of the rock which was the origination point of the cable cars for the Pão de Açucar, and hence familiar territory to us. After the city bus ride to the Uni-Rio campus location, we set about snooping through the arts and letters campus grounds. In addition to a lot of graffiti art on the admittedly “artsy” buildings, we noticed the poster for Book of Mormon musical which Uni-Rio had just presented, apparently with great success, as well as some purely political graffiti. At one point we discovered three pans of fruit carefully placed at the foot of a tree – presumably to feed feral animals, but we also thought this may have been an attempt to placate or appease spirits of one or more of the local indigenous religions.
Once we arrived at the Music Building, we realized that it would be best to go grab a bite, since the vice-director, who was available that day, had gone to lunch. So we did, too. Afterward, we wandered over to the beautiful and well-protected Praia Vermelha (Vermelha Beach). Our student group was completely mesmerized by the vistas, the protected-cove setting, the color of the water, etc. What they didn’t realize was that beaches in Rio like this are also more polluted, due to the relative lack of water flow in these more static environments. It looks great, but actually the water isn’t as clean. It was at this point that Andrew Weliver mentioned that since he and Max Mucino had noticed that there were no taco stands in Rio, the two of them ought to make a killing by moving down here, opening a taco stand, and gradually expanding their “Andy’s Tacos” franchise all over the country, getting rich in the process. We all had a good laugh at that thought!
Anyway, it was now time to return to the Music School at Uni-Rio and meet the vice-director, which we did. He was very engaging and interesting, spoke fine, fluent English, and spent 30 minutes with us describing the programs at their school, including a Bachelor of Arts in Popular Music Arranging. He also teaches a course in how to market yourself as a music student, how to become familiar with the business side of making money in the music world, both things he said are not taught enough – anywhere.
With that we left the Uni-Rio Music School and headed out to find the Villa-Lobos Museum, up in the Botafogo neighborhood. Heitor Villa-Lobos was the greatest art music composer Brazil has produced. He also devoted two decades of his life to the work of child/youth music education in Brazil, aimed at fostering the process he called “formation of a Brazilian musical consciousness.” The museum reflects his interests in these activities. While small, the museum also has interesting displays and a good video presentation. Entrance, happily, is free to all.
Next stop, the aqueducts of Rio – built long ago to bring water from the mountains down to the city. After long walks and an even longer metro ride, we were there. And just around the corner from the aqueducts was the 2nd Music School campus building in Rio, so we took advantage of the photo op. From there, it was just a bit further to the Catedral Metropolitana, a much different building that its counterpart in São Paulo. Whereas the Sao Paulo church is a traditional, neo-Gothic structure, very European in design and concept, the cathedral in Rio was not at first even obvious that it was a church! It looked more like a modern business or residential building, all steel and glass, with sleek trapezoidal design. Once inside the building, however, you see how much it does well serve the purpose of a major religious building. There are four floor-to-ceiling stained glass mosaics which all follow their tilted paths to the ceiling, meeting there. The stained glass alone is worth the price of admission (none – just a figure of speech!), and should not be missed.
Finally, everyone was definitely getting hungry, so we set off to one of Dr. A’s main destinations for the day, the Confeitaria Colombo. An elegant bakery with Art Deco stained glass ceiling and mirrors on 3 out of 4 sides of the main room, the site was a worthy location for our end-of-the-day meal. Directly behind our table was a live pianist playing everything from Johann Strauss, Jr. to the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. We had fun guessing/commenting on the styles of the music we heard. In the meantime, everyone ordered something interesting and unusual for supper, and then topped it off with coffee and a spectacular dessert – banana splits, “Death by Chocolate” cake, a giant brownie, and other extravagances. As we were closing the place, the waiter just HAD to show us a special feature of the 1918 antique table where we had been seated – there was a little extra metal spacer which would swing out from under the table top to add just a little more space for the napkin holder, salt and pepper, and other incidentals. A curious detail. And with that we headed home happy, well-fed and comfortably tired, a great time had by all!