Thoughts On The XXX Festival Internacional de Flautistas de Lima Peru

June 05 2015

 Sightseeing in Lima with Christine Beard

I have just returned from Peru and the 5 day international festival of flutists where I was one of the guest artists. This was an amazing experience with colleagues from the USA, , Canada, Argentina, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Japan, and Norway. It was the 30th anniversary of this festival which is quite an accomplishment in this day and age.

Our classes were held at the National Conservatory which was very proud to host the festival as the flutists took over many parts of this old building, a reformed bank, in the heart of downtown Lima. The concerts, all with large audiences, were mostly held at the Peruvian Japanese cultural center which provided a relaxing back stage area complete with coy pond and turtles! Nothing relaxes you before performing like watching a turtle just being slow. One concert was held in the Convento de Nuestra Senora which is located in a very poor and neglected area of the city. This was a most heartwarming lunchtime concert as the church was packed to standing room only audience including school children who had to sit in the ante chapel and they were mesmerized the entire time.

Lima itself is a fascinating city full of history with many beautiful areas. The people of Lima were so friendly and welcoming, this quickly became my favourite festival experience.  In the afternoon when I could, I would go to one of the parks and watch teenagers gather and practise their dancing. It's common to see all types of dance from salsa to waltzes, they just dance. The food is consistently amazing with fresh produce much bigger than anything I have seen in Canada; I think I could eat my way through Peru.  Each day we were lucky to be provided with a sample of Peruvian cuisine from the sierra, the mountains and the jungle and my colleagues were constantly amused at how my eyes would bug out at the taste of everything.

Taxi rides are epic to say the least. The traffic in Lima is incredible, especially in downtown. You must be brave to ride in the taxis as lane markings seem nothing more than suggestions. Constant honking and incredible pollution are the rules of the day. It is quite something to experience and strangely enough, I saw only one small accident while there. 

Organizers of the festival outdid themselves in their hospitality to the guest artists. There were fantastic dinners each night after the concerts and the obligatory salsa parties to welcome us at the first night and bid us farewell on the last night.

My main recital was the last of all the guest artists. To end it all I played my transcription of the Mahler Adagietto for them with pianist Maria Jose Carrasqueira from Brazil. At the rehearsal we had to take a break as this fabulous music just got the better of us; better to do that then than at the concert! However, at the concert itself, it was equally moving. I managed to make it through even though from the first notes I could see several people in the audience enter their own state of reflection. Maria and I played and made it to the end and held it together long enough to get to the greenroom where we both completely lost it, this music is so powerful. I really felt that the music had reached the audience on this night and so...job done. The next night was the gala concert and we all played something. I played Piazzolla's "Oblivion" with Christine Beard (an alumnus from our London retreat)..more powerful music.  Playing with Christie on stage was a thought that hatched during our London retreat in 2014. We finally did it in Lima and for me, it will be one of my life's memorable moments. We perform together again in Toronto in June for the Canadian Flute Association convention. 

The students at the national conservatory were really the ones who impressed me. They were so friendly and welcoming to us that it was very touching. Keen and eager for knowledge, they work very hard on sometimes challenging instruments. I'll always remember the image of a small boy running down the street to the conservatory, flute in hand and parents rushing behind him with the empty case...he was late for flute choir rehearsal. Each year, they look forward to the festival and alumni come back from places afar to take part in the classes because they want to learn.   The standard is high and in fact, I would say higher than in some universities here in North America. They are well versed in Peruvian music and not as comfortable in the Western Classical tradition, but boy do they try! It was my utter joy to hear them play and to be able to have hopefully helped to guide them in their music making. 

Tremendous thanks to Cesar Vivanco Sanchez and family for the hard work in putting together this annual tradition.  To Claudio Sarmiento and his family for their hard work and support. To the people of Lima for your hospitality and vibrancy. To the incredible and memorable students I met, you made it all worthwhile. I hope to be back in 2016! 

Christopher Lee