Yesterday, we had to start to ‘earn our keep’ in the U.S. and deliver some workshops.
Matt Rarey, from the Board of Evanston Escola de Samba arrived to pick us up bright and early for the drive to Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is about 90 minutes away from our base in Chicago. Matt was a vertitable treasure trove of information about Illinois, Wisconsin, road signs, and just about anything else that we saw or heard along the way, as we were full of questions.
The campus at Carthage is in a beautiful location on the shore of Lake Michigan, and could be described as almost serene! We started with a lecture/presentation on MaSamba, and the work we have been doing in Ireland over the last number of year, and then lead the entire faculty of about 50 students in a call and response exercise, as a kind of an ice-breaker. (It was also a way of stopping Mary from talking about herself, as she really LOVES speaking in public!).
Then, we delivered two workshops with a group of students from the Music Education faculty and from the Music Performance faculty, and both of them went extremely well, if perhaps a little short, due to time constraints. It was a pleasure to work with such talented, polite, and enthusiastic students, and we had pieces of music up and running in no time!
All too soon, it was over, and Matt was again on hand to drive us back to Evanston for our 2nd engagement of the day, while Chris acted as our ‘roadie’ moving the equipment back for us (we could get used to this treatment!).
On the way back,Matt took us to the famous Mars Cheese Castle, which is an extended deli, specialising in the Wisconsin staple – Cheese. There was a huge selection of cheeses on display, including chocolate cheese fudge, super mature cheeses (referred to as ‘sharp’ cheeses), and even some Kerrygold and Dubliner! The place was a pure slice of Americana, and Ruth, with her chef’s hat on, was in heaven, smelling out some new ideas (literally).
Traffic was insanely busy on the way back, so we had to hit the ground running when we got to the Evanston Escola de Samba rehearsal. This group was very different to the earlier ones, in that it very much a community drumming group made up of chidren, young people, senior citizens, and professional musicians, and also incorporates an excellent dance wing.
As much as Simeon was tempted to lead a contemporary interpretative dance class, everyone else thought it would be better if he stuck to drumming. First, the ‘Evanstonians’ showed us some of their material, and it was amazing to see that they had learned the Congo groove Simeon taught in 2009 really well, and are playing it with great energy – the MaSamba crew had a hard job to keep up!
For the remainder of the session, we worked on our classic ‘Afro Bloc’ which we hope to perform with them at the concert on Sunday at the Irish American Heritage Centre. It came together really quickly, and I am sure it will sound great on the day!
Afterwards, we had a soirée at Chris and Kirsty’s home before being dropped home to our door, with a quick detour through Melrose Park to see the amazing Chicago skyline by night – a great end to a great day!