Here I am again, with a handful of delightful story to be told. I just finally found a decent time to write the whole story, now that I’m in a looooong holiday. So if you care to be my saint for a while, you may kindly relax and have a cup of your favourite drink while reading this. I’ll have my Ambrosia ^-^.
It began with the major plan of the second participation in an international choir competition in Europe. After 4. Internationales Johannes-Brahms Chorfestival & Wettbewerb, Wernigerode, Germany, July 2005, we promptly arranged our next involvement in the similar event the following year. The 4th Tonen International Choir Competition, Puldijk, The Netherlands, September 2006 came into light and everything was endeavoured for that goal.
Unfortunately, we failed our Netherlands scheme, due to the lack of preparation. That might count insufficiency of budget and un-readiness of the team, in terms of singing technical aspects. There was a huge disappointment at the time we decided altogether that we were not leaving for the competition, but bitter as it might be, we took it as it was: Let’s not let the sun go down on us.
Refusing to give up, we persevered on reaching to the top. And learning from the previous mistakes, we began to work hard on other international competition. We decided that it would be the best for the choir to join another Musica Mundi event, the same organizer as the first competition. So this was the deal: 11.Budapesti Nemzetkoezi Korusverseny, Budapest, 1-5 April 2007. We were heading to Hungary!
Raising fund of approximately half a milliard rupiahs has never been easy.
But guess what, we DID it again!
And just like magic, I suddenly found myself there, cornered at the window seat of the aeroplane that took me to Budapest. I then savoured the sensation, like orgasm, getting off the earthly profanity. It felt like I was going back to where I belonged ere this world. I was so grateful that I could somehow find my inner peace. Life could never be so rewarding when you had found that peace. I found it there. In the air.
From Jakarta to Singapore, to Budapest via Istanbul, I found myself in a frenzy trying to keep up with the biorhythm of my body. Waiting indeed sucks. Especially when we are bound in a place called airport where the only thing we see is hustle-and-bustle. Luckily we had an opportunity to get the heaven out of Changi airport for a go-for-a-stroll. Like a sweet memory, I recalled my time in Singapore two years ago, when I was just an eighty dollar none the richer boy, lost along the road to Esplanade Drive, Marina Bay.
There, then, I was lost again. The once vivid images of yesteryears were gradually fading into mist. But time wouldn’t wait. And I was unconsciously sunk in the chaos of flight schedules. Again I had to spend hours of desperate waiting in Attaturk Airport, Istanbul, where temp dropped ’till 10 degrees, tops. Shame on us, singers, that even in such situation, we strove to get a place for rehearsing. As luck would have it, we made a gig right in front of a boarding gate, the most remote and silent one. Stewards and pilots might come and go, but we kept on tuning the tune. Hello, there, Turks!
When the next charm was spelled, I reached Ferihedgy International Airport, Budapest, ten hours later.
In remembrance of love, I saw the blue Hungarian sky as it was: cold and uninviting. I should have known that spring could be so boring. But I so loved the smell of European air, still.
By the time I arrived, with two big and small suitcases handy, I searched for something that I usually called ‘first fountain’, namesake of any source of water that I can drink directly.
“Wow! I’m in Hungary!”
During the course of 5-day competition period, we stayed in a hotel that located somewhat distant from the centre of the city. There we spent most of the time by rehearsing. When I say it’s rehearsing, please don’t imagine that the venue is a fancy, comfy, and cozy rehearsal hall. We rehearsed outdoor. And to be fair I have to say that the temperature there was not always kind. Sometimes we had to fight the cold air while trying hard to focus on the vocal production, synchronized coreography, and choral harmony. It was never easy, indeed.
From time to time I managed to stick to the purpose of my being there. So, I just practiced one of the virtues that I always teach to my kiddos: Joyfulness. Tadaaaa! ^-^
Don’t be deluded, my feet were shaky on those pics. Darn, it was chilly!
There was time when we rehearsed in the city park next to Magyar Sport Haza, where lovers kissed under the trees, or just peeked-a-boo like this. ^-^
Another time, we rehearsed first time in the morning at Budapesti Olimpiai Koezpoent, where joggers ran to and fro… and choristers (or was it only me? ^-^) kept an eye on them, hehehehe….
Or just here, next to the fitness centre, at the basement of Hotel Stadion. Guess there was too much distraction going on there. Somehow we managed to focus. All right, Guyz! Focus! Focus!
Stop or I will shoot!
Anyway, we choristers got along… well, kind of, until the Day of Competition. The venue was at Muveszetek Palotaja, or Palace of Arts, one of the most distinctive contemporary buildings in Budapest. Mixed choir without compulsory piece, was the first category we went for.
Anxiously of being aggravated, we performed our three choral works consecutively for this category: “A’un giro sol”(Claudio Monteverdi), “Justorum animae” (Charles Stanford), and “Gloria 3″ (Woo Hyo-won).
I can remember how it was coming back to me… singing in front of an array of internationally reputable juries. It felt like deja vu, actually, because some of the jurors were old names such as Gabor Hollerung and Dr Ralf Eisenbeiss. Our program, as a matter of fact, was more challenging, and was, in many ways, more sophisticated compared to the previous competition in Germany. And, oh! Seemed like the audience was fond of our last song of that Korean young composer. They sure was. After the premiere by Parahyangan Catholic University Choir back in 2002, this ‘chang’ style sacred contemporary work has still got the charm, when it is sung according to the artistic demand, certainly. Ewww! The audience likey! Could it be that…. Awww I hate assumption. Let’s just get the hell off the stage, Girls!
By the time we got off the stage, we rhetorically asked that same stupid question. That’s all? Was that the ten minutes of our life that was worth all those enormous efforts of polishing the artistry and musicality? Damn it sure was short! Supposing we made some flaws in some parts of the singing, which I believed was true, could we ever have a second chance to fix it? God! I wish I could turn back the hands of time.
But hell! Show’s over, for today. Now let’s get cranky again! Huhahahahha….
Back in the hotel, we hurried for the next program on that day: Friendship Concert. This might be a kind of non-competition part of the program, where the participants can join in an amicable atmosphere of sharing each other’s fondness and passion for choral singing.
Dressed up in simple javanese outfits, we headed to ELTE-Zeneterem, near Blaha Lujza ter. We took city tram, and for the second time in Europe, I was amazed, and envious perhaps, by the cleanliness of public transportation there. Budapest was indeed clean, which made me wonder where the trashes went. Evaporated? Daaah!
When we reached the venue, the day was getting dark. There had been three other choirs, to mention Maennerchor des N.-Kistner-Gymnasiums Mosbach from Germany, Univers from Siberia, and Adolf Fredriks Juniorkoer from Sweden. It was such a lovely thing to be among them in time like that, when we didn’t have to compete but sing. Just sing, and a bit dance. Daaah! We’re dancing singers, so to speak…. Or singing dancers? Hmmm… I do the juxtaposition, you do the poll. ^-^
The night we were back in the hotel, we had some serious talk regarding some ‘incident’ happened in the previous day. I don’t think I like to talk about it here, because it’s sort of sickening. So I just leap to the time when we were exiled from the hotel. No, I don’t mean the ass-kicking, though we kind of expected to, heheheh. We rehearsed outdoor again, and this time we did it at 10.30 p.m., at a temperature of approximately 8 degrees. Fhewwwh! So much for the glorious victorious fabulous gig!
At the balcony of hotel
In time like that, I reckoned I probably needed something (or someone? dunno) to warm me up. It was freaking cold, man! I didn’t want to turn into Jackfrost that soon. Not until December!
On the following day we went for the next category, the committee sent us a thrilling news. We won the B1 Category!
And then for the next one second, everybody shut up.
“Yea, gimme a break!”
They confirmed, they affirmed, they INSISTED that we did win.
Then, there… we screamed like crazy. We won? Really? Are you freaking kidding me? Yesterday was not really our best performance. Wow! I honestly couldn’t grasp my sanity until some moments afterwards. Gee, that Gloria charm really did still work, didn’t it. Danke Gott!
So then we were back in track, more dignified now, more confident, and more graceful when walking… daaah!
Suited in an array of traditional Indonesian costumes, we walked our path towards the stage of Festival Theatre, Palace of Arts. As for me, showcasing every colour of Indonesian heritage is always soul-sustaining. There is no other moment, I’m telling you, when you can be purely proud of being an Indonesian. [This statement is of course arguable. If you disagree, you are very welcome to fight me back. But please, no bullying…. Man, I had enough!]
For this folklore category, we sang-and-danced three Indonesian folk songs: “Tanduk Majang” (arr. by Solly Pigawahi),“Soleram” (arr. by Ivan Yohan), and “Gai Bintang” (arr. by Budi Yohanes). I so looooove every folkloric gig. It always turns the beat around; one that is typical only to this genre of music.
Winning one category can only mean one thing. We have to go for the final round of the competition: Grand Prix. To tell you the truth, we kind of didn’t anticipate this. The last time we prepared “Richte mich, Gott” (Felix Mendelssohn) for the final round in German competition two years before, we didn’t make it to Grand Prix. So we were not really expecting too much from this Hungarian competition. But God was indeed funny. He made us win this time.
We gotta be quick. Haste, ye, maidens. Chop chop, Girls.
Within the course of about five hours after the performance in folklore category, we did our best to effectively prepare for Grand Prix. Again, expectation was put somewhat in modest range. Five hours! They wanted a thoroughly different program. Kyrie eleison!
As if lit by salvation, the conductor decided that it would be the most feasible for us to choose “Janger” (arr. by Avip Priatna and Agustinus Jusana), the same piece that was performed in Germany 2005, and “Si ch’io vorrei morire”(Claudio Monteverdi) as the program for the Grand Prix. Maaan… we just worked on it.
The Grand Prix and Ceremony of Awards were held in the same building, but different concert hall. This time the committee proudly showcased one of the best concert halls in Hungary: Bela Bartok International Concert Hall. If you happen to know acoustics, I guess you should give this hall an eight out of ten for its acoustic quality. God I was so delighted that I had the chance to sing in such a sophisticated concert hall. Fifteen minutes in your life that truly belonged to you. I prayed that everything would be great.
AgriaSwara: Janger (Avip Priatna & A Bambang Jusana)
By the time I entered the stage, barefooted and warm-smiled, and unintentionally wicked-eyed ^-^, I caressed this unforgettable moment of my life: being appreciated for what we are and do. It felt like… ethereal breeze. It made you want to stop the cosmic time for just a while so you can be overwhelmed with this feeling for just a little longer. It alleviated your sense of being worthy of anything or anyone you are faithful to. It drove you… to sing only for the sake of your audience.
This feeling could be dangerous, I’m telling you, but for all its risk, it was f***king great!
In this competition, we reckoned we had achieved our goal: gaining two gold medals from the two categories we followed. God save George Clooney, we also won the mixed choir without compulsory piece (B1) category. Our conductor, Arvin Zeinullah, was also awarded a prize for young conductor with the best artistic achievement. The Grand Prix was awarded to Magnificat Gyermekkar, a children choir from Hungary.
Prize giving ceremony
Rejoicing in the achievements, we joined our beloved company during our time in Budapest: the Indonesian Embassy officials. They had been very much helpful. I have to thank them for all the virtues they had done for us.
Mission accomplished, you guys!
Now let’s come to another fun part of the trip. City tour!
Marcopolo Hostel, at Nyar utca, Budapest, was my shelter for the remaining days in Hungary. Here downtown Budapest my curiosity grew wildly. Every cubic corner, every tall-building-fenced alley, every magnificent bridge, every palace and cathedral, every side of Danube River that crosses through, every twinkling light of its night, every scoop of ice cream for 260 forints, they all evoked my craving eagerness.
Here, downtown Budapest, I was fined 2500 forints for being naughty, not stamping the subway train ticket. Here I had an hour of desperation when I was literally lost trying to find Dohany street. Here I bought a collection of ten opera CDs for only 1000 forints. And here, too, my secured aloneness dissipated into poignant loneliness….
But time flew, uncompromisingly. And I had to drag my tired feet to the next destination.