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Portuguese Lesson

Now that you’ve enjoyed the Brasil Guitar Duo, it’s time for you to learn a little Portuguese. It’s a wonderfully melodious language as spoken in Brazil, and it’s perfect for poetry and music. Let’s start with vocabulary words:

Tranquilo  =

Translates to tranquil, but it has the added meanings  of peaceful, relaxed and quiet.   A wonderful example is the music performed on a pair of quiet, perfectly synchronized acoustic guitars.  You may have noticed that the audience was absolutely quiet, too.   You may have also noticed that Joao and Douglas performed without sheet music.  Como poderem facer isto?  How do they do that?!

Maravillosa!  =

The description of Sunday’s concert.  It means, of course, marvelous, but it carries a deeper meaning of pure joy.  For example, Rio is known to Brasileiros as cidade maravillosa, the jewel on the ocean where everything stops for a party.

Sambear =

to dance the samba, the non-stop, hip-swinging, national dance of the cidade maravillosa;  naturally, someone who dances samba (doesn’t everyone?) is a sambista.

Musica brasileiro =

is, as you may guess, Brazilian music (as if there were such an entity).  You experienced the music of two composers, Gismonti and Pereira,  that was anything but samba.  See?  These Brazilians are multi-faceted!  And you’ve probably heard “The Girl from Impanema” a few times, but there’s the soul-stirring sound of the Northeast  (o nordeste), guacho  music of the South (o sur) and the music and rhythms that were brought to Brazil from Africa and the Carribean.  Tudos som a musica brasilera.  (It’s all Brazilian music.)

Sodade =

the homesickness you feel for the cool, blue ocean; the beaches; the wonderfully creative people of Brazil; feijoada (a black bean stew packed with flavors) every Saturday; and two  innately talented gentlemen such as Joao Rezende and Douglas Lara who have incorporated the music of the world into their Brazilian sensibility.

Joia! =

jewel, as in this performance was a jewel and I’m so glad we had the experience of enjoying (see the connection??) this wonderful concert.

Bom partido =

the name of the award-winning CD that launched the careers of the Brasil Guitar Duo.  It means, literally, a good departure, but it implies a good start.  Indeed, it was.


(Thanks for coming to the concert) e ate logo (and we’ll see you soon).

– E Doyle

The Plastic Brain

Whenever I hear a waltz, be it German, Mexican, 17th Century or modern, I think of my uncle. Remarkably, in his 9th decade – unable to remember how to tie his shoes and ceaselessly folding and unfolding papers (making meaningless origami that perhaps only he understood) – he could hum along when a waltz was played. He and his wife loved to dance and belonged to several dance clubs when they were younger; now, he had great difficulty arising from his favorite restaurant table. But when a waltz was played, he would move his gnarled hands in sweeping rhythm to the music and he would smile. I’m certain that in some corner of his brain, he and my aunt were dancing across a polished floor, perfectly in step and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
That’s why an article I saw on “neuroplasticity” caught my attention.  The word is used to describe the heretofore little understood ability of the brain to change, to move functions around, to in effect shuffle its connections.  The piece reported on the use of music to help restore function to people with neuromuscular disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and to reach people closed in by Alzheimer’s and strokes.  The basic premise is something we’ve always known:  music is powerful.  It elicits emotions, memories, pleasure and sadness.  The question is how, and how can music enrich neural function?
…music is powerful.  It elicits emotions, memories, pleasure and sadness.

Aren’t we all avid readers of  Trends in Cognitive Science?  No?  Not so much?  Well, according to this learned journal, music was studied head-to-head, as it were, in comparison to anti-anxiety medications in people who were about to undergo surgery.  By tracking the amount of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, the researchers were able to conclude that the music group was less stressed (and by their own reports) than the control group who took anti-anxiety medications.  You may have also noticed that some oral surgeons give their patients earphones before they start to work.  They have no doubt learned that a dose of Chopin (in my case, anyway) causes a less anxious patient.

Furthermore, says Daniel Levitin, a neuropsychologist at McGill University, listening to or participating in the production of music increases immunoglobin A which is linked to higher immunity to bacteria and other nasties.  “I think there’s enough evidence to say that musical experience, musical exposure, musical training, all of those things change your brain,” says Dr. Charles Limb, associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University. “It allows you to think in a way that you used to not think, and it also trains a lot of other cognitive facilities that have nothing to do with music.”  Dr. Limb is also hopeful about the prospect of musical engagement as a way to prevent, or at least delay, dementia. (This from a CNN report by Elizabeth Landau, 2/16.)

Some years ago, researchers studying brains and their circuitry began using a tool known as functional MRI – or fMRI to the cognoscenti. fMRI allows the actual tracking of, among other things, verbal and non-verbal communication. And here’s the really cool part of what’s been learned: brain areas that “light up” in response to music are also affected by language, memory, attention, motor control and executive function. Apparently, music can stimulate interactions among these functions. (This is a very abbreviated discussion of what I learned from the DANA foundation about the work of Drs. Michael Thaut and Gerald McGregor on music and the injured brain.)

Brain areas that “light up” in response to music are also affected by language, memory, attention, motor control and executive function.

Bottom line:  listening to or performing music has cross-over effects on many other brain functions. One example that comes to mind is the “Haydn Effect.”  I’m stopping-and-going (more the former than the latter) along Wurzbach Parkway – and you know why they named it Park-way, right? I am not at all happy about time and gas wasted when my friends at KPAC choose to air the Adagio of Haydn’s Symphony no. 94 in G major.  So I turn up the radio and just listen to the gorgeous music.  I am no longer exerting a death grip on the steering wheel and the grimace on my face relaxes into a calm acceptance of the fact that since I’m not going anywhere fast, I may as well enjoy Haydn.

So I would like you to think of your attendance at the San Antonio Chamber Music Society’s season concerts not just as a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but as brain therapy.  As you enjoy the Brasil Guitar Duo (Nov. 20) or the Aeolus Quartet (Jan. 22), turn inward and see if you can catch your brain in the act of being plastic!

– E Doyle

Great Danes

Great Danes. I know nothing at all about animals of the canine persuasion, absolutely nothing. But I met some Great Danes Sunday afternoon. Three of them, in fact, along with one Norwegian (just to provide variety, I guess), and they were Great! If you were at the SA Chamber Music concert last Sunday – and about 300 of you were – you heard something you would never have expected to hear from Great Danes!
If you were at the SA Chamber Music concert last Sunday – and about 300 of you were – you heard something you would never have expected to hear from Great Danes!

To be more precise, these particular Great Danes made up the Danish String Quartet and I have to admit, humbly, that the music they performed was unfamiliar to me; this is a situation I will remedy. I don’t think I’ve ever heard glissandos performed in perfect time and harmony by four stringed instruments, or syncopations so precisely measured. And that was just the first selection, “Swans Kissing.” The Shostakovich was, as promised, dark and a little scary in parts, but I was thinking about the era and surroundings in which it was written. The Great Danes — beg pardon: the Danish String Quartet — took us back to a tragic era in history when a composer could be hauled away to no-man’s land for expressing his feelings and talent. It was a dark time indeed.

But the Quartet livened up the program after intermission with a delightful selection of Scandinavian folk music. They practically danced through the joyful jigs and polkas of the not-so-frozen north. Did the music sound a little like the hornpipes and bagpipes of Denmark’s neighbors to you? I thought so and fully expected someone to break into a reel. Oh well, we know Great Danes don’t dance. Or do they?

I hope you’re looking forward to enjoying the music of a different part of the world at the November 20th concert. Brazil, Cuba, Spain, Italy, France: all with wonderful musical traditions and interpreted by a pair of world-class classical guitarists, the Brasil Guitar Duo.

Meanwhile, think about the remarkable program you’ve just heard and the four young, globe-trotting virtuosos who performed it. They may call themselves the Danish String Quartet, but I will think of them as the Great Danes.

– E Doyle

Post-Concert Dinner at Paesanos

Driven to Distraction

Has this happened to you? You’re cruising along on your way to work – or whatever – and you’re listening to some KPAC music while trying to drive the speed limit so that the cop that hangs out in the hidden driveway at the bottom of the hill doesn’t snag you (again!) and present you with a ticket to the Texas Drivers’ Safety Course ( which is probably the most boring six hours you’ll ever spend) and a summons to the JP Court where you’ll pay a big, fat fine; well has this happened to you?

...turn up the volume on your radio and let the calming music soothe your jangled nerves.

As in the aforementioned, you’re just cruising along when all of a sudden the fool in the left lane who’s driving some monstrous SUV suddenly pulls in front of you, hits his big fat brakes and turns right. Now why couldn’t he just have pulled in behind you since he knew he was going to turn right? No. He’s just got to pull in front of you and you have nowhere to go but over the curb or up in the air. (Where’s that cop now?!) Now you could make some very uncivil hand gesture (which the fool in the SUV won’t see because he’s already a mile down the side street, but maybe you’ll feel better) or you could just turn up the volume on your radio and let the calming music soothe your jangled nerves.

Such is the power of music.

Or try this one on for size. You’re at the grocery store, trying without success to find the chocolate-covered onion stuffed olives you just must have for that recipe. How many aisles have you been up and down? How many squats have you done – only to be disappointed again? How many clerks have given you the idiot treatment or, alternately, sent you off on a wild goose chase down Aisle #87?

...turn on the radio and there it is: beautiful, beautiful music and you’re ready to take on the next challenge.

Having finally resigned yourself to the idea of going to the expensive specialty store, you’re headed for check-out with your meager purchases. Oh, look, a “limit 15 items” checkout line! The day’s not a total waste. You push your wobble-wheeled cart over – only to find that the woman who’s slipped in front of you has probably got 96 items in her cart and by then, someone’s pulled in behind you and you’re stuck. Finally through the line, you wobble out to the door – only to have your foot creamed by the idiot careening through the lane in a motorized cart. Why oh why oh why me? It’s okay, though. You get in your car, start the engine, turn on the radio and there it is: beautiful, beautiful music and you’re ready to take on the next challenge.

Such is the power of music.

Life’s little wrinkles seem to smooth out to the sound of music. Have you noticed? And if you have some wrinkles that need smoothing, may I recommend the glorious music in store for you at the 74th season of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society? Trust me: nothing will bother you after the Sunday afternoon concerts you’ll spend at Temple Beth-El with the Danish String Quartet, the Brasil Guitar Duo, the Aeolus Quartet, Les Amies Trio and the Calmus Ensemble.

Life’s little wrinkles seem to smooth out to the sound of music. Have you noticed?

You’ll be so tranquil and laid back that not even a monster SUV or motorized grocery cart will ruffle your feathers. You really should get your season tickets now to avoid the rush. Just go back to the web site where you found me,, and check it out. I really look forward to seeing you there. (I’ll be the utterly tranquil one….)

– E Doyle

Join Us For A Spectacular 74th Season!

SACMS continues to bring to San Antonio world-class chamber music season after season for your enjoyment. Our 74rd Season opens October 23, 2016, and we cannot wait for you to join us for five amazing performances that are sure to delight and enthrall! Get your tickets now, and skip the lines at the door on concert day.

Danish String Quartet

October 23, 2016

Brasil Guitar Duo

November 20, 2016

Aeolus Quartet

January 22, 2017

Les Amies Trio

February 26, 2017

Calmus Ensemble

April 23, 2017

Buy a Season Subscription and get bonus tickets!

Plus, tickets are interchangeable.
That’s right, Season Subscription tickets are good for any SACMS concert!


Hey! It’s an election year! Aren’t you just all aquiver with excitement??! Just imagine: months of our elected and wanna-be elected officials blathering on about issues they actually understand but little, nevertheless expounding wonderful (awesome?) solutions to every problem the nation faces. Just imagine!

But if you prefer not to imagine, I have some escape suggestions. To begin with, surely your TV has a “mute” button on it somewhere; use it! When it’s announced that so-and-so is giving an exclusive interview on a major channel, check out what’s on the Food Network. A little vicarious dessert will not expand your waistline nor affect your cardiac function and might even help you retain any vestige of sanity you may have left.

If you find yourself at a gathering, be it Sunday school, a cocktail party or a dinner, and someone says something like, “Can you believe that [fill in the blank}?!  [He/She] said that….”  Well, you get the picture.  After you’ve politely said, “How interesting,” you say, “And did you see that column by Martha Stewart on drying flowers?  Such a talented person.”  At that point your companion’s eyes should begin to glaze and you can continue to a more reasonable topic or just quietly slip away.

Things are a little trickier if The Other happens to be your spouse – but still not impossible.  There’s always the time-honored and always useful, “Huh?  Did you say something?”  And if there’s persistence (as there often is when couples have been together for more than two years), you might try, “Were you talking about the dishwasher?  It is making a funny noise, and I wish you’d have a look at it.  I guess we could just call the appliance repairman.”  I can almost guarantee that statement will change the conversation.

And last but not least, there are those really tricky situations when you find yourself trapped in an elevator or a carpool or across a bridge table, and there’s just no getting away from the venom.  That’s when, with tremendous self-restraint, you just nod your head – just like you’re hanging on every bead and drop – and send your mind off to some other more pleasant place.  With luck, the speaker will be so frothed about his/her subject, he/she won’t ask, “Don’t you agree?”

…we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves…

Of course, we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves and I hope the foregoing will help you avoid the pitfalls.  If not, and you find yourself unable to extricate yourself gracefully, try this:

“By the way, I’ve got a couple of extra tickets to the next San Antonio Chamber Music Concert.  Wouldn’t you like to hear beautiful music for a change?” Might work. Try it.

– E Doyle

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