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Maria Guinand and La Pasion segun San Marcos: ''You Need to Live It in Your Skin''

Maria Guinand is the director of Schola Cantorum de Venezuela and the dedicatee of Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos, a piece she has been involved with from its inception. The Schola Cantorum de Venezuela has performed La Pasión según San Marcos more than forty times throughout the world, and she has been instrumental in guiding Carnegie Hall's creative learning project for high school musicians in the 2012–2013 season. The performance of La Pasión según San Marcos in Stern Auditorium on March 10, 2013 will mark the first time that a choir other than the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela has sung the complete oratorio. 

While she was in New York recently for a rehearsal of the upcoming performance, Maestra Guinand sat down with Carnegie Hall staff to discuss her history with La Pasión según San Marcos.

What would you like to share with us about La Pasión según San Marcos?

La Pasión según San Marcos is a piece of our days. I think it's a piece that really speaks to the mind and the ears of people today. In that respect, Osvaldo Golijov captured the emotion that comes from the popular traditions that are absolutely alive in Latin America today; this is why the piece is so appealing, so moving, and so intense. It's a piece that was composed out of emotions and out of experiences of artists who are alive, who are sharing ideas and incorporating new elements into their work all the time. This is why, in a way, it's also so hard to put together! You need the know-how. It's not only a matter of reading notes and reading a score. It's a matter of knowing how to do it and how to live it in your skin. This is something the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela has enjoyed very much every time we do this piece since its premiere in 2000. We are a family of singers and I don't know how many singers have sung this piece throughout the years. Some singers have sung all 45 or 48 concerts around the world! It's very vivid for us each time we have the opportunity to recreate the music, to recreate the atmosphere. We identify with the piece because it really represents the soul of the Caribbean people. All these traditions from Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil are very much a part of our daily life.

What I really want to share is the joy of being able to do this piece over and over again and to see the way the audiences receive the music and react to it. Because in the end, we are artists, we are on the stage to bring a message to the people who are listening, to create emotions, to create beauty. I think all these elements are really are in that composition, and we feel very grateful to Osvaldo Golijov that he dedicated La Pasión según San Marcos to the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela.

What does it mean to be adding these high school singers to that family of singers?

I think it's a wonderful opportunity to add high school singers to the family that has sung this piece. In Venezuela, the Schola Cantorum works to develop choral programs for children of deprived backgrounds in the community through the Youth Schola. When I saw your young singers yesterday, I immediately thought I was working with our Youth Schola. I felt the same reaction and the same interest.

I love to see the openness and the interest of all these young people in rehearsals. They were very engaged and very moved.  When I met them individually they were telling me how much they are enjoying the piece, what it means to them, and how hard they want to work. Yesterday, we were working for six hours, and they were doing everything I asked for. They were very patient with me! I love that and even some of them who were a little distracted at the beginning, once I looked at them directly and said "sit up and hold your score up," they came up to me afterwards, hugged me, and said "Thank you. I want to be part of this and I want to be the best." It's great because we are giving all these kids the sense of doing something very important and of being protagonists in a performance where they can try to be at their best. When you have this self-esteem really working inside of you and you understand that you are earning this possibility because of your own efforts, that's a great educational tool.

Anything else you want to add?

I love every minute of every rehearsal. If I didn't rehearse, my life wouldn't make sense.

Related content:
Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair: Osvaldo Golijov
Voices from Latin America festival
La Pasión según San Marcos: March 10, 2013



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