Hermeto, the sound alchemist of emotions

During the first concert in Brazil after the death of his wife, Hermeto Pascoal wins the audience with a new song

Nana Vaz de Castro
The venue was small for so many fans. The gigantic line – that started to form over three hours prior to the beginning of the show – was basically comprised of youngsters, many of whom were music students carrying their instruments, some of them already professionals. A true legion that packed the room and follows their guru, Hermeto Pascoal, in shows. Not surprisingly: his concerts are never the same. The "motive" for this one is the book Calendário do Som (Sound Calendar), recently released, with the sheets for the music written by Hermeto during one year: one song each day – including February 29 –, or a birthday present to virtually everybody in this world.

Deep inside, this legion of hermethologists had one more reason to crowd the venue. It was the first performance of the northeastern musician since the death of his beloved wife and lifetime companion,Ilza, on November 1st, while Hermeto was on tour in Europe. Nonetheless, supported by the audience and friends - Mauro Senise, Paschoal Meirelles, Ithamara Khoorax, Pedro Luís, Itiberê Zwarg and his Orquestra Família were there – Hermeto managed to transform emotions in sound. As usual.

As he took the stage and sat down by the piano, Hermeto asked the sound technician to ring one more time the bell that marks the start of the show. "Now, hold it for a while, please". There. Soon enough, the annoying buzz was turned into a pedal bass upon which Hermeto improvised. Everything is music, always.

Musical toys
The piano moment was short but intense. Then, he raised and walked toward a table full of instruments and gadgets. "Let’s have some fun, now", invited the magician. A small party followed with whistling rubber toys, kettles, glasses of water, syrup bottles. There was also a parental advice moment: "don’t get you children anything that doesn’t make any noise. These teddy bears are very cute, but they do not produce any sound".

But the strongest gush of emotion was being saved for the end of the journey. Hermeto wrote this week the lyrics for the song Menina Ilza, and asked the audience to sing along. The music had been written long before – its first recording was made by trumpeter Marcio Motarroyos in 1977 – and in his latest performances, when Ilza was already seriously ill, Hermeto would close the gigs with it, asking the audience to hum along with the melody, with no lyrics.

The poetry had been handed out at the door. Hermeto called singer Ithamara Koorax up to the stage, willing to have her help the audience. But everyone seemed to have rehearsed before. Menina Ilza came out perfect, much to the author’s surprise. Getting his feelings together, he said: "Sadness is not for me. And it seems that it isn’t for you, either. Look up, Ilza is flying around.."