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Crystal’s ‘You Care, We Care’ Voluntoursim Program Cause the Ripples to Spread

*Lead image credit: David Fulton

This is a story about people. People who are seemingly, wholly different, whose geography spans from a posh metropolitan stateside city to one of the earth’s most remote islands. And these people who began as strangers are now personally connected through a shared love of music and a passion for sharing it with future generations.

This connection came to be on an afternoon in Easter Island during a “You Care, We Care” Crystal Voluntourism Adventure – a program that offers personal experiences in communities around the world. As this particular shoreside visit progressed, it touched the heart of one of the guests aboard Crystal Symphony and began a ripple effect that stretched across oceans and continues to make waves in the lives of many.

On the Crystal Insider, Crystal Symphony guest David Fulton – a computer scientist by trade and classical music aficionado, producer and avid collector by passion from Seattle, Washington – shares his personal account of the extraordinary experience he enjoyed during Crystal’s visit to the Toki Rapa Nui Music School.

My wife, Amy, and I were guests on Crystal Symphony for the full 2018 World Cruise. It was on March 30, 2018 that we visited the Rapa Nui School of Music and Arts.

The school is lovely, an aesthetic delight. We heard the students practice as we walked around the facility. Then came the marvelous luncheon Crystal organized where we were treated to a concert by the students. This concert was presented by beginners who, despite a woeful lack of instruments and facilities, were progressing nicely in their studies. One boy, eight years old I believe, played the Bach Double with his teacher. Several things were clear: he was talented, he had already surpassed his teacher, and, sadly, the instrument he was using was very poor, so poor it may hinder his further progress.

Then Mahani Teave played.

We could not have been more astonished if Horowitz or Rubinstein had stepped onstage. Even with a perfectly awful upright piano, it became clear that we were being treated to a serious performance by a very major artist. The audience was absolutely transfixed, many in tears. I believe I even saw a tear or two in the eyes of the ship’s captain. It was totally unexpected, totally uplifting, a musical feast.

The repertoire was serious, in no way watered down: a Bach suite, some Liszt, etc. 

That performance was the absolute highlight of the entire four-month World Cruise for us.

I spoke with Mahani briefly after that performance. I told her how talented that very young violinist was, how he desperately needed a better violin to advance, and I told her how profoundly impressed I was with her artistry. We spoke just a few words, but one question I asked was if I could purchase a CD of her performance. She told me that she had never made a CD.

As we cruised onward, we pondered our visit to Toki Rapa Nui. How best to help? My initial impulse was to try to promote a concert career for Mahani. But that would have been a bad idea: Mahani is totally committed to the school and to the cultural enrichment of Rapa Nui. Finally, we concluded that the best way to help was to make a proper recording of Mahani that could publicize Toki Rapa Nui and spread awareness of her artistry. So I sent Mahani an email telling her that we were making a contribution to the school and also inviting her to come to Seattle so we could make a really good recording of her playing.

Background: Toki Rapa Nui Music School is a 100% sustainably built and operated organization. Its construction is the brainchild of Mahani’s husband, Enrique Icke, and “Garbage Warrior” North American architect Michael Reynolds. Enrique is the president of Rapa Nui and a trained engineer, though on the island, he’s most known as a musician. The school serves more than 200 children, teaching them music and practicing the art of living together as a community and passing along the island’s proud legacies.

Several months later, Mahani, Enrique, and their utterly charming two-year-old daughter, Tahai, were guests at our home in Seattle. I engaged the producer, John Forsen, with whom I’ve made four films to organize the recording session. Our recording engineer was Dmitriy Lipay, recording engineer for the Seattle Symphony and also for the L. A. Philharmonic.

Both John and Dmitry boast a collection of industry awards over their esteemed careers. John has earned multiple New York Emmys and other artistic accolades, while Dmitry has earned five Grammy nominations and one win.

Frankly, I was uncertain how reliable my memory of Mahani’s performance in Rapa Nui might be. Had I, perhaps, overestimated her artistry? I wasn’t sure. Both my producer and recording engineer were skeptical going in. I think they were to some extent humoring me.

Then came the recording session. Everybody was totally blown away. After the first day, Dmitriy told me that Mahani was better than most of the pianists that play with the Seattle Symphony. She nailed an incredibly difficult Liszt piece in just an hour or two. Dmitriy said the last time he’d recorded that piece, the pianist had required four days to get it right.

Three days were scheduled for the recording sessions. Mahani finished in just two days. After the first day, Dmitriy took it on himself to contact the president and CEO of the Seattle Symphony, Krishna Thiagarajan, and personally escorted him down to the hall to hear Mahani play. Krishna was sufficiently impressed that, on the spot, he offered Mahani free use of the hall to give a recital if she wished and, wanting to get better acquainted and speak with her at length. They came for dinner at our house where we spent a delightful evening with Krishna, his wife Joanna, Mahani, and Enrique (and Tahai).

For our part, the project has grown beyond a mere audio CD. We intend to produce a promotional piece that contains two audio CDs, a DVD and a Blu-ray disk with video of the recording session and about the school. The liner notes will be tri-lingual: English, Spanish and Rapa Nui. Our intention is to create a first-class production. Mahani can, of course, sell the result to help raise money. But what really makes this effort worthwhile is that it may create an instrument to spread the word about the marvelous work being done at Toki Rapa Nui and, equally important, to spread awareness of Mahani’s remarkable artistry.

Mahani is, in fact, one of the world’s greatest pianists and a totally delightful, intelligent human being.

I hope the ripples from that amazing afternoon continue to spread.

Crystal’s “You Care, We Care” Voluntourism Adventures are designed to create personal connections between guests and the places they explore. Easter Island’s Toki Rapa Nui Music School is a very special part of this program, which also comprises numerous other organizations around the world that focus on environmental conservation, animal rescue and rehabilitation, assistance for the elderly and hungry and preservation of historical sites. The excursions are complimentary for guests and crew.

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