Music is the international language at OpSail
New London - Accompanied by cooling breezes off the Thames River, the six-piece band of the Brazilian Navy ship Cisne Branco shared the suave, relaxed jazz of their native country with an audience of sun-soaked visitors at Fort Trumbull State Park Sunday afternoon.
"The breeze today is making the heat not unbearable, and the jazz just went along with it," said Carol Jones of New London, one of about 60 people scattered on lawn chairs watching the Cisne Branco Band perform on the main stage at the park. "They sounded great. It's just a perfect day."
Performing in crisp white uniforms, the band, comprising two electric guitars, trumpet, keyboard, drums and tenor sax, began with "Canção do Marinheiro," a traditional Brazilian sailor's song, then segued into tunes from their homeland familiar to most American ears - "Blame it on the Bossa Nova" and "The Girl from Ipanema," popularized by Frank Sinatra - but sung with the original Portuguese lyrics.
Sergio Remato, who plays guitar and sings with the band, said the group's members are cultural ambassadors who perform at most of the ports the 256-foot ship visits. The ship has sailed to nine cities over the last three months.
"We've been playing together since 2005, and every year we get new musicians," Remato said through interpreter Alzi Platts, an OpSail volunteer who runs Ganzá, a Hartford firm that promotes Brazilian culture.
The band, Remato said, always performs on the ship when it's open for tours, and gives special concerts like this one by request.
Sheilla Torres and Jose Lebron of Middletown, on their first visit to New London, were among visitors who heard the band when they toured Cisne Branco. They had also climbed aboard the Eagle, docked on the opposite side of the pier.
"We liked the music," Lebron said.
After a 35-minute wait in line, Bob Potz of Waterford, his girlfriend, Kim Hayward, and her two children were also able to tour the Cisne Branco and the Eagle.
"The Eagle's sweet. It's like a museum, and the cadets are very helpful," Potz said of the 295-foot barque. "On the Brazilian ship, they're trying to sell you things - lighters and stuff."
After the Cisne Branco Band, the 30-member Madry Temple Choir roused the audience with energetic gospel music. The group was introduced by John Johnson, OpSail chairman and member of the New London church.
Niko Paul, director of the choir, said being invited to perform at OpSail and commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 was a privilege.
"I'm prior Navy myself, so this is a big deal for me," she said.
The group opened with a gospel-infused version of the national anthem, then prompted the audience out of their chairs to stand and clap to their high-energy worship songs.
Sisters Marie Dougherty and Liz Dougherty-Spicer, hands held high as they swayed to the music, could hardly contain their enthusiasm.
"This is a joyful day. This event has been a total blessing to this area," Dougherty said. "We have such a vast variety of people. It's just awesome. We should have these type of gatherings more often."
Her sister added: "Isn't this a wonderful way to end the day?"
After a few more songs, Johnson introduced the choir's last song, "Glorious Day."
"This has been absolutely fabulous," he said. "It has been a glorious day."
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