Saturday, February 5, 2011

Music, Music, Music

It's a cool, windy, cloudy day here in Pátzcuaro, so I am taking the opportunity to catch up on this blog. There's a fire in the fireplace in the office, which has made it quite cozy despite the gloom outside. The gardener, Gerado, thinks it may rain.

We have been gratified by the quality of music here in the area. Three concerts, all free, have demonstrated the commitment of Michoacán to the promotion of music. In general we've found Mexico to be very interested in the arts, to the extent that both the state and national governments provide financial and logistical support to artists and communities.

The first two concerts were in Morelia, in the theater of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, an attractive venue with comfortable padded seats and ample leg room (something we often wish for, in theaters and airlines) in the center of Morelia. These were performances by the University's Chamber Orchestra, and both concerts had an overflow crowd with dozens of people standing at the back of the theater and more sitting in the aisles. We met friends in Morelia for a quick early meal and then walked the short distance to the theater.

In contrast to the concerts we've attended in Salida, a large percentage of the audience was young. This can be attributed to the fact that the Conservatorio de las Rosas, in Morelia, was the first music academy in the Americas and still produces a quantity of excellent musicians. The Conservatory is a pleasant place to visit, and  while strolling around the central courtyard you can hear music from the practice rooms. True to its name, there are many rose bushes growing there and, unlike the blowsy hybrids we're used to, these have fragrance.

Both concerts were expertly conducted and performed, with gusto and great skill. Soloists at the first concert were a young trumpeter from the State of Mexico and a soprano from nearby Irapuato, but the second concert's soloists (violin and guitar) were all from the Conservatory and had a large local (and vocal) following. We've heard music from both Mexican composers and more familiar ones like Bach, Mozart, Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel, and Boccherini so far.

The next chamber orchestra concert will be on February 16, but our dilemma is that the State Orchestra is having its 2011 debut performance on the same night. Decisons, decisions.

A capacity audience
The third concert, last night, was held at the Basilica here in Pátzcuaro, a performance of the Coro de los Niños, the Children's Choir of Morelia, established in 1944. There are 42 children, between the ages of 8 and 14. As you can imagine, this was a well-attended concert with an audience that covered all age groups, from little kids on up. The choir has a great reputation in the region, well deserved. You can see from the photos that the Basilica is a beautiful space with elegant decorations.

Photo by Klaus Willeke
First there was a poem about Pátzcuaro, and a speech outlining the history of the choir, and then the children filed in, with the shortest, youngest kids in the front row, in rather surprising dark pink robes. They stood in front of the altar, dwarfed by the vast space around them, and their sweet voices filled the room. They performed 16 songs, including crowd favorites, like "Cielito Lindo," that the director encouraged the audience to sing along with. Another favorite was "Que Lindo es Michoacán" (How Beautiful is Michoacán), which seems to be an unofficial state anthem. Mexicans are very proud of their country, and Michoacanas are especially proud of their state, feeling that it's the most beautiful in the country.
Attentive young audience members

Through the miracle of modern technology, Mark used his Droid to record some of the concert, and you can listen to some songs below. You can hear how the acoustics of the space affects the sound.

Anon en swing - Reeks Veenker

Te invocamus Motete a 4. Para la procesión de la Satísima Trinidad - Cayetano de Perea

Canción de cuna para una princesa negra - Canon catalán

Alegres Pastorcillos - Ya vienen caminando - Miguel Bernal Jiménez

Cielito Lindo

Afterwards we went out for hot chocolate and dessert with friends who had also attended the concert. 

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