Monday, 18 October 2010 20:27

Hispanic classical music stirs the soul

Posted by Lisa Gray
By Ken Keuffel
Published on the Winston-Salem Journal website October 10, 2010

The music of Latin America has been ringing in my ears lately. And I’m not talking about what you hear at parties or pop-music concerts, though much of that material is definitely worth hearing.

I’ve also become better acquainted with several fine Hispanic musicians. These players likely aren’t household names in the United States and even Latin America — but they ought to be.

The music and musicians in question belong to part of a classical-music tradition that is being celebrated on a recently issued 2-CD recording and on two programs on WDAV (89.9-FM). They have made me a fan.

The recording, Mi Alma Mexicana/My Mexican Soul (Sony Classical), features Alondra de la Parra conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in 200 years of orchestral music by Mexican composers.

The two programs on WDAV are Concierto and Mexico at 200. The latter, a four-part series airing Sunday afternoons, wraps up today; in it, de la Parra plays and talks about all kinds of Mexican symphonic music, providing a useful retrospective on sounds as conservative as the Euro-centric Ricardo Castro and as hip as Enrico Chapela, whose Inguesu (2003) is inspired by soccer! Frank Dominguez

In Concierto , which airs for two hours each Saturday evening, WDAV announcer Frank Dominguez introduces music by Latin American and Spanish composers and recordings in which Latin American or Spanish performers are featured. He does so in both Spanish and English. This kind of thing rarely happens at classical-music stations across the country.

On one level, of course, these developments aren’t all that surprising. National Hispanic Heritage Month ended Friday, and this year, Mexico is celebrating its bicentennial. That’s quite a celebration, and classical music and musicians have made themselves a part of the mix.

And there are Hispanics out there who like classical music and want to know more about it. Concierto provides an ideal entry point.

A cynic might conclude that de la Parra and WDAV are merely contributing to the marginalization of Hispanics in classical music — a condition that also afflicts blacks, whose contributions to classical music tend to get their greatest or during MLK concerts or programs related to Black History Month.

But I’m more optimistic. When Robert Moody, the music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony, conducted that ensemble in an audition concert about six years ago, he programmed Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Marquez, the renowned Mexican composer. He has conducted the piece with other orchestras.

Conductors are always looking for new or overlooked music of merit to play. A recording such as Mi Alma Mexicana helps bring it to their attention.

It’s also worth noting that Concierto airs not once a year but every week.

Concierto, funded with $35,000 from WDAV’s board and a $55,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is still in its pilot phase. By the end of next year, it will become a round-the-clock music source, WDAV officials say. Efforts are already being made to syndicate the program at other stations nationwide; KPBS in San Diego has picked it up.

Dominguez says that Hispanics represent the one segment of the population with the potential to increase listenership of classical music on the radio. We won’t know that for sure unless Concierto reaches its full potential.

 

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