2010 is the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s Independence and the 100th anniversary of its Revolution. Santa Cecilia Orchestra, an orchestra with a special mission to serve the Latino community, will celebrate these two momentous events with a concert featuring works from Mexico’s greatest composers. A befitting celebration for this significant year since the largest concentration of Mexicans in the United States is found in Los Angeles.
Mexican -American music director and conductor, Sonia Marie De Léon de Vega leads the Orchestra in works including Márquez’s Danzón No. 2 and Danzón No. 4, Chávez’s Chapultepec and Symphony No. 2, Sinfonia India. Blas Galindo’s Sones de Mariachi and Jose Pablo Moncayo’s Huapango are also on the program.
Carlos Chávez (1899-1978) was, and remains, Mexico’s greatest composer and one of the outstanding figures of twentieth-century music. Chávez came of age at time when intense patriotic sentiments were sweeping Mexico in the wake of the 1910 revolution, and from nearly the beginning of his career he sought to create works of distinctly Mexican character. He did so primarily by using typically Mexican dance rhythms and a colorful orchestral palette, though he usually refrained from quoting actual folk tunes. An exception is his Sinfonía India, which employs several traditional melodies. Chávez, who was partly descended from Indian stock, once noted that such tunes were “the first music I heard in my life and did the most to nourish my musical taste and consciousness.” He composed Sinfonía India in 1935. It has long been the most popular of his compositions.
Chapultepec, by Chávez, also uses popular melodies as its thematic material. Chávez composed this work also in 1935, at which time he called it Oberatura republicana, or “Republican Overture.” Later he changed the title to Chapultepec, the name of the great park in the historic center of Mexico City. The piece unfolds as a single movement, though divided into three sections. Each section bears a title, and each is a based on a piece of music that would have been familiar to Mexicans during the first half of the last century. The final portion of the piece, titled "Adelita's Song," brings “La Adelita,” a popular song of the Revolution.
Many Mexican composers have followed Chávez’s practice of using folk songs or other popular melodies as themes for orchestral compositions. One who did so quite successfully was Blas Galindo Dimas (1910-93). A descendent of Huichol Indians, Galindo Dimas first gained renown with Sones de Mariachi, composed in 1940, and this has remained his most popular work. The piece is a medley of tunes used by mariachi musicians in their familiar serenades, colorfully scored for concert orchestra.
Composer Arturo Márquez (born 1950) prefers to avoid actual quotation in his work, creating wholly original melodies that nevertheless refer to the style of Mexican vernacular music. Perhaps the most prominent Mexican composer of the present day, Márquez studied music in his native country, in the United States (at CalArts), and in Paris. Through those studies, he became well-versed in the sounds and techniques of advanced contemporary composition, but his musical roots lie in Mexico’s popular melodies and rhythms. His father was a mariachi player, and Márquez grew up hearing a wide range of folkloric songs and dances. Creating a common ground for these two idioms — contemporary composition and Mexican popular music — has been an important goal of his work. Danzón No. 2 & No. 4 will be performed.
The concert concludes with one of the most famous pieces of orchestral music by a Mexican composer: Huapango, by Jose Pablo Moncayo (1912 - 1958). Huapango is a dance popular throughout much of Mexico, as well as the name for a type of song associated with it. There are a great many of these huapango songs, which tend to be lively and humorous. Moncayo used several traditional huapango melodies as themes to create a colorful celebration of the genre.
Sonia Marie De Léon de Vega, noted symphony and opera conductor has achieved distinction as a creative and consummate musician, as a woman in a groundbreaking career role, and as a leading influence in the growing Latino culture in the United States. Her musical talents have inspired a large following in Southern California through live orchestral presentations, as well as an international audience through televised performances in the United States, Latin America and Europe. She was the first woman in history to receive a Vatican invitation to conduct a symphony orchestra at a Papal Mass. De Leon de Vega is most closely associated with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. She is celebrated in educational circles for creating the dynamic Discovering Music program that takes orchestra members into elementary schools in underserved Latino neighborhoods to introduce over 16,000 children a year to classical music and the instruments of the orchestra. The program also provides free violin lessons to over 200 children in these communities.
The concert will take place at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall, 1600 Campus Rd., Los Angeles on April 25, 2010 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There will be one performance only of this program. Tickets priced at $26, $20 and $7 (youth 17 and under) are available by calling the Orchestra office at (323) 259-3011