Israel Getzov has done it again!
From a vast quantity of music from the Latin world, a world that is front and center of much of our most loved, famous, vibrant music, and also an equal amount of unknown gems, Getzov managed to select just the right mix of our favorites and stimulating lesser known examples to bring us to our feet yet again in unmitigated joy, not only at the end of the program, but during the evening as well.
The Conway Symphony Orchestra, with guest artists Rick Dimond, accordionist, the Mariachi America group, and the Reflejos Mexicanos dancers, presented theirthird seasonal program on Feb. 16 at the Reynolds Performance Hall in what was named "Sabor de America Latina", or "A Taste of Latin America."
For the uninitiated, this was a fantastic introduction to well-chosen music, reflecting Getzov’s and the musicians’ fine feel for the deep and broad sweep of music from Argentina, Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. When we think of the mighty reach of Spanish and Portuguese culture extending around the world, of their history of cultural variety, tragedy, struggle and triumph far beyond their original isolated peninsula, you have to join in the celebration of the almost universal joy of their music, dance and overall artistic achievement.
Beginning with Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Marquez of Mexico, we found ourselves in Cuba where the ‘danzon’ genre began.
CSO soloists, clarinetist Sylvia Li, pianist Yao Yao, trumpeter Eric Liu, and concert mistress Linda Hsu, brought just the right mix of rhythmic energy and melancholy that built all the way to a tremendous finish. The emerging piccolo snatches by Simona Donava added sparkle to the mix. At times entire sections played while standing giving the music a strong appeal.
Marquez’ Danzon stands with the Huapango of Jose Pablo Moncayo, played later in the CSO program, and about which more below, as a pair of some of the most popular and significant Mexican "classics" performed around the world by orchestras. We were indeed blessed.
But the second selection, Adios Nonino by Astor Piazzola, a tribute and farewell to his deceased father, took us to Argentina. This trek into the tango/jazz world of the bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, was, at times, sad with appropriate touches of an astringent mood, a moving memorial of respect and intimacy to his beloved ‘papa.’ This mix evoked an audience heartfelt response, especially in the middle section where Dimond joined in a quiet duo with the ensemble, to bring us to our feet.
We tend to do that a lot at these concerts, don’t we?
Rick Dimond, a well-known accordionist of Arkansas, proved his eminence here and beyond Arkansas, with his virtuoso playing, continuing this treat after the Piazzola music, in 2 solo selections not printed in the program. First was a Spanish-inspired Bolero Andaluca by Ernesto Granados, showing many jewels of the accordion palette of colors, following by Jolly Caballero by — Pietro Frosini, a wild energetic piece that aroused us once again.
Then, the orchestra of mostly Arkansas and Asian players impressed us with their lively spirit in the "West Side Story" selections by Leonard Bernstein, as the third piece on the program. So much to say about this music, including the outstanding bits woven from the seven songs from the musical, with all sections — brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion — penetrating entirely into the soul of the music. The audience came to life also from their reverie.
With the Huapango of Moncayo we were treated to the two guest groups of the evening — the Mariachi America and Reflejos Mexicano Folklorico Ballet. The stage filled with even more color.
We heard many folk songs and dances of Mexico including "La Cucaracha", probably the one most familiar to adults and children alike in these parts. These were brought to life for an extended party in which we totally succumbed in spirit and in body.
All in all we have to stand in awe and gratitude for the rich contribution the CSO, Israel Getzov, and concert sponsors Carroll and Mary Lee Williams, brought for us to savor. Mr. Williams began the evening with his introduction and invitation to the evening in a welcome totally in Spanish and then in English, fittingly bringing our diverse population together, and sending us off into the evening in a light but fully filled spirit.
From a "Taste" of Latin America we received at least a "Banquet" instead.
Thank you, all, and Adios until the next concerts in March and April.
Dr. Kay Kraeft of Conway is president of Songs Unlimited Inc., sponsor of the Songs Across the Americas Festivals.