Music of Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, Gloria Estefan is featured
By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 9:35 p.m.
Choral conductor Vicki Burrichter went to Cuba in 2003.
It took 15 years, but that trip has led to a concert of Cuban choral music in Boulder. Burrichter is now the artistic director and conductor of the Boulder Chorale, who will present “¡Viva Cuba!” Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 27 and 28). The Chorale will be joined by vocal soloist Suzanne Morales; the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir, the oldest age-group of the Chorale’s children’s choirs; and the Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars, an instrumental ensemble hired especially for the occasion.
Bel Canto will sing with the adult Chorale for the opening number, “Chan Chan,” and present a couple of their own pieces as well. Morales and the Cuban Allstars will perform on their own in between the choral sections of the concert.
Burrichter has been drawn to Cuban music since she took the Colorado College Women’s Chorus to Cuba in 2003, but the concert is part of a larger mission for her. “My favorite thing is to look for ways to bring music of other cultures into the choral world,” she says. “I’m always trying to bring more cross-cultural music to the world of choral music, along with all the traditional things that we do.
“The Cuban concert is going to be really exciting!”
She also sees a theme behind the theme of Cuban music, explaining, “as Carlos Santana said, ‘I don’t play Latin music, I play African music.’ I’m such a lover of all things that have to do with African rhythms, whether it’s Brazilian music, or Cuban music—I love that.”
Santana and Burrichter are pointing to the cultural origin of the musical styles, and particularly the rhythms, that dominate music through Latin America, in addition to American jazz, blues and gospel styles: the music brought to the Americas by the African slave trade. “I’m going to start the concert with just the percussion doing kind of an African rhythm, so that people get the idea,” Burrichter explains.
For the rest of the concert, the names of the composers may not be familiar, but many of the songs will be, having been popularized by some of the leading Latin performers. For example, the very first piece, “Chan Chan,” was popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble formed in 1996 to preserve the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. Buena Vista Social Club became famous when they toured the United States in 1998 and were the subject of a widely shown documentary film by German filmmaker Wim Wenders released in 1999.
Other parts of the program feature music that is even more familiar to American audiences. “We’re doing Guantanamera, which everybody knows,” Burrichter says.
“There’s a lot of famous salsa songs and Latin dance music. We’ve got [Tito Puente’s] ‘Oye Como Va,’ which was made very famous by Santana. ‘Cúcula,‘ ‘La Vida es un Carnaval’ (Life is a carnival) and ‘Quimbara,’ are Celia Cruz pieces, and ‘Conga’ was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.”
Burrichter doesn’t want you to think of this as another staid classical music concert. “This is not going to be a concert where you’re going to have to sit quietly in your seats,” she says. “If you know the music, you can sing along!”
And she implied that dancing in the aisles will not be discouraged. “The Latin dance medley is going to be really exciting!” she says. “People will love that.”
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The concert represents a collaboration between the Boulder Chorale and Intercambio, an organization that offers English classes for adults, cultural awareness workshops, and other classes aimed at immigrants in Boulder County. Another collaborator is Boulder’s Rayback Collective at 2775 Valmont Rd., where there will be a gathering for musicians and audience members alike following Sunday’s concert.
Slides will be shown during the performance taken by Jenny Desmond of Intercambio, during her visits to Cuba.
Both performances will be preceded by a pre-concert lecture by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center and a scholar of Cuban music.
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Boulder Concert Chorale with the Boulder Children’s Chorale Bel Canto Choir
Boulder Chorale Cuban Allstars instrumental ensemble
Suzanne Morales, vocal soloist
Vicki Burrichter, artistic director and conductor
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Performances preceded by a pre-concert talk by Susan Thomas, director of the CU American Music Research Center
Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Ave., Boulder