Neighbors Abroad,
Family At Home

a recital bridging the divide between Mexican and American Song

When everyone was making sourdough starters to stay sane and pass time, I was crafting and assembling vocal recital programs - cue the nerd alert! In September 2022 one of these recitals will see the light of day and make it in front of a live audience.

 

For a while now I’ve been trying to find a way to bring together several artistic interests of mine and focus them all into one musical offering that isn’t intended to make a larger statement either social or political but still has a defined point of view, all the while coming from a perspective that is uniquely “me.”

CANCIÓN DE JINETE

music: Salvador Moreno

text: Federico Lorca

piano: Emily Urbanek

PERSPECTIVE

 

The program of this upcoming recital I’m assembling is simply constructed – 3 sets in English all by composers from the USA, and 3 sets in Spanish all by Mexican composers. Why? A reason is that it’s a representation of a cultural experience shared by many in the USA, myself included.

 

I am Mexican-American, not by nationality as usually understood outside of the USA – I was born and raised in Arizona. I use the term to indicate my heritage and the unique perspective of those of us who retain the culture of our forbears from across the border, but have only ever lived in the USA, resulting in that fine balance of simultaneously being “Mexican” and “American”.

LONESOME MAN | Blue Mountain Ballads

music: Paul Bowles

text: Tennessee Williams

piano: Nyle Matsuoka

PREFERENCE

 

You who know me well know that I have a preference toward repertoire that would be considered underperformed, under appreciated, or underrepresented - usually from the past. I am a huge advocate for the composers and compositions that for whatever reason fell by the wayside in the annals of history or outside our modern programming.

 

These composers and compositions were contemporaries of the masters and masterpieces we hear and learn about so often. Knowing these “other” pieces offers a fuller perspective of any given musical era and broader context of what else was being composed around the same time as ‘the greats’.

EL CABALLITO | 5 Canciones de Niños

music: Silvestre Revueltas

text: Federico Lorca

piano: TBD

PROGRAMMING

 

In concert and recital, programming tends toward the academic model where lesser known works are treated as sampler, filler, or novelty. It’s my hope that underperformed works and composers can take a more prominent position in programming especially outside of ‘discovery series’, and without the need of calendar events that highlight specific cultures or traditions.

 

Just like in the USA with English-language repertoire, the Spanish speaking world is able to easily draw from all countries and cultures that share in repertoire of the same language. However, I’ve observed that Mexican composers especially classical-style composers are rather underperformed in the states, or regarded as unknown altogether.

I assembled this recital because I wanted to bring together my individual perspective and culture as a Mexican-American, my interest of underperformed pieces and composers, and my love of the collaborative experience between performer and audience through the medium of solo performance.

 

The title “Neighbors Abroad, Family at Home” directly addresses an American experience of claiming and even having roots in multiple cultures and countries while perhaps at some point in that experience feeling unaccepted by some if not all. Remarkably, experiences like this give rise to new (sub)cultures, which over time become fully integrated into the larger social structure and becoming another branch of the American experience.

PROGRESS

 

This idea of peoples who are considered from elsewhere because of their culture or heritage while living in the USA is not unique to Mexican-Americans. The generations of “American” families over the USA’s history span the full spectrum of peoples. It’s my wish that Neighbors lives on not only as other iterations of my own perspective, but for it be a theme for many more performers to highlight their American roots while paying homage to their own respective cultural heritage through music and song.