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
The program of this recital 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”.
Born and raised in Arizona, Ollarsaba brings his background in American song and Mexican heritage together, highlighting the rich diversity and similarities between the song traditions of the USA and Mexico.
American program selections include Steven Mark Kohn's musical adaption of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer," premiered by Ollarsaba, with pieces by Paul Bowles and Jake Heggie. Silvestre Revueltas' "5 Canciones de Niños" and songs by Salvador Moreno make up selections of Mexican compositions along with traditional folk songs like "La Sandunga" and "La Golondrina."
"Neighbors Abroad, Family At Home"
LONESOME MAN | Blue Mountain Ballads
music: Paul Bowles
text: Tennessee Williams
piano: Nyle Matsuoka
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: Antonio de Trueba
piano: Katherine Kozak
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.
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.