Chicago Sinfonietta's Day Of The Dead concert

The Chicago Sinfonietta and guest conductor Hector Guzman are presenting a special Day of the Dead concert in honor of the Mexican holiday on Saturday, October 30 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

"In December, holiday concerts are certainly not hard to come by, but something around the Day of the Dead and Halloween is much less common in classical music, so we decided to seize the opportunity," says Sinfonietta Founder and Music Director Paul Freeman. "We hope this concert can become a new annual tradition for the Sinfonietta."

Guzman, Music Director of the Plano Symphony, the Irving Symphony, the San Angelo Symphony and the Filarmonica de Jalisco, leads the orchestra through vivid sounds that contrast the somber European traditions of mourning with the more jubilant celebrations of Latino cultures. Día de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin and North America on November 2, in connection with the Catholic holiday All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2).

Before the concert and during intermission, the National Museum of Mexican Art will display installations in the lobby of the Harris Theater. Among the work will be a traditional ofrenda (altar), an example of a typical ofrenda that would be displayed within a central Mexican home. All the elements that pay homage to the deceased and ancient indigenous symbols that represent the cycle of life will be represented.

The Day of the Dead concert will open with Modest Mussorgsky's darkly haunting Night on Bald Mountain. Inspired by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol's short story about a coven of witches that would gather on a barren mountain to celebrate Sabbath, Mussorgsky's piece is a truly spooky work perfect for the season.

The program continues with Maurice Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess. Only 24 when his solo Pavane pour une Infante Défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) premiered in Paris in 1899, Ravel soon became the talk of drawing rooms and salons, as the short work already displayed his distinct musical style. The piece became so popular that he fully orchestrated it in 1910. A deceptively simple and subtle work, the piece follows the form of the Renaissance pavane, a courtly dance. "It is not a funeral lament for a dead child," Ravel declared, "but an evocation of the pavane which could have been danced by such a little princess as painted by Velasquez at the Spanish court."

Also featured will be the three-part Nights in the Gardens of Spain, considered the masterpiece of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. The lush and impressionistic work takes the listener through three different gardens, including the Generalife, a garden of jasmine-scented roses surrounding the Alhambra, the summer palace housing the king's harem; the second garden is a mysteriously unidentified place where an exotic dance occurs; the third is the Gardens of the Sierra de Córdoba, filled with festive gypsy dancing and singing. Night in the Gardens of Spain will feature distinguished guest artist Joaquín Achúcarro on piano.

Eugene Toussaint's celebratory Popol-Vuh will begin the second half of the program, which shifts to the triumphant sounds of Latino cultures, known for celebrating the life of a deceased person rather than focusing on the sadness of their death. Born in Mexico City, Toussaint is a self-taught musician who started his performing career in 1972 as a pianist with the jazz band Odradek.

Mexican composer Arturo Márquez's Danzón No.2 will follow, a reflection on the popular Cuban dance style known as the danzon, a stately dance for a couple which begins slowly but then builds in both speed and fiery intensity. Some have called Márquez's Danzón No.2 the second national anthem of Cuba. Written in 1994 during the Zapatista uprising, a fight over the rights of the impoverished indigenous people of Mexico, the circumstances around its creation lend the work a certain urgency that is clear from the opening clarinet solo through the piece's explosive finale.

The Day of the Dead concert will continue with one of Astor Piazzolla's most popular and also most traditional tangos, Oblivion. With a melancholic beginning and a lush but less intense middle section, Oblivion is a sophisticated work of restrained harmonies and a touch of jazz, exemplifying the "Tango Nuevo" movement.

The concert concludes with José Pablo Moncayo's Huapango, which combines three of the best-known folk songs from the Veracruz region on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Using the structure of call-and-response between soloist and orchestra, Moncayo creates a vivacious atmosphere with sparkling rhythms, reminiscent of a colorful and lively fiesta.

Ticket prices for the Day of the Dead range from $26 to $50, with special pricing available for children and students. Tickets are available through the Chicago Sinfonietta by calling 312-236-3681 ext. 2 and online at, or through the Harris Theater by calling 312-334-7777 and online at

The Chicago Sinfonietta's 2010-2011 season continues in the new year with A Dream Unfolds, the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January 16-19. For more information, visit


Now in its 24th season, the Chicago Sinfonietta has a proud history of having enriched the cultural, educational, and social quality of life in Chicago, while gaining significant recognition on the national and international stage. Performing at Chicago's Symphony Center and Lund Auditorium of Dominican University, the Sinfonietta presents a full season of symphonic concerts as well as a Chamber Series. The Chicago Sinfonietta has also served as the official orchestra of The Joffrey Ballet since 2003.

Under the guidance of Founding Music Director Paul Freeman, The Sinfonietta is dedicated to the authentic performance of Classical, Romantic and Contemporary repertoire and excels at presenting imaginative new works by composers and soloists of color. Chicago Sinfonietta musicians truly represent the city's rich cultural landscape and continue to fulfill the orchestra's mission of Musical Excellence through Diversity™. A 2007 survey of major orchestras revealed that the Chicago Sinfonietta is the most diverse professional orchestra in the United States. Through this distinction, the Chicago Sinfonietta serves as a national model for inclusiveness in classical music.

For more information on the Chicago Sinfonietta, visit

Chicago Sinfonietta
7:30 pm on Saturday
Harris Theater
205 E. Randolph, Chicago
312-236-3681 ext. 2

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