"Diego Rivera's artwork depicts the breadth of human experience -- families and workers, struggles and celebrations, histories and imagined futures," says Jen Padgett, acting Windgate Curator of Craft at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
In a performance June 30 "designed to sonically bring the artwork to life," the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas will present the creations of six Latinx composers, Javier Álvarez, Alejandro Basulto, José Pablo Moncayo, Gabriela Ortiz, Silvestre Revueltas, and Carlos Chávez -- a friend of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo whose family will travel from Mexico to attend the concert -- "using the arts to highlight the profound beauty of the working class and everyday life, especially as it relates to Mexico's mestizo and Indigenous roots."
Conducting the SoNA Beyond concert will be Felipe Tristán, who conducts with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, Teatro Grattacielo, and serves as a creative partnerships manager with the Grammy Award-winning Afro Latin Jazz Alliance. He answered these questions for What's Up!
Q. Tell me about your passion for music and particularly the intersection of classical music with Afro Latin jazz?
A. While nobody in my family was a professional musician, there definitely was music, singing, and art all around me growing up. One of my goals is to honor and celebrate all aspects of my Latin heritage, including our art, cuisine, culture and, of course, music. Working in other genres outside of the classical music "bubble" -- such as musical theater and Afro Latin jazz -- has allowed me to enrich my perspective and, most importantly, to become a better artist. I believe the musicians of this century should blur music genres and be comfortable moving between various genres.
Q. What inspired this concert?
A. This project is a testament that SoNA and its leadership team are doing things right. Organizations across various industries are saying a lot about promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, but taking concrete actions -- like building this partnership, to introduce music from underrepresented composers to new audiences -- are exemplary and will set the bar high for other organizations to follow.
Q. How were the composers selected?
A. I wanted to select composers that represented Diego Rivera's vision of America and also incorporated the flair and flavors of both Mexico and the U.S., the two countries that I call home. I also wanted to design an engaging musical experience for the audience and showcase a variety of influential composers, including some from decades ago as well as some who are alive and composing today, including Chávez, Moncayo, and Revueltas (from the "old school" of Latin American composers) to Ortiz, Basulto, and Álvarez (who are contemporary composers).
Carlos Chávez was one of my first choices when curating this program: He is one of Mexico's foremost composers and spent an important part of his career in New York City, which most definitely influenced his style. Chávez and his family were very close to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: they had a great deal of respect for one another. Over the past few years I've become close to Chávez's family, who has generously given me access to the composer's estate -- truly a dream come true -- so I've had the opportunity to spend countless hours diving into Chávez's compositions, including some of his unpublished works.
Q. What should audiences know going in to the performance?
A. The audience will listen to a selection of works that vary in form and style, which provide a musical impression of both Mexico and the U.S. At some points, two perspectives will be juxtaposed with one another, while at other points two styles will be presented in opposition to one another.
Q. What do you hope they know leaving the performance?
A. I hope the audience will leave the concert feeling inspired and curious to learn more about music and art from the Americas, and have a better understanding of the breadth of music coming from the Latin American region. Despite our cultural and linguistic differences, we are far more connected than we think, and music is one of the most effective ways we have to connect to one another.
'I Paint What I See'
WHEN -- 7 p.m. June 30
WHERE -- Great Hall at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville
COST -- $30-$75
INFO -- crystalbridges.org
'I Paint What I See
WHEN — 7 p.m. June 30
WHERE — Great Hall at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville
COST — $30-$75
INFO — crystalbridges.org