Friday, January 29, 2016

A Musical Interlude from Carnival 2016

Melinda Palacio
The Louisiana Philharmonic at St. Louis Cathedral

            Carnival season is in full swing in New Orleans this weekend. I took advantage of a musical interlude last Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, I love a parade. What would carnival in New Orleans be like without the marching bands playing and dancing their hearts out and the sport of catching beads, especially handmade throws from float riders.
Throws from the Joan of Arc parade.

            Wednesday was the first time I had heard the Louisiana Philharmonic. Los Angeles and the Disney Concert Center has Gustavo Dudamel and New Orleans and Louisiana has Carlos Miguel Prieto, Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Louisiana Philharmonic. Prieto is a native of Mexico. He is the most enthusiastic and playful conductor I've seen. To be fair, I am not a seasoned concert attendee, nor have I seen the famous Dudamel (although I'd love to). However, I have experienced joy and know fine talent when I see it. Carlos Miguel Prieto is both joyous and talented. His love for music speakes volumes in the way his entire body dances to the music while his arms conduct with expert skill and grace. He urged the audience to applaud French Soprano Alice Lestang to the point he had the entire musical congregation stomping their feet until she came back on stage for even more applause. The acoustics in the church were not the best, but the experience of listening to sounds emanate from Ms. Lestang's diaphram was nothing short of religious, and St. Louis Cathedral was an appropriate venue for the show. Her voice emanated from her entire being. This was not the case for the student sopranos who were very good but not as magnanimous and precise in their vocalizations.

            The concert honored and reproduced the diverse musical selections offered during the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884. During that international fair, the largest presence was Mexico, thanks to the efforts of President Porfirio Díaz. Mexican music, especially brass bands influence on jazz in New Orleans was an important component of the fair's legacy.
St. Louis Cathedral in background

            Mexico was also represented in Wednesday's concert by the conductor and marimba player, Julian Romero Pacheco, who played a Guatemalan Rondo Allegro in tribute to the Quiche Maya who introduced Marimba music to New Orleans. As lagniappe (a little something extra), Pacheco played a Mexican tune on the marimba, the well known Sanduga from Oaxaca. I was familiar with the Bach selections and Strauss's Voices of Spring, having watched many Bugs Bunny episodes as a child, but less familiar with the Wagner and the Charles Gounod selections that were sung by the incredible Alice Lestang.
Inside the Cathedral

            Tonight parades begin and continue almost every day through Fat Tuesday. I'm sure I will treasure this quiet moment fondly, as the title of the concert suggests, A Fair to Remember, the 1884-1885 Concert Season in New Orleans.

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