Day of the Dead at San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony’s fifth annual Dia de los Muertos community concert features the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra performing Copland’s El Salón México and Moncayo's Huapango; Los Lupeños de San José dance company presenting the traditional Mexican Ballet Folklórico; Mexican artists Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán performing beloved mariachi hits; and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
Luis Valdez, the father of Chicano theater in the U.S., narrates the program. “Remember what the Day of the Dead means,” he told us recently. “This is when you weed the graveyard, when you bring out all the favorite things of the dead. In Mexico, you have these offerings at altars, which are anchors of the tradition in a lot of towns, and so you’ll see photographs, keepsakes, various colorful objects, as you recall the dearly departed. What becomes then is a celebration of life: You’re embracing the cycle of life, the brevity of life. It’s an expression of appreciation of all that life entails, and of course there is always the contradiction inherent in being happy while you are mourning.”
But the best part of this concert is not just inside the hall. Come one hour early for a great show in the lobby, where you’ll find various activities for children, including face painting, and the making of flowers, sombreros and sugar skulls. And of course, cinnamon-infused Mexican hot chocolate. There will also be an altar, built by members of the Community Music Center (on Capp Street in the Mission District), to honor the widely revered singer Chavela Vargas, who died in August, in Cuernavaca, at 94. Known as "la voz áspera de la ternura," the rough voice of tenderness, Vargas was also a lesbian, whose openness became an inspiration to many women in Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s.
There is more. Not to be missed in this preconcert concert are 45 singers, ages 60 to 90, from two local senior choruses: the Solera Singers and the 30th Street Choir. Incidentally, these choirs have become models for a University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) initiative to create senior choirs around the city. The choir director, and the curator of the preconcert activities, Martha Rodriguez Salazar, will lead a repertoire of folk and traditional music accompanied by Jennifer Peringer on accordion.
We highly, highly recommend this event, but it is always full: Don’t wait to get tickets. Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, $10-$68, students half price, (415) 864-6000. See event info here.
Included in: Kids Around the Bay
Mark MacNamara is a journalist who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The Stanford Social Innovation Review and The International Herald Tribune. His website is: macnamband.com.
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