SOUTH AMERICAN SUITE FOR HARP AND ORCHESTRA
Photo: Performance with the Corona Symphony Orchestra,California, October 18, 2014.
Conductor/Music Director: Marco A. Mejia
CD of the Suite: El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Gürer Aikal. Available in the MUSIC page.
Flute 1/piccolo, flute 2/alto flute, oboe 1 & 2, Bb clarinet 1 & 2, bassoon, Horn in F 1 & 2, Bb trumpet 1 & 2, tenor & bass trombone, timpani, percussion and strings.
ABOUT THE MOVEMENTS:
COLOMBIANA: This is a "joropo," a lively harp music genre from the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. This piece is dedicated to Colombia and specially to the Colombian plains, where every year music festivals celebrate the traditional "joropo."
VENEZOLANA: This is a "tonada," a traditional harp music genre from the Venezuelan plains. I dedicate this piece to Venezuela and to Juan Vicente Torrealba, Venezuelan harpist and composer whose music had a great impact on me upon my arrival in Venezuela as a child.
ANDINA: The Andes, the valleys, the mountains reaching high in the sky, from jungle to snow, from Cuzco to Machu Pichu, from Spanish to Inca, the elements of this rich culture are the basis of this piece. In its two very distinctive parts I have used the same mixture of indigenous and Spanish elements present in much of their music.
ECUATORIANA: Dedicated to that beautiful South American country, this piece is in the genre of "pasillo," very popular in its mountain regions.
IMPROVISACIÓN (Improvisation): Ecuatoriana ends with a solo harp improvisation which will be different every time the Suite is performed. Using elements of South American music genres, this improvisation will arrive at the main theme of "Paraguaya," without interruption. For the premiere, March, 1996, the improvisation was based on themes, originally improvised years ago, dedicated to my wife Luz Marina and the birth of our daughters, Luzma and Michelle. To them I dedicated that improvisation, with all my love.
PARAGUAYA: This movement is in the rhythmic style of the "polca paraguaya," the most characteristic harp music genre of Paraguay. (similar in name but rhythmically unrelated to the European "polca"). Originally a solo harp piece, dedicated to friends in the area of Santa Cruz, California, who had fallen in love with the harp and music from Paraguay, I gave it the title "Zayante," a word which identifies an indigenous tribe that used to live in the area of Santa Cruz. I dedicate this new orchestrated version of "Zayante" to Paraguay, land of the harp, and to the memory of my Paraguayan harp teacher, Alberto Romero. See VIDEOS page.
CREATING MY SUITE:
The idea of performing with orchestra had began in 1982, when my friend, Phia Berghout, phoned me from The Netherlands, very early one morning, to ask if I would accept her invitation to perform several of my compositions as part of the Opening Concert of the First World Harp Congress, to take place in Maastricht, The Netherlands, in 1983. After a long silence I accepted.
Phia requested my pieces and offered to have them arranged so I could perform them with the Royal Band of The Netherlands. The performance took place with great success, having not only the audience but the musicians in love with the marvelous and unique rhythmic styles of South America. For several years I kept thinking of commissioning the orchestration of my "South American Suite," a collection of five of my pieces in contrasting South American music styles. In 1992, I heard a recorded version of one of my compositions, Sueño Español (Spanish Dream), beautifully performed on pedal harp by Paul Hurst. Mr. Hurst was also a pianist and orchestrator and specialized in computer music notation. Talking to Mr. Hurst about my ideas, I felt that I had found the person with both, the technical knowledge and the sensitivity I was looking for, to orchestrate my Suite.
I commissioned the orchestration in 1993. Giving him the original solo harp versions of my compositions for the Suite, besides the many long hours he worked on the project, we worked together many more hours on many details, making sure that the unique style and character of each one of my compositions, were preserved.
While touring in Alaska, in November of 1995, a phone call from my wife informed me that David André, Music Director of the Tulare County Symphony, California, had called to ask if I had music for harp and orchestra. At that time, only one of the movements, Andina, was still to be orchestrated. Both parts of Andina were kept very close to my original composition for harp, guitars, charango and quenas (Inca flutes). The strumming of some of the original instruments was given to the strings, strumming "guitar style." In the slow, haunting first part, the bassoon was assigned a phrase originally for guitar, while my theme for the quenas was given to a piccolo and a flute and, at other times, the oboes. The lively final part . . . well, just listen to that fun part and dance along!
On December of 1995 the music score was ready. The Premiere of the South American Suite for Harp and Orchestra took place March 3rd, 1996, at the L. J. Williams Theater, Visalia, California, performed by the Tulare County Symphony, conducted by David André. I was the harp soloist. It was one of the most emotionally intense moments of my career . . . only second to the experience of playing in the delivery room during the birth of our second daughter years before.
Enjoy the music!