From Mexico to Keene

Concert Band performs music from Mexican composers

Ryan Guidice / Equinox Staff

Keene State Concert Band performed a program featuring Mexican composers in their performance titled “The Living Mexico” on Thursday, Feb. 16 in the Redfern Arts Center Main Theater.

Director John Hart said that he wanted this performance to be filled with authentic Mexican repertoire.

“I can’t tell you how many are Latin American-themed, but in reality, they don’t turn out to be that way [and instead] they’ll be composers from Spain, Portugal, Europe, or worse misattributing certain nationalities,” Hart said. “One of our first obligations as students and teachers at the institute of higher learning is to the truth and to expand our worldview and to become better at thinking and connecting and feeling.” Hart added, “I thought maybe we’ll just focus on one nationality, which in turn does not imply one culture either. Despite having at least nine distinct physical regions in Mexico and over 30 states and principalities, there are hundreds of discreet cultures within Mexico.”

The first piece of the performance was Carols Chávez’s “Chapultepec.” The piece consisted of three movements: “Marcha Provinciana,” “Vals Nostálgico,” and “Canción de Adelita.”

“It’s more of a march style… you could imagine walking down the streets of Mexico and hearing the music,” said sophomore percussionist Tori Young. “It’s very celebratory, very upbeat, pretty fun and there’s also just some wild things going on like random points where the trumpets are just making flatting noises and there’s 30 measures in the second movement where the gong is nonstop being hit.” The second piece, “Tres Sonetos,” was composed by Silvestre Revueltas and featured Keene faculty Patricia Pedroza Gonzaléz reciting a poem throughout the three movements.

“As the music [was] playing, we heard the poetry being recited by a native Mexican speaker, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Hart said. “It’s very different from probably anything that’s been performed here before.” In addition to the poems, “Tres Sonetos” featured different instrumentation.

“We got a full range of instruments… A lion’s roar is essentially a string instrument connected to a drum head,” Hart said. “ When you pull on the string, it creates friction, which creates vibrations on the drum head that sounds a bit like a lion.”

“This has been a fun concert because we get to use instruments that we don’t usually get to use in the percussion section,” Young said. “Like the congos and the bongos and the moroccos.”

The final piece was “Little Mexican Suite (“Mexican Trees”)” by composer Nubia Jaime-Donjuan and consisted of six movements.

“‘Little Mexican Suite’ represents, I think, a better, more authentic picture of Mexican cultural music,” Hart said. “I really wanted to program her music for a while.” Young said that “Little Mexican Suite” was a favorite of hers and was fun to play.

“I think my favorite out of all of them is movement four,” Young said. “…It’s a very involved fiber front part which I get to play.”

Hart appreciated the opportunity to be able to bring this authentic performance experience to Keene State.

“I want Keene State to be perceived as a haven for new music and young composers and especially compos from marginalized or underrepresented populations, not the old, dead white guys,” Hart said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with some of the classic ensemble literature, but it’s not the only type of music that should be elevated and celebrated at that level that it has been.”

Nicole Dumont can be contacted at

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