At the center of a wooden stage adorned with dramatic brown curtains, Sara Goldstein interrupted the audience’s conversations punctuated by various Spanish dialects. Goldstein, the interim head of voice at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, began the night by recognizing the students’ efforts to host the seventh annual Latin American Song Project — an event where performers showcase their talents in celebration of the expansive sound of Latin America. Thirteen performances took place on the pale green stage of Seully Hall at the Conservatory on Sunday night.
In January 2017, the project’s founder, Felix Aguilar-Tomlinson, said he realized that half of his class in the voice department was of Hispanic descent. THE celebrate the rarity of witnessing a minority group attain such prominenceTomlinson decided that a program should celebrate its importance.
Much of the classical music appreciated in the West, especially from the 18th century, is from Europe. Thus, the event celebrates often overlooked the sounds of the rest of the hemisphere.
“We want to highlight what’s not found and what’s not shown in classical music,” said Anthony Paredes, a fourth-year vocal performance major and president of the Latinx Student Alliance. “Because [the Conservatory] it’s a realm of classical music.”
The celebration has continued and expanded since it was first held seven years ago. At first, the program was just an annual concert, but last year’s Latin American Song Project president, Laura Santamaría-Mendez, created a Latinx Student Alliance Club to supervise and organize the project. The club no longer only recognizes musicians, but also other performing arts, such as dance. In addition, Paredes hopes to expand the program for artists throughout the city.
Performances at this year’s Latin American Song Project ranged from the bolero-style song “Bésame Mucho” to contemporary dance, captivating the audience. Conservatory students, performers and loved ones filled 14 rows of seats.
For many, the event brought light to the various Hispanic artists who came before them. Jennifer Diaz, a freshman vocal performance major, grew up loving mariachi music. Diaz chose “La Malagueña,” a song by Mexican composer Miguel Aceves Mejía, which she dedicated to her grandmother.
“[Music is] The biggest connection I have to my culture, because even though I’m from Guadalajara, I grew up in Utah,” Diaz said. “This is what I have.”
Others chose to perform original compositions. Harold Rivas, who is pursuing his master’s degree in conducting, played the accordion and sang, although these are not his usual instruments. Rivas chose a praise song that his family band, Group H, comprising. The song brings together different Colombian dance styles – vallenato and cumbia. Rivas and his family usually perform the song at Catholic mass, so he took the opportunity to share it in a new space.
“[The song] it was an opportunity for my family to thank God and welcome people to do the same,” Rivas said. “For me personally, it was my first accordion performance, so it was a good chance to put it out there .”
Not only did the show highlight older music from the 1750s, but it also included music from the 1900s, such as a mariachi performance. This dive showcased the range of sounds that has continued in Latin countries. The plays were unique in their origins and timeline; however, they all had one goal in mind: to communicate in their mother tongue.
“I grew up speaking Spanish and it has remained my favorite language to sing in even after learning different languages at the Conservatory,” said fourth-year vocal performance major Alexandra Roges. “I think Spanish hits closer to home, especially because I know when my family watches my recitals, they know what I’m trying to communicate.”
After the passionate performances, Paredes invited everyone to the back of the theater to enjoy the signature Hispanic cuisine of plantains and beans paired with Jarritos soda – ending the night in recognition of the rich culture.