October 12, 2016
By Susan Scaffidi
It has taken over a decade to produce it, but the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra will have its first-ever Mexican-themed concert Saturday at the Fox Theater.
The orchestra will team up with local favorite Mariachi San Marcos for a program of traditional mariachi music in what promises to be a surprise for both orchestra fans and mariachi fans.
“The word ‘mariachi’ just means ‘marriage,’” bandleader Jorge Laris said. “And that’s what we talked about: the marriage of mariachi music with the orchestra.”
“All the music comes from classical music; classical music is the root of everything,” he said.
To demonstrate, Laris said the combined groups will perform eight pieces together, including the famous “España Cani’” by Pascual Narro; musical tributes to legendary Latin musicians Juan Gabriel and Vicente Fernandez; the traditional “El Son de la Negra,” and even “New York, New York,” by Fred Ebb and John Kander, and “Time to Say Goodbye,” by Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto.
“I’m really looking forward to that piece especially,” Laris said. “To get the sounds of the mariachi to blend with the orchestra sounds will be really neat.”
“We’re really expanding the diversity of both groups and the limits and comfort zones, too.”
No one could be more pleased about this concert than former BSO business manager Nancy Marvin, who had started working on this project in 2005.
“First of all, I love (mariachi music),” Marvin said. “And look at the demographics of our community: We have ignored the Hispanic community, and it was about time we honored the Hispanic heritage in our city and county.”
Marvin’s last effort was in 2011, when she applied for a grant to help pay for such a concert. Despite her efforts, the concert was shelved because of a financial risk the orchestra, which was especially cash-strapped at the time, couldn’t afford.
“There was concern about sponsorships (and ticket sales) not coming in fast enough,” Marvin said.
This year is different, if only because the orchestra has been taking a number of risks, especially in the areas of pops concerts and new venues, to expand its audience. BSO president Bryan Burrow acknowledged that appealing to Mexican culture is a very targeted venture.
“My stance has always been that I want everyone to go to every concert,” Burrow said. “That being said, we are reaching out to a new community.”
Burrow said the orchestra is making a big push via Spanish-speaking media to reach the audience in the hopes of a big response this weekend.
“This is something new, which makes us nervous a bit, but we think it’s worth the risk because it’s good for the community and we need a broader spectrum of the community to support the orchestra,” Burrow said.
Nevertheless, Burrow said the orchestra is being careful with staffing and rehearsal time to contain costs, hoping that ticket sales will cover the costs of the concert.
If successful, Burrow said he hopes to make such cultural-specific concerts a yearly event.
For Marvin, she will have to enjoy seeing her dream come true from a distance. Recovering from surgery and just home from the hospital, Marvin said she isn’t physically up to what she hopes will be a festive, lively and active event.
“It breaks my heart that I can’t be there,” Marvin said.