35th Chamber Music Festival offers innovation

By Jade Arroyo

The 35th International Festival of Chamber Music will be held in the city July 26 through August 17 under the artistic direction of Alejandro Escuer, a renowned multidisciplinary artist. Escuer said that the festival is the only one in Mexico that is dedicated exclusively to chamber music. The festival includes concerts, open rehearsals, workshops, courses and seminars.
Among the performers are the Enso String Quartet, Daedalus and the Parker Quartet with pianist Shai Wosner, the Onix Ensemble and the Gryphon Trio. There will also be a  multimedia performance that combines live music, electronic music and video, called Lumínico (in which Escuer takes part).
The program also includes contemporary composers such as Armando Luna, Thomas Ades, Samuel Zyman and Gabriela Ortiz. The ultimate goal of the festival, according to its director, is that the public enjoys memorable, unique concerts combining the modern and the traditional.

Democratizing chamber music
This year, the festival features innovative initiatives to increase its social, cultural and artistic impact. “‘Democratize,’ to me, means to give free concerts, to be accessible to all strata of society, to have a greater social impact,” said Escuer. Free concerts will be offered to the community, thanks to funds obtained from CONACULTA.
“A very important point is to update the concept of chamber music, because usually we think of it as a string quartet playing pieces by Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart. Our idea is to update the concept, to combine ancient and medieval music with the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. This idea of ​​opening the chamber music concept also includes the introduction of the guitar, voice, chamber opera and new technologies,” said Escuer.
He explained that efforts had been focused in the past on concerts and workshops for stringed instruments, but this year mixed ensembles with clarinet, flute, oboe, guitar, harpsichord and voice, as well as viola, violin and cello, will be included, as will lieder and chamber opera. “In Mexico we have amazing voices and guitar players, and that is something that we must take advantage of,” said Escuer.

Academic program
This year the festival’s academic program will be intensificated and consolidated. “We aim to expand the program, giving it a greater depth,” said Escuer. The festival brings together young musicians from Mexico and abroad interested in improving and developing skills in ensemble, production and dissemination of chamber music.
The academic program will be expanded with workshops on how to overcome stage fright, how to start an international career and how to achieve self-sustaining enterprises through chamber music.
Escuer also announced that the top group will win the opportunity to present a concert in New York.

Economic gains
The festival, since its inception, has been funded through private donations and box office sales. A total of 23 concerts will be offered (19 concerts by professional musicians and 4 by students), and 280–400 people are expected to attend each concert. He said the festival will benefit the tourism industry in San Miguel. Escuer said they hope to the festival will grow and spread to other cities. Currently, it is only held in San Miguel, but they want to take it in the future to neighboring cities such as Querétaro, Guanajuato and León. “For this to be possible, we need more support from local and state authorities, something permanent to professionalize the festival in an administrative way,” Escuer said.
“We have a budding relationship with the Economic Development Department and want to strengthen this relationship,” said Escuer. “Rather than talking about numbers, I must say that the festival offers an invaluable enrichment, bringing culture to the community with music of the highest caliber.” He added that ticket prices are very affordable and, considering the high quality of the concerts, this represents a great opportunity for the public, who might otherwise have to travel to a big city to hear music of this caliber.

History of the festival
The festival was begun 35 years ago under the direction of Carmen Masip Hawkins, when a group of music lovers established the tradition of presenting chamber music of high quality in the city. This is one of the oldest music festivals in the city. Since 1979 the festival has presented over 100 groups and soloists from every continent and supported the development of over 1,000 young musicians. Each year young advanced students are offered the opportunity to participate in workshops and master classes led by the quartet in residence at the festival, as well as the invited groups presented at the festival.

Concerts and tickets
Concerts will take place primarily at the Teatro Ángela Peralta, but some will be held in alternative venues such as the hotels Imperio de Angeles and Matilda, Fábrica La Aurora, Camino Silvestre, Agave/Sotheby Real Estate and Rancho Los Labradors.
Among the free performances is a concert by Lumínico (Alejandro Escuer, Rodrigo Sigal, José Luis García) on August 11 at the Teatro Ángela Peralta at 6pm. Also, for the first time in San Miguel, Capilla Virreinal de la Nueva España will play baroque music on August 13 at 12:30pm at the Teatro Ángela Peralta. The Onix Ensemble performs on August 4 at 6pm and Trio Americas (violin, cello and piano) on July 31 at 7pm. Other concerts include offerings by Daedalus and the Enso String Quartet.  Tickets cost 150, 350 and 450 pesos and are available at the festival office, located on the second floor of the Cultural Center “El Nigromante” (Bellas Artes), Hernández Macías 75, from 10:30am to 4pm. You can also phone 154-8722 or go to the festival website, where you can also see the full program and register to volunteer (www.festivaldesanmiguel.com). The full program is also in the Festivals and Events section of Que Pasa.
About Alejandro Escuer

Alejandro Escuer is a Mexican multidisciplinary artist and musician devoted to the performance, creation, improvisation and development of artistic projects (installations, orchestral concerts, electronic music and video collaborations, and so on) combining music with other arts and fields of knowledge. Such is the case with innovative projects such as Lumínico and other collaborations with musicians and artists from diverse cultures and traditions. His current projects are distinguished by incorporating sociology, photography, design, painting and sound into traditional musical performance. Escuer specializes in contemporary techniques of interpretation of the flute. He has given numerous concerts in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the US and Canada. He has recorded four solo flute albums, “Jade Night,” “Aqua,” “Air Naked” and “Imaginary Folklore and Flying,” and five albums with the Onix Ensemble. He has a Ph.D. from New York University, an M.A. from the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam (Uitvoerend Musicus) and a diploma from the National Conservatory of Music, in addition to studying sociology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He is a professor at UNAM National School of Music and has been a resident artist at Columbia University and Indiana University.


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