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Women of the World Concert at Bellas Artes

Susan Varcoe

By Fredric Dannen

San Miguel is a city of discovery, and it was just a matter of time before two of the city’s most talented visiting musicians — one a violinist and violist from California, the other a classical and jazz pianist from Canada — discovered one another. Their meeting was hastened, however, by a singular coincidence: the pianist, Susan Varcoe, unknowingly had rented an apartment directly across the street from the violinist/violist, Claudia Shiuh.

Women of the World
From Classical Music and Tango to Ragtime and Jazz
Tue, Apr 14, 7pm
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macías 75
200 pesos
Tickets at Solutions, La Conexión,
and Los Milagros

One afternoon this past January, Varcoe overheard Shiuh practicing her violin; she introduced herself and invited Shiuh to play some music with her. The result, according to Shiuh, was magical, and on April 14, at 7pm, the two women will be performing together in concert for the first time, at the theater on the second floor of the Bellas Artes. The concert “Women of the World/Mujeres del Mundo,” a sly reference to the program, which knows no boundaries of nationality or musical style. The two women will perform repertoire from classical music and tango to ragtime and jazz, by composers from France, Poland, Spain, Austria, Mexico, Russia, Germany, and the United States.

Shiuh is a prodigiously talented musician, born in Kansas but largely educated in California. At the age of 15, she became one of the youngest musicians ever hired by a professional symphony orchestra, the Fresno Philharmonic. After performing for four seasons as a violinist, Shiuh switched to viola and soon rose to section principal, a position she holds to this day. She has also performed in Spoleto, Italy, at the world-famous Festival dei Due Mondi; in France, with the Paul Kuentz Chamber Orchestra; and for the bicentennial celebration in Mexico City.

Varcoe, born and raised in Alberta, Canada, arrived in San Miguel for the first time last summer in hopes of devoting more time to composing, but she soon found herself besieged with requests to perform the piano, one of her two principal instruments (she is also a trained opera singer) as word of her talent quickly spread. Formerly the principal pianist with the Calgary Opera, Varcoe is equally at home as a classical piano soloist.

After the two musicians met early this year and read through some classical repertoire, they made another discovery: a mutual passion for jazz. Shiuh has performed with jazz greats such as Roy Hargrove, Terence Blanchard, and the Charlie Haden Quartet West. Varcoe, for her part, has doubled as a jazz pianist since her teens; while in her early 20s, she was recruited to play jazz piano at a cocktail reception for Prince Philip during one of his visits to Canada.

Women of the World will be the third installment of the Bellas Artes monthly Steinway Series concerts featuring the cultural center’s nine foot Steinway grand piano. The first two concerts, an evening with Ken Bichel, and a recital featuring Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernández and Mexican guitarist Gil Gutiérrez, were both sold out events. As always, a large portion of the proceeds will benefit a charity for rural Mexican education.


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