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Jean Oelrich
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"Halloween Masquerade" - Pacific Symphony's musical cross-cultural holiday extravaganza celebrates Halloween and Latin American traditions

October 08, 2013

It’s a party on stage! More than just a ghoulishly great way to celebrate, Pacific Symphony’s “Halloween Masquerade” showcases the music and traditions of Halloween as well as two Latin American holidays—Día de los Muertos and Día de las Mascaradas. This Family Musical Mornings concert, presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank, is both spooky fun and educational, featuring thrilling and mysterious Halloween favorites such as John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Plus, selections from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” are magically coupled with famous Latin American compositions to inspire imaginations and introduce children to different cultures. The concert takes place Saturday, Oct. 26, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $19-39; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

Led by Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, the 45-minute concert also includes Carlos Guzmán’s “Costa Rican Inspirations,” an example of music played during the Día de las Mascaradas, Arturo Márquez’ Danzon No. 2, featuring an interactive rhythm activity with the audience, and José Pablo Moncayo’s festive “Huapango,” ending the concert with a big dance celebration. Taking the audience on this musical adventure across the three holidays is a story written and directed by Joe Lauderdale, which features Maria Simeone as the Shadow Sorcerer and three children played by Blake Kenzie, Charlotte Rubino and Laura Gutiérrez.

“I think it is very important to give our children opportunities to enjoy as many different types and genres of high-quality music as possible,” says Gutiérrez. “Latin American music is rich in cultural traditions reflected through its melodies, rhythms and dances. With this cultural crossover, families will enjoy wonderful and diverse music, learn about some of its different components, and also learn about the strong connections between Halloween in the U.S., Día de los Muertos in most Latin American countries, especially in Mexico, and Día de las Mascaradas, of my home country, Costa Rica.”

Children and their families are invited to come dressed in a costume or mask, and also attend the Musical Carnival beginning at 9:15 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert). Children may participate in a variety of hands-on activities including Ask the Orchestra, Meet the Musicians, mask and pumpkin decorating, Rhythm Station and a costume parade around musical chairs.

The show opens with the mysterious sounding Introduction and “Infernal Dance of King Kashchei” from Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” as the audience catches a glimpse of the elusive Shadow Sorcerer, who lurks around the orchestra. Stravinsky’s ballet has its origins in Russian folktales about the magical firebird, whose body and feathers glow red, orange and yellow and is considered both a blessing and a curse to those who capture it (because the captor becomes a hero but the task is an arduous one).

“The rich variety of textures, sound colors, accents and rhythmic elements of ‘The Firebird’ selections by Igor Stravinsky will help set the right spooky mood for our Halloween celebration,” says Gutiérrez.

Two children arrive on stage ready to celebrate Halloween only to find a magical wand left by the Shadow Sorcerer. Waving the Sorcerer’s wand, the children accidentally cast a spell on the orchestra, which plays Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” well known from the Disney film “Fantasia.” (The music and the spell cause the children to get into all kinds of trouble, just like the Apprentice in the piece!) The Shadow Sorcerer returns to help the children undo the spell, enchanting the children’s wands. When they point at sections of the orchestra, they begin to play the magical “Hedwig’s Theme” from the “Harry Potter” movies, with its whimsical and bewitching melody.

The children soon realize the music is being controlled by another person holding a wand—Maestro Gutiérrez, who shares that in Costa Rica, where he is from, they celebrate Día de las Mascaradas. While images of the festivities are projected above the stage, the orchestra plays Guzmán’s “Costa Rican Inspirations,” music that people dance to in the streets during the annual Oct. 31 festival. Then another girl, whose family is from Mexico, enters the scene, and describes how her country celebrates Día de los Muertos, and Maestro Gutiérrez leads the audience in tapping the patterns found within Márquez’ Danzon No. 2. With its origins in Cuba, this dance style is important to the folklore of the Mexican state of Veracruz and the music features Latin American percussion instruments including claves, sonajas, marimba, maracas, Indian drum and güiro.

The concert concludes with a huge celebration and dancing as the orchestra performs Moncayo’s “Huapango,” a short and colorful symphonic piece that is so popular in Mexico, it’s considered the country’s second national anthem.

“The entire architecture of the Family Musical Mornings season is planned to offer wonderful orchestral music of diverse types and genres, but underneath that, the concerts are interactive and offer very strong and diverse teaching points to the audience,” continues Gutíerrez. “My overall goal is to make families feel that orchestral music is entertaining, fun, educational, and that they are part of the Pacific Symphony family.”

Family Musical Mornings continues on Saturday, Dec. 14, with the annual “Nutcracker for Kids,” featuring Festival Ballet Theatre.