Composer honors 43 missing students through music
THE SANTA CLARA
January 21, 2016
The usual thick, smoky musk of burnt candles filled the darkened Mission Church, but the audience’s attention wasn’t directed at the altar.
Spotlights shined on four dancers who shimmied their bodies to a Latin chorus and organ music, which bounced off the ceiling.
In a heart-stopping moment, one dancer swung her body and then in a split second collapsed onto the ground as the organ bellowed and echoed through the room. Another dancer solemnly walked over and blew a cloud of dust from her hand over the other dancer’s body as if she were resurrecting the dead.
The performance, XLIII: A Contemporary Requiem, featured a music composition crafted by musician Andrés Solis and a dance choreographed by Sandra Gómez, who are both based in Mexico City.
Scot Hanna-Weir of the Department of Music conducted the Santa Clara Chorale Singers and organist James Welch played solemn, dramatic organ tunes.
The performance paid tribute to the 43 student teachers attending Raul Isidro Burgos Teachers’ College who were taken from their loved ones and presumed attacked, and then killed in 2014 in Ayotzinapa, Mexico.
“I am convinced that through art it is possible to create consciousness in (these) violent times, and art and education may become real agents of change,” Solis said.
Stephen Lee, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, produced the performance and conceived the idea of the 43 silhouettes art installation on the Ignatian lawn, which honors the student teachers.
“I saw this as an opportunity to build out a larger discussion around issues such as immigration and victims of violence everywhere,” Lee said.
The silhouette piece is a co-commission between the Saratoga-based Montalvo Arts Center and Santa Clara’s Center for the Arts and Humanities. Gómez and Solis are both artists in residence at Montalvo’s Lucas Artist Residency Program.
Solis first became enchanted with music after getting his hands on a KISS album from his family’s record collection.
“As soon as I played back one of their songs, for the first time that I recall, I got goosebumps and the most thrilling sensation I´ve ever experienced just from listening to music,” Solis said.
He followed up on his childhood passion for music by composing the 50-minute musical performance, which the Montalvo Arts Center hopes to one day bring to Mexico and other locations, according Donna Conwell, the center’s associate curator.
“Musically speaking I was deeply moved by Ligeti´s Requiem,” Solis said. “It’s a very intense piece that triggered some of the ideas regarding the density of some of the material I used. The piece sounds nothing like Ligeti´s Requiem but it really inspired me in a sonic level.”
Before the show, Solis said, “Our goal is to create some kind of catharsis in the audience. If this happens I think we’ve accomplished something good with our work.”
He certainly did.
Contact Sophie Mattson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4849. Colleen Burke also contributed to this report.