Grand Rapids Symphony's RHYTHM OF THE DANCE Celebrates Latinx Music and Dance

Grand Rapids Symphony's RHYTHM OF THE DANCE Celebrates Latinx Music and Dance

It's wintertime West Michigan, but things are about to heat up downtown in DeVos Performance Hall. The Grand Rapids Symphony presents the rich and fiery flavor of Latinx music and dance in Rhythm of the Dance.

From Argentina to Spain, Rhythm of the Dance showcases music from both sides of the Atlantic and gives a taste of the classic favorites as well as a contemporary imaginings of Latin-American music. The program will include such classic works as Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, the most popular work of all time for guitar and orchestra, with guitarist Pablo S inz Villegas.

Dancers from Grand Rapids Ballet will join the orchestra for the vibrant rhythms and irresistible melodies of Two Tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

The concert in the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series, led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, will take place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19 in DeVos Performance Hall. Concert sponsor is Warner Norcross + Judd. Villegas' performance is sponsored by the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

The Grand Rapids Symphony's Brazilian-born Music Director will lead the orchestra in Spanish composer Manuel De Falla's Suite No. 1 from The Three-Cornered Hat and in Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera's Four Dances from Estancia.

The Symphony will also perform Three Latin American Dances, a contemporary work written by Gabriela Lena Frank, a Grammy Award-winning American composer of Peruvian descent.

Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which includes one of the most hauntingly beautiful English horn solos in the symphonic repertoire, is sure to be a highlight of the program.

Having lost his sight at the age of 3, Rodrigo was a virtuoso pianist and gifted composer. Though he was not a guitar player himself, several of his works for guitar and orchestra raised the profile of the instrument within the world of classical music.

Spanish guitarist Pablo S inz Villegas, winner of the Andres Segovia Award and Gold Medalist in the first Christopher Parkening International Guitar Competition, will join the Symphony to perform the concerto that made Rodrigo famous.

Born and raised in La Rioja, Spain, a region full of wineries and bodegas in northern Spain, Villegas is praised as a charismatic performer with singing tone and consummate technique that conjures the passion, playfulness and drama of his homeland's musical heritage.

Villegas told Billboard Magazine in 2016, When I play a concert, people always say, 'I never heard the guitar sound the way that you play it.' And that is exactly what I am looking for. We're talking about an emotional connection through the music using the guitar. For me, the guitar is the most wonderful and expressive instrument.

An evening of Latin music would not be complete without a tango or two by The Great Astor.

On his ninth birthday, Piazzolla received his first bandoneon, an instrument related to the accordion, from his father, who bought it from a pawn shop for less than $20. Piazzolla soon became a prodigy on the instrument, learning the music of Bach, Mozart and Schumann and, of course, the tango.

Intending to become a composer of classical music, Piazzolla for 10 years wrote symphonies, piano concertos and chamber music. After winning a composers' competition, he was given the opportunity to study with the famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, mentor to such composers as Aaron Copland and Philip Glass.

In a 1988 interview with the Washington Post, Piazzolla recalled presenting his work to Nadia Boulanger, ...all of a sudden she says, 'Why don't you play a piece of the music you write in tango? I'm very much interested.' I played eight bars and she just took my two hands and put them against her chest and said, 'This is Astor Piazzolla, this is the music you have to go on writing, not that. Throw that into the garbage.'

And that's what I did, he continued. I threw 10 years out of my life into the garbage. Now I write classical music, or symphonies, but always with a tango taste in it, trying the most to be Astor Piazzolla always.

Inside the Music, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation sponsored by BDO USA, will be held before each performance at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Place Recital Hall.

The complete Rhythm of the Dance program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, April 14, 2019, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.

Tickets for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series start at $18 and are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony box office, weekdays 9 am - 5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Call (616) 454-9451 x 4 to order by phone. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum).

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours before the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

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