Music Beat: Preview of Scene Change

Music Beat
by Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist Feb 26, 2017

Joshua Bell comes to entertain us on Tuesday. The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has reserved Saturday night for its latest entertainment. They are among the week’s events worth waiting for.

As for the Bloomington Symphony

The publicity material that the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has given out for its concert on Saturday evening is titled “Scene Change: Untold Musical Stories of Latin America.” So, “Where” the orchestra plays is not a scene change; the program will be played, as usual, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, the ensemble’s current home base.

It’s the “What” to be played that serves as scene change. Latin American music has not been anywhere near the center of repertoire that the orchestra has focused on in the past. But on this occasion, partnered by IU’s Latin American Music Center, the program features music by composers from Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

The orchestra’s executive director, Donna Lafferty, tells me, “It’s not the kind of music that normally comes to mind. Alejandro (artistic director and conductor Alejandro Gomez-Guillen) says it’s anything but stereotypical ‘Latin’ music. He refers to it as “the uncharted musical language of Latin America.”

Maestro Gomez-Guillen grew up in Bogota, Colombia, surrounded, he says, by song: “My grandfather put together a family choir — Coro de Camara Guillen Becerra — and conducted it. I grew up listening to them rehearse. Even after being sent to bed, I’d sneak back to the door and listen to the beautiful songs coming from our living room.”

Last November, says Gomez-Guillen, he attended a performance by IU’s Latin American Music Center. In the audience was a distinguished retiree from the Jacobs School faculty, Juan Orrego-Salas, a composer that the BSO’s conductor says his mother idolizes. Two works by Orrego-Salas will be on Saturday’s program: “Introduccion y Allegro” and “Ash Wednesday,” the latter inspired by a T.S. Eliot poem. “Ash Wednesday” has not been performed before and will receive its world premiere.

In addition, Gomez-Guillen has chosen “O Garatuja” by the Brazilian Alberto Nepomuceno, a Prelude to an opera never finished and a piece that Richard Strauss once conducted just prior to the composer’s death; the Colombian composer Guillermo Uribe Holguin’s “Bajo su Ventana,” a work rich in dance rhythms; Colombian composer Adolfo Mejia’s “Bachianas,” written in homage to both Bach and Villa-Lobos, and “Retablos Sinfonicos, a three-movement work by Celso Garrido-Lecca based on Peruvian folk dances.

I’m interested: the BSO and its ambitious and gifted young conductor ready to play a concert of unfamiliar and intriguing music from South America. For me, that’s a date.

Contact Peter Jacobi at

If you go

TO THE BLOOMINGTON SYMPHONY CONCERT: The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with the Indiana University Latin American Music Center, presents “Untold Musical Stories from Latin America,” works by composers from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Chile’s Juan Orrego-Salas, retired professor of composition in IU’s Jacobs School. The BSO’s artistic director, Alejandro Gomez-Guillen, conducts.

WHEN: Saturday evening at 7:30.

WHERE: Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

TICKETS: (available at the Buskirk-Chumley box office or via or by phone, 812-323-3020); $15 general admission, $8 for students with valid ID, free for those 18 and younger.