La Fiesta Mexicana
June 8, 2018
Shawn Vondran leads the Symphonic Band in a performance of H. Owen Reed’s La Fiesta Mexicana.
The Mexican fiesta, which is an integral part of Mexican social structure, is a study in contrasts: It is both serious and comical, festive and solemn, devout and pagan, boisterous and tender. La Fiesta Mexicana, which attempts to portray musically one of these fiestas, is divided into three movements. These movements are described below.
I. Prelude and Aztec Dance
The tolling of the church bells and the bold noise of fireworks at midnight officially announce the opening of the fiesta. People from near and far slowly descend upon the huge court surrounding the old cathedral – some on foot, some by burro, and still others on bleeding knees, suffering out of homage to a past miracle. After a brave effort at gaiety, the celebrators settle down on their serapes to a restless night until the church bells and fireworks again intrude upon the early quiet of the Mexican morn. At midday, a parade is announced by the blatant blare of trumpets. A band is heard in the distance. The attention is focused on the Aztec dancers, brilliantly plumed and masked, who dance in an ever-increasing frenzy to a dramatic climax.
The tolling of the bells is now a reminder that the fiesta is, after all, a religious celebration. The rich and poor slowly gather within the walls of the old cathedral for contemplation and worship. This entire movement is dominated by a three-note descending motive harmonized with ever-changing chords and overlaid with a Gregorian chant. The off-stage horn solo at the close of the second movement represents the priest’s orations...answered by the choir.
Mexico is at its best on the days of the fiesta. There is entertainment for both young and old – everything from the market, the bullfight, the town band, and always the cantinas with their band of mariachis. This is the celebration of the day of days: The Fiesta!