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Sones de Mexico Ensemble marks 20 years with free concert at Pritzker Pavilion

Sones de Mexico Ensemble 2014 - Left to Right: Jorge Leal, Juan Rivera, Lorena Iñiguez, Juan Díes, Zacbe Pichardo, Gonzalo Cordova
Sones de Mexico Ensemble 2014 - Left to Right: Jorge Leal, Juan Rivera, Lorena Iñiguez, Juan Díes, Zacbe Pichardo, Gonzalo Cordova
Photo credit: Nora Iñiguez

Chicago's very own Latin GRAMMY and GRAMMY Award nominated Sones de México Ensemble, one of the world's preeminent folk music artists, will celebrate 20 years with a free concert at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014, at 7:00pm. (view Sones de México Ensemble concert advertisement on YouTube here) The Ensemble, founded in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood in 1994, will be joined by many past and current collaborators drawn from the city’s diverse community of musicians and dancers. The concert is presented by the National Museum of Mexican Art as part of their 2014 Sor Juana Festival.

Sones de Mexico Ensemble
Courtesy of Juan Dies

“It’s almost unbelievable that we’ve been playing and teaching this music for 20 years,” says co-founder and Executive Director Juan Díes. “From the very beginning, Sones de México has worked cross-culturally to collaborate with many different facets of Chicago’s incredibly rich music scene, and I’m grateful that so many of them are joining us to celebrate our anniversary.”

The current Sones de México Ensemble members include founders Juan Díes and Gonzalo Córdova, plus Lorena Íñiguez, Juan Rivera, Zacbé Pichardo and Jorge Leal. All are multi-instrumentalists on a wide range of Mexican folk instruments. Founding member and Musical Director Victor Pichardo is writing the arrangements for the concert and will perform. All past members of the group are expected to perform, including Javier Saume, Hermo Contreras and Joel Martínez, as are founding members René Cardoza and Raul Fernández.

Sones de México Ensemble has invited many of their past and current collaborators to participate in the concert as guest musicians and dancers. Joining the current group will be many of Chicago’s finest musicians and dancers from across a cross-cultural spectrum of performing artists, including Irish fiddler Sean Cleland & The Irish Music School of Chicago, three-time GRAMMY Award nominated Chicago blues harmonica legend Billy Branch, three folkloric dance companies, Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago, Mexican Dance Ensemble and Academy of Mexican Dance and Music, a Latin Jazz horn section with Victor Garcia, Steve Eisen and Lise Gilly, the Chicago Classical Brass Ensemble led by CSO trumpet player John Hagstrom, trumpet player Matt Lee, French horn player Oto Carrillo, trombone player Adam Moen and tuba player Matthew Gaunt, percussionists Jeff Handley of Fulcrum Point New Music Project and the Chicago Sinfonietta and Ruben Alvarez of Chévere, the norteño button-accordion of Luís Ortega, Alex Chávez of Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta, and DJ SoundCulture (David Chávez). Over 50 musicians and dancers will participate with Sones de México Ensemble on stage.

Sones de México Ensemble has been keeping the tradition of Mexican ‘son’ alive. Mexican 'son' is a genre encompassing the roots of mariachi music and other regional styles, including huapango, gustos, chilenas, son jarocho, and more. Celebrating 20 years as performers and recording artists, the Ensemble has developed and popularized many original arrangements of Mexican traditional tunes through touring the United States and internationally, including performing at such prestigious venues as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and at the World Folksong Festival in Beijing China following the 2008 Olympic Games.

In addition to researching and performing traditional Mexican 'son', the group has developed a body of original work that has experimented cross-culturally with classical, Irish, blues, C&W, jazz, and rock music through collaborations with artists across many genres, including Guillermo Velazquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú, Alejandro Flores of the Mexican rock band Café Tacvba, and trumpet player Doc Severinsen, to name a few. The Ensemble also recorded two songs for YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Project: “Crossroads,” featuring Chinese-Mexican collaboration with the Yellow River Performing Arts Ensemble and had its track Xochipitzahuatl on the feature film El Mariachi Gringo soundtrack.

Sones de México Ensemble has released six albums, including the GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Award nominated Esta Tierra Es Tuya (This Land is Your Land). Each Sones de México Ensemble album has told a story. Their debut ¡Que Florezca! [Let It Bloom] (1996) celebrated their rebirth in Chicago. Fandango on 18th Street (2002) was a dance party set in Pilsen, the artistic hub of Chicago's Mexican community. Esta Tierra Es Tuya (This Land is Your Land) (2007) earned both a GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Award nomination and served as an immigrant manifesto as exemplified by the title song, a norteño arrangement of the great Woody Guthrie song that celebrates all of America's people. The album also marked a new confidence in the band's musicianship and ambitions by including original arrangements of music from other genres, including Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (view Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 video on YouTube here) and Led Zeppelin's Four Sticks (view Four Sticks video on YouTube here). Fiesta Mexicana (2010) was a double-CD dual-language album for children of all ages and received a Parents' Choice Silver Award for its outstanding value, followed by ¡Viva La Revolution! (2010) which celebrated the centennial of the Mexican Revolution. Their most recent release, 13 B'ak'tun (2013) marked the turning of the Mayan calendar in 2012, which was most definitely not the end of the world.

For more information about Sones de México Ensemble live in concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago, visit Sones de México Ensemble online here or go to the event micro-site here. The site features music and video, a band history and timeline, a photo gallery, social media updates and more. In addition, the group is curating and producing a commemorative limited edition “Greatest Hits” CD that will be available for the very first time at the concert. Its selections will draw from all 6 of their albums, some of which are currently unavailable in CD form.

In addition to celebrating the past 20 years, the concert marks the beginning of a new phase for Sones de México Ensemble, which will include new projects with some of the evening’s guests and the founding of a music school dedicated to Mexican music and dance.

Sones de México Ensemble is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a commitment to teaching. The mission of Sones de México Ensemble is to promote greater appreciation of Mexican folk and traditional music and culture through innovative performance, education, and dissemination. [from Sones de México Ensemble press release]

Sones de México Ensemble on Facebook; Sones de México Ensemble on Twitter; Sones de México Ensemble on YouTube

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
National Museum of Mexican Art's 2014 Sor Juana Festival and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events present

SONES DE MÉXICO ENSEMBLE
- 20th Anniversary Concert -

Jay Pritker Pavilion at Millennium Park
201 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

Show: 7:00pm

Tickets: Free Admission. No Ticket Required.