Enjoy sounds from south of the border at ¡Fiesta Latina!

— Created February 26, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed Whidbey Weekly

Whidbey Island Orchestra is spicing things up and invites everyone to enjoy the party at its newest program, ¡Fiesta Latina!, to be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, March 6 and again at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 8 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland. Performances are always free, but donations are gladly accepted.

Under the direction of conductor Cynthia Morrow, these south of the border selections will feature a solo by WIO violinist Talia Marcus and a special appearance by guitarist Andre Feriante. According to Morrow, the all-ages community orchestra has grown and matured over the past several years into a full-fledged, 60-member, symphonic orchestra capable of taking on the challenge and diversity of many kinds of music, to the delight of Whidbey Island audiences. 

“We’ve built a cohesive group that has proven itself capable of playing jazz, Broadway shows, holiday favorites, classic rock, romantic concertos, as well as the classical repertoire,” said Morrow. “Every style has presented us with rhythmic and harmonic challenges and we’ve met these with determination and joy. Success builds on success, so we chose, somewhat bravely, to expose our orchestra to the hitherto untapped riches available in Latin music. It’s been a blast!”

From Argentina’s tango to the bossa nova rhythms of Brazil, each Central and South American country and the Caribbean contributes to a rich tapestry of music to explore, said Morrow. 

“Embracing the Latin culture through music opens us up to a world of dancing, celebration, and sophisticated rhythmic complexity,” she said. “We are dancing in our seats as we play it and the orchestra loves it. Every week our rehearsals become more comfortable and more fun as we allow ourselves to be taken over by this passionate, exciting music.”

The group is also able to call on the expertise of its assistant conductor, Gabriela Garza, who is completing her doctorate in conducting at the University of Washington. 

“She is also a formidable Mexican percussionist, and we want to showcase her versatility as she leads us through various types of Latin music,” explained Morrow. “She will be conducting a bossa nova, a samba, a tango, as well as two challenging pieces from the Latin classical repertoire, the ‘Aria’ from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brazilieras with violinist Talia Toni Marcus as soloist, and Ginastera’s ‘Danza Final.’”

Joining WIO for these performances is Andre Feriante, a well known guitarist and composer on Whidbey Island and founder of the Whidbey Island Guitar Festival. 

“We are thrilled to have him present a beautiful piece he’s written for solo guitar and strings, ‘Bohemian Boulevard,’” said Morrow. “The strings provide a muted, lush background for Andre’s virtuoso guitar playing in this lovely and highly original concept work. In addition, he and Talia Marcus will perform a rhapsodic gypsy duet for violin and guitar, followed by a solo work for guitar. We are very fortunate to have this kind of talent available to us and know the audience will experience a singular treat when they hear him.”

“Most of the music I play in shows is my own composition,” said Feriante. “I have never had the chance to orchestrate my music for orchestra or strings, so this is a great opportunity to explore and expand the scope of my composing.”

Usually a solo performer, Feriante said there is much beauty to be found playing in a larger group.

“The experience of playing solo and with a large group are very different,” he said. “As a solo you have total freedom with tempo and even changing a chord or harmony. Playing with a group you have to stick to the score and follow the conductor. The beautiful part of playing with an orchestra is the feeling of being a part of a larger collective and the dance of trust that happens, like you are a flock flying in unison.”

Feriante, who has recently been exploring the healing power of music, said the collaboration with Whidbey Island Orchestra has been inspirational.

“It has been a learning experience scoring my music for other instruments, the string section (I had help from a friend of mine, composer Stephen Marshall Ward),” said Feriante. “I’m inspired now to continue and write a full concerto for guitar and orchestra.

“I know people will enjoy these concerts,” he continued. “When I practiced with the orchestra…I could feel the passion for music and the joy from the players. Cynthia [Morrow] is a wonderful conductor. The spirit of the music can’t help but bring fulfillment to the audience when the players are well rehearsed and love being there.”

“In several of the pieces we’re going to perform in this concert, everyone becomes part of the percussion section at one time or another,” said Morrow. “Needless to say, this is great fun for all of us and will make the music come alive for our audiences.”

For information about Whidbey Island Orchestra, visit whidbeyorchestras.org. To find out more about Andre Feriante and his music, go to andreferiante.com.