The Minería was my former orchestra before moving to Salt Lake, and I was Timpanist down here for the OSM’s third through their tenth summer seasons (1980-‘87) while employed the rest of the year as Timpanist of the Colorado Springs Symphony. Performing with the OSM was a wonderful experience and it taught this young player far more than a huge swath of orchestral repertoire. Working here as a foreigner, with rehearsals mostly in another language, was like taking daily classes in music, Spanish, culture, history and international relations. Of course, aside from the music, the other coursework continued throughout the days & evenings as well. This gave me a whole new appreciation of what musicians from other cultures & languages go through when they first join an orchestra in the USA. It’s also fair to say that by the time I left Mexico to move to Utah, the end result – on various levels – was a different man than the one who arrived down here from Kentucky seven years prior.
So, it was with no small amount of nostalgic emotion that, after a thirty-one year absence, I returned to La Sala Neza last Sunday to listen to my former orchestra perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Now truth be told, the ‘nostalgia’ part was tempered SOMEwhat by the fact that the musician turnover onstage was a full 100% since 1987 (not entirely surprising, though). But this new young generation of musicians was an impressive group indeed, giving the orchestra a sound and a tightness of ensemble that surpassed the Minería of the 1980s – itself a great orchestra – and it was a real pleasure both watching and listening to them. Not only that, the resonant, sumptuous acoustics of the hall lifted the entire experience into what could only be described as sublime.
The Minería’s Music Director since 2006 is Carlos Miguel Prieto, who also divides his Minería podium time as Conductor of México’s National Symphony and the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans. Back in the 1980s when Carlos was quite young, his Father – also named Carlos – was a regular cello soloist with the Minería, and I recall us accompanying him on a number of concertos those summers. Years later, I was pleased to begin hearing positive reports about young Carlos Miguel’s successes as an up and coming conductor both in México and in the United States.
I am proud to say, from my experience last Sunday, that reports on the Maestro were spot on, as was his performance conducting both Beethoven Symphonies; and that his command of the orchestra was equal to his command of the music.
Finally, I would be remiss without mentioning the loyal and passionate Minería audience, for without taking anything away from the orchestra fans for whom I played in the USA, nothing in my career EVER matched the intense love and emotion in the response we regularly experienced from the Minería audience. (At the end of each season, I wished I could pack them all into my suitcase and take them home with me.) And though last Sunday was thirty-one years later, nothing had changed in that respect, EXCEPT: THIS time I was on the other side clapping, standing and cheering along with this raucously appreciative group. (Talk about “breaking the fourth wall” from the outside in!!)
As one can surmise, Sunday was an emotionally charged homecoming for me that went far beyond savoring a great concert or even enjoying the warm nostalgia for a former orchestra, to boot. It also encompassed my feelings for México itself, and for the huge impact the country has had upon my life. Many thanks to Maestro Prieto, to the wonderful Minería musicians – and even to acoustician Christopher Jaffe – for making this such an unforgettable and heart warming afternoon!