Music aficionados across San Antonio, take note. The annual city-wide winter music festival is set to take place over an eight-week period from Jan. 5 to Feb. 23. Las Américas Festival is the sixth edition of this winter festival, organized by the San Antonio Symphony and its festival event partners. In the lead is San Antonio Symphony Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who meticulously curated the musical selections for San Antonio audiences.
“The rich diversity of the beautiful lands and music of the Americas was the inspiration for this year’s festival,” said Lang-Lessing. “We wanted to take the festival in a different direction this year – from the masters of European composition to a celebration of the uniquely expressive works representing the Americas. Our artists and featured works stretch from New York to Mexico and Argentina, and the music we are celebrating is representative of that wide range of cultures. At various turns it is evocative, provocative, complex, sensual and celebratory.”
The change in focus from an individual composer such as Strauss, for example, is a real departure after five years.
“Rather than focusing on a specific composer,” Symphony President David Gross said, “Maestro’s concept was to have a broader focus of repertoire and artists creating a more inclusive theme for participating organizations.”
Gross added that Lang-Lessing “felt that it was important to have a theme that related to the community in which we live and work.”
Some of the events are free, most have varying ticket prices ranging from $10 to $50. Tickets must be reserved with the presenting organization. There are also a few events taking place out in the Hill Country in Boerne and Kerrville. The comprehensive Las Américas Festival webpage can help guide the way to a great concert experience.
“Considering our geographic location as a city, the theme of the upcoming festival brings strong relevance to the community and is a welcome interjection to the normally composer-focused festival,” said Suhail Arastu, of festival partner Musical Bridges Around the World. “It adds variety, diverse flavor and Latin heritage to the mix.”
Argentinian bandoneón player Juan Pablo Jofre will perform Piazzolla with the SA Symphony. Photo by Mihyun Kang.
The festival recently received a boost in the form of a $10,000 Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Challenge America grant category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
“The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society,” NEA Chairman Jane Chu said. “Supporting projects like the San Antonio Symphony’s Las Américas Festival offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”
These community concerts will take place across the city and include conventional theaters and concert venues, churches, museums, and other assorted gatherings and exhibitions. There will be lectures, performances, art exhibits and special events from more than twenty other local arts organizations, bringing a rich and moving cross-cultural experience to the entire community.
SOLI Chamber Ensemble performs a piece of commissioned work. Courtesy photo.
“This festival illustrates the best of the arts and arts organization in our community as they work together to bring San Antonio audiences a diverse tapestry of programs and experiences,” Gross said. “We are grateful for the funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and for its recognition of our efforts to continue to provide concerts to residents of the area.”
As part of the Symphony’s outreach activities, two open rehearsals and free tickets to Symphony concerts will be offered to over 100 public middle and high schools. More than 50% of participating students engaging in these activities are from Title 1 campuses with a high proportion of low-income and underserved populations.