An invitation to hear a Latinos Clasicos program at Occidental College this past Sunday introduced me to the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and the music of five composers whose orchestrations spanned multiple countries, showcasing a lively program filled with the joy and the life of its people.

2012 marks a special year for the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.  Led by noted symphony and opera conductor Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, remarkable in herself as a female of distinction in the groundbreaking career role of conductor, the orchestra celebrated and spectacularly concluded its 20th anniversary this season.

It’s not often in today’s modern existence filled with the distractions of television, internet, surfing and texting getting in the way, that we allow ourselves to be robustly moved by pure instrumentals.  With the power to make us faint in centuries past,  music had not much competition and held sway alone in its ability to stimulate a vast array of sometimes simple and often complex emotions, stories and ideas.  Through music we were able to develop a better vocabulary for life and living.  We danced in our hearts and minds as well as occasionally on our feet.  And sound grounded our consciousness along with our perspective of the world around us.

Such was the case in a most evocative, sultry and muscular two hour program at Thorne Hall dedicated to the masters of Latino music.  Perfect for the attention spans of today’s audiences accustomed to nanosecond time limits, the hearty standing ovations revealed the appreciation for the orchestra’s enthusiastic choices.

The afternoon began with Tangazo the measures of Argentinian Tango Nuevo musician and composer, Astor Piazzola.  Having achieved international acclaim in his lifetime for creating and performing a novel kind of Tango, Tangazo, instead, enlivened audiences with a more sophisticated twentieth century, Bartok-like poetic harmonie that surpassed the musical genre and went far beyond tango themes.

What followed was an original score from Yalil Guerra, whose personal attendance was an extra thrill, Old Habana, a more classical, gracefully lovelorn, often fluted piece dedicated to the fragrant remembrances of life on the beautiful streets of a Cuba now in memory, proudly featured as a world premiere.

And before intermission, Dances From Estancia by Ginastra containing stomping, spirited revelries, of Los Trabajadores, Danza del Trigo, Los Peones de Hacienda and Danza Final (Malambo), somewhat reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s Rodeo 4: Hoe Down, but decidedly deeper in brisk exuberance, and sweetly interspersed with softness for a culmination of powerful joy which could not be denied.

After intermission, audiences were further treated to the more traditional parades from Carlos Chavez by way of La Marcha de Zacatecas, waltzes of Vals Club Verde and the grand symbols of a triumphant La Adelita which truly reminded us that nothing holds eternity within a minute than the energy of fiery reverberation.

To culminate the evening and the season were the readying, heroic bells of Leyenda de Milano (A Emiliano Zepata), followed by Plegaria and Canto Funebre de Cigarras and finally the sweaty, sexy, body shaking, vibrant, Conga del Fuego Nuevo all by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez.

A perfect showcase representing Latino culture world-wide, bursting with strength, sensuality and irresistible brilliance.

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo