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Day of the dead – Alondra De La Parra

Day of the dead - Alondra De La Parra - 6By: Max Hellion

Last night I was privileged to attend a concert performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas.  The diverse group of men and women from 22 different countries were lead by Alondra De La Parra (the first Mexican woman to conduct in New York City and the orchestra’s founder) and featured Mexican singer/actress Natalia Lafourcade as their special guest.

The hall was packed (I want to say 80% of seats were filled) with the majority of the audience being Latino and white (with a hand full of Asians) ranging from families (with children as young as 10, maybe 8) to middle aged adults and senior citizens.  Dress code was mixed and while some dressed up (dresses, slacks and shoes) others opted to dress for the chilly weather (jeans, sneakers and boots).

As the audience was let into the hall, members of the orchestra were already onstage and more continued to come out to fine tune their instruments and do last minute prep before start time.  The 60 piece orchestra has a vast assortment of instruments including cellos, clarinets, drums, congas, trumpets and a large beautiful harp.

Let me be the first to say that I’m not someone who goes home and jams to classical music let alone own anything classic.  That being said…I very much ENJOYED myself.  I went in with little details about the event I was about to watch and left AMAZED at what I had witnessed.  You hear that type of music in movies and TV and don’t think too much of it, but to see it live is QUITE an experience.

With so many members making up the orchestra, it’s hard to look at everyone during the performances, so I see why everyone tends to focus on the conductor (and what a sight she was).  At times Alondra appeared elegant and regal while at others like a mad magician the way Mickey Mouse did in Fantasia.  Don’t take that as an insult because it was very much a compliment.  With her conductor’s wand she cast a bewitching spell over the audience, using the orchestra as a unified instrument to mesmerized the masses and commanding complete silence during each musical piece.

It was amazing how a flick of the wand or a hand gesture would guide the POA through each number and how intense movements caused the music to soar while subtle movements brought the music back to lighter tones.  In addition to the orchestra, special guest Natalia Lafourcade added a new layer of life to music with her beautiful voice.  You would’ve thought Natalia was part of the POA the way her voice complimented the music and vice versa.

The first half of the performance was a 9 song set (6 of which Lafourcade sang on), there was a brief intermission.  When the Intermission ended, the POA retook the stage and went into 3 powerful pieces (sans Lafourcade) allowing the musicians to shine during the second half.  When the final number had ended, Alondra and the POA were greeted with cheers and a standing ovation.  The show concluded…or so we thought.  Alondra came back onto the stage with Natalia for not 1, not 2, but 3 encore songs each finishing with a standing ovation.