Music is a part of life, but in many cultures it is also a part of grieving, or even in celebrating the passing of a loved one.
That may have been part of the thinking when La Catrina String Quartet formed eight years ago. The four-member group will perform Latin American and classical string quartet music at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle on Nov. 6 and in Breckenridge on Nov. 7.
Jorge Martínez-Ríos plays viola in the quartet and said the group chose its name because all four are from Latin America and recognize the cultural importance of celebrating the lives of those who pass away.
“We listen to the music they liked and eat the food they liked to eat,” Martínez-Ríos said. “So it becomes a fun celebration, which we want our music to portray.”
The group’s website explains that, according to Mexican folklore, La Catrina – also known as death – is thought of as “a welcome guest on certain very important occasions, such as the Day of the Dead, or ‘día de los fieles difuntos.’
“As Mexicans, we believe that death, and specifically the memory of our ‘fieles difuntos,’ which literally means ‘our faithful deceased,’ gives us a strong sense of identity and rootedness in our culture,” says the website. “This conspicuous – and perennial – guest is paradoxically also associated with the joy of life in the face of the imminence and inevitability of death.
“We only live once,” the site adds, “and La Catrina . . . pleads with us to seize the moment and through music – and perhaps a little dance – find life’s meaning.”
First Colorado appearances
The free CMC concerts are among the group’s first Colorado performances.
“It’s always fun to explore new avenues to perform before new audiences,” Martínez-Ríos said.
The music La Catrina performs in each concert is usually chosen months in advance, he said, with input from the group and concert promoters or sponsors.
“Then we do some research to make sure no one else is playing these pieces, so the audience hears something unique,” Martínez-Ríos said.
The group’s members were guest artists on Cuarteto Latino Americano’s CD, “Brasileiro,” which won the 2012 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Recording. In November 2014 La Catrina’s first commercially released CD, “América Latina: A Musical Canvas,” was nominated for a Latin Grammy award.
Reaching out in the name of music
La Catrina String Quartet is the string-quartet-in-residence at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. A big part of the group’s educational mission includes outreach programs, Martínez-Ríos said, especially sharing with younger children Latin American and string quartet music.
“No group can survive today on performances alone,” he said. “So we do about 30 outreach concerts a year, where we explain what the music is about, where it came from and its importance to our culture. And we find little kids are more open to Latin American music.”
Martínez-Ríos said some of the group’s time in Colorado will include outreach events.
La Catrina String Quartet will perform at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, 3695 Airport Road, at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6. This CMC ArtShare concert is sponsored by Chevron.
The next evening, the quartet will perform at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge, 107 Denison Placer Road, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. The Breckenridge concert is sponsored by CMC ArtShare.
For more information, call 970-947-8367. Find more about La Catrina String Quartet online at lacatrinaquartet.com.
By Mike McKibben.