April 18, 2014
Saturday, December 14, 2013

Classical music meets gospel in Palermo

Argentina Gospel Choir perform today at the Botanical Gardens.
By Melanie Henderson
For The Herald

Free-admission concert features both genres in unusual combination

The Botanical gardens in BA are a pretty sight. Plants, flowers, wandering cats, gloriously green benches and windy paths between trees — it’s a safe haven between the crowded city streets. Compared with many places in the capital, it definitely ranks highly among the best-kept.

Today, the shaded, peacefully green climbs will be lit up with the sounds of music. The particulars, however, are not a regular occurrence. The city will see a remarkable blend of gospel and classical music in one concert. Not precisely at the same time, but one after the other, respectfully.

It’s all being coordinated by the Fundación Teatro Colón, a non-profit organization that promotes classical music outside of the spectacle that is the theatre itself in Buenos Aires. It also offers financial and artistic aid to singers, dancers and musicians that come out of the Colón’s performing arts, which nurtures and helps them further their careers.

Alejandro Cordero — better known in many circles for his contribution to the world of Argentine dermatology — masterminded today’s event together with Franco Gandullo, the producer of the Argentina Gospel Choir. Cordero was blown away by the sounds of Argentine singers at recent gospel events.

Cordero is the grandson of the owner of the Grand Rex theatre, though the majority of his family has always had a connection with the arts dating back to the 1830s, when his great grandfather Antonio Pestalardo used to bring Italian opera singers to theatres in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, before opening his own theatre, Teatro Opera (today’s Opera Citi theatre).

With regard to the Colón Foundation, he’s been a board member for over 10 years, but about seven years ago he decided to get more involved in the activities of the young people of the Colón’s Instituto Superior de Arte, mainly with opera singers.

“First I became a sponsor for some of the competitions organized by the foundation and later on I worked with a friend of mine, Teresa Bulgheroni, to arrange a competition for singers, taking the winners to perform in New York,” he tells the Herald.

“We worked together on it for five years and for the past two years I’ve been organizing it alone.”

“Every year we hold the competition in the Salón Dorado of the City Government’s Legislature building before a board of judges. This year there were five winners, but previous years have seen three or four winners,” Cordero explains.

The winners are sent to New York to sing at different venues, including the Manhattan School of Music, where Cordero is a board member, and at the America’s Society. New York is not the only stop, however. The selected group move with Cordero to sing in embassies and large venues around the world as well as top-notch events across the country.

This year, the winners were Natalia Quiroga, Juan Pablo Labourdette, Alejandro Spies, Verónica Cano and Gastón Oliveira Weckesser. The latter stayed in New York to further polish his classical singing studies. Regarding gospel, Cordero admitted to having “never been to a gospel concert in New York,” though he decided to include gospel music in today’s event simply because he was “blown away by it.” Through Gandullo, the well-respected and prestigious figure in Argentine arts was able to see the best of the best in Argentine gospel singers, having attended the concert put on by renowned director Markanthony Henry from New York last October.

After seeing Henry’s glorious work and a private performance by select members of the Argentina Gospel Choir, gospel music is set to be a regular event on Cordero’s calendar.

Musical fusion in one event

For Saturday’s concert, Cordero’s musical number two, Marcelo Ayub — the renowned classical pianist who directs the group of classical singers and who arranges all the songs in the repertoire — will be leading the classical and opera programme, which will see the likes of singers Florencia Machado (mezzo) perform.

On the gospel side of things, Gerardo Flores, the director of the Argentina Gospel Choir, will be leading a reduced group of fifty singers (normally seventy), singing a range of negro spirituals, classical gospel songs and music by contemporary gospel artists.

Where & When

The concert organized by the FundaciónTeatro Colón takes place today, Saturday, December 14 at 5pm at the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Gardens) in Palermo, Santa Fe 3951. Entry is free.


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