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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

The Nutcracker, Cross-Cultural Music, and Tubas On The River: Your Weekend Is Here

Courtesy Azul Barrientos and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
Azul Barrientos

Enjoy a unique performance of the Nutcracker. Let a Latin American sound reset your holiday spirit. And then listen to tuba players light up the Riverwalk.  

It all starts Friday, when the Alamo City Performing Arts will put on a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. It will be a sensory friendly show according to Alamo City Performing Arts President Cory McCrae. He said folks from Eva’s Heroes — a nonprofit for people with special needs — will be paired up with dancers.

Credit Asha Jimenez
Alamo City Dance Company

“We've taken out the battle scene and reduced the sound and raised up the lights for them," McCrae said.

Music will come from CD for Friday’s performance, but tomorrow and Sunday, Symphony Viva provides the music live.

"On Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., Symphony Viva will be performing with us," he said. 

Conductor Guadalupe Rivera says the Tchaikovsky classic is a timeless one.

“You've grown up with these tunes always around these times, The March or The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” he said. 

Rivera says Symphony Viva was originally born out of the Pulse nightclub shooting, when people around the nation came together to raise awareness and money for the victims. 

"And after that they still wanted to play together,” Rivera said. “The goal is to be a self-sustaining regional orchestra.”

Catch the McAllister Auditorium sensory friendly performance Friday, then four additional performances Saturday and Sunday.

IF YOU GO What: Symphony Viva/Alamo City Dance Company Nutcracker  Where: McAllister Theater When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Cost:  $20-$40

Then, singer Azul Barrientos is performing a different kind of holiday concert just a few blocks down San Pedro Street at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

"In Latin America there are songs that are sung at the end of the year. Some of them are very secular, but a lot of them are songs to pretty much end the year," said Barrientos.

Credit Josh Huskin
Azul Barrientos

She thinks the over-packed holidays are a great time to hit the reset button.

“It could be super stressful, and I think a lot of us, especially in America we make it stressful because of the gifting and the obliged togetherness,” Barrientos said. “But it's also a beautiful moment to be thankful about, you know, we're still here!"

Her concert will feature other musicians as well.

"I'm performing with Andrew Bergman on upright bass. Nina Rodriguez on percussion and Emilio Alvarez on the cello. I play the guitar and I play the Harana and I sing."

If you don't know the Harana, she describes the diminutive ukulele-like contraption this way: 

"It's an instrument native of Veracruz, Mexico and it's an Afro-Mestizo instrument," she said. 

IF YOU GO What: Azul Barrientos concert Where: Esperanza Peace and Justice Center When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday Cost:  $7 mas o menos

If you're on a downtown river barge at noon tomorrow, you'll hear a surprising sound: tubas. And Ray Grim said there will be lots of ‘em. 

"We call it a Tubameister Christmas," he said.

Grim added the Tubameister word has Germanic roots.

"A meister is somebody that would be a master of whatever we're doing. So we’re, at least hypothetically, the masters of the tuba," he said.

Every year Grim and the Tubameisters invite other tuba players from all around to come to the Arneson and play Holiday songs for free.

"At noon we strike it up with anywhere from 150 to 200 plus people," he said

Credit Jane McMahon
Tubameister Christmas

And each of those people are blowing and array of tubas, baritone horns and euphoniums. They will play 12 songs, including his favorite.

"I would say my favorite song is Silent Night," he said.

This is the 41st year that tuba players have gathered there to elevate your holiday. Does any particular memory stand out?

"Yes, actually, where one of our members fell into the river!” he laughed. 

IF YOU GO What: Tubameister Christmas Where: Arneson River Theater When: noon Saturday Cost:  free


Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii