Let's Rodeo, San Antonio! It's time to saddle up and head out to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. If you've never been, there's no time like the present. The Rodeo starts on Thursday, February 11 and runs through Sunday, February 28. All shows are at the AT&T Center. If you think you know that venue, as in seeing the Spurs play basketball there, you're in for quite a surprise. Check it out!
If the rodeo isn't quite your cup of tea, you can still head on over to The Briscoe Western Art Museum and get a feel for the real life roots of Rodeo. After all, it's all about cowboys, spurs, saddles, lariats, and maybe even a sabre if you're talking about the cavalry. I recently got a thorough walk-through of The Briscoe, thanks to Sharon Garcia, Communications Manager at the museum, and Jennifer Chowning, who heads the museum's educational programs. This was all part of paving the way for a new series on KPAC called “Let's Rodeo: Music and Art from The Briscoe.” The series kicks off this Friday evening at 7 o'clock and will run on consecutive Fridays through the end of February. It's part of KPAC's ongoing Classics a la Carte.
Where does the American West begin? This is central to understanding both the mythology and the reality of The West. When I asked Jenny Chowning where she thinks the American West begins, she was almost immediate with a geographic guidepost: the 100th Meridian. John Wesley Powell warned in 1874 that beyond the 100th Meridian it is far too arid for agriculture. Perhaps that's why we so often equate the definition of The West with cattle drives, ranching, and cowboys.
Asked the same question of where The West begins, composer David Amram responded that it begins when you disembark at the east coast ports. "Any time you get to the shores of the Americas," he says, "The West is somehow part of everything we have here. And there's a certain magical thing about The West, and I've no idea what it is, that's very, very special.”
Although composer and horn player Kerry Turner has called Europe home for the past 35 years, he still identifies and, more importantly, is identified as “that musician from Texas.” He lives the role with his decidedly individualistic manner of dressing. One would suppose that Kerry's thoughts about where the American West begins would reflect the fact he was born on the King Ranch and then grew up in San Antonio and Kerrville.
Finally, composer Charles Fitts says he believes The West begins about 100 miles west of San Antonio, basing his opinion on his eagle's eye view from the cockpit of his own private airplane, an aircraft he once flew regularly from near Houston to his ranch near Big Bend National Park.
Everyone, Jenny Chowning, David Amram, Kerry Turner, and Charles Fitts is filled with a love for the geography and the culture of The West, whether it begins at Ellis Island or San Antonio, and they express this love throughout the three part series “Let's Rodeo: Music and Art from The Briscoe.” The Briscoe's art and artifacts suggest more than words can ever say, as the music of Turner, Amram, and Fitts paints tonal imagery of The West. Other music from the likes of Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Richard Adler, and Virgil Thomson delve into the light and shadow of The West while celebrating the spirit of Rodeo, campfires, and raw natural beauty.
“Let's Rodeo: Music and Art from The Briscoe” will echo San Antonio's roots celebration throughout the final weeks of February. It will create a soundtrack for The West with music reflecting the many cultures which intersect in “The Big Country,” ranging from quintessential cowboy dance music of Copland to Native American motifs from the flutes of Carlos Nakai and the inventive musical imagination of David Amram.
Let's Hoedown, San Antonio!