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A Festive Brazilian New Year

Desiree Furoni

A special piece written by Marin Alsop on NPR included a photo of her conducting the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra in a concert on a Brazilian beach. Twenty thousand listeners attended! Wow! An outdoor concert in December?

A look at the latest weather forecasts for points in South America quickly reminds us that it is presently Summertime (and one would hope the livin’ is easy) throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

New Year’s Day in Buenos Aires is looking pretty good, weather-wise: high of 73 and a low of 59. It’s New Year’s Eve the Porteños are complaining about, with a high expected near 90 degrees. It’s not too much better in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but then again, it is Summer and not Winter. For the natives of the Southern Hemisphere, it’s probably not so unusual to anticipate such weather for New Year’s Eve and Day. It’s what they’re accustomed to.

Of course, here in the U.S. and throughout Europe, New Year’s Day is apt to be blustery, maybe even a snow day as we gather around our televisions and radios to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic welcome the New Year with music by the Waltz King, Johann Strauss II. I am sure some of those same waltzes resonate in concerts in Latin America as well, but alongside a whole body of New World waltzes such as “Sobre las Olas,” “Luna de Patzcuaro” or even “Cuando escuches este vals” (When you hear this waltz).

I suspect in Buenos Aires they dance to Piazzolla on New Year’s Eve, while in Rio or Sao Paulo, it’s likely they are moving to a Samba beat, or maybe a Bossa Nova. The Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra even has its own New Year’s tradition when they turn the Sala Sao Paulo, a converted train station, into a musical Mecca of festive song and dance, welcoming in the New Year with the warmth of the climate and the hot hits of  Jobim and Pixinguinha.

On this week’s edition of Itinerarios, we anticipate the New Year with festive music from throughout Latin America. A handful of selections will come from Sao Paulo, alongside Mexican waltzes and Ginastera evocations of the Argentinean pampas. We will even hear the finale to Mahler’s 5th Symphony, with the enthusiastic Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. There will be no Strauss, but certainly some Villa-Lobos and Arturo Marquez, perhaps even Placido Domingo singing a mariachi feature or two. Please join us for an entertaining end of the year fiesta edition of Itinerarios Sunday evening at 7 o’clock.

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.