As the indigenous Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, continues to gain popularity across the United States, it inspires lots of celebration.
Two notable events this weekend to consider are the traditional Arte Américas “CalaGala” and a concert by the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale to celebrate both Dia de los Muertos and All Saint’s Day.
Here’s a rundown:
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The big news is that Arte Américas is moving its annual celebration to Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno on Saturday, Oct. 29. An entire block will be fenced off to provide plenty of room for food, face-painters, art vendors, folkloric dancers and live music by Los Angeles band The Moonlight Trio.
Last year’s event drew 4,500 people, the cultural center says, the largest ever.
This year’s festivities will include a six-block-long procession at 6:30 p.m. The renowned Aztec dance team from Teocalli Cultural Academy will lead festivalgoers from the parking lot across from Arte Américas (on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Calaveras Street) and walk over to the festival location.
Arte is heavily promoting the idea of the event as a family-friendly activity, from the low admission price ($3) to the fact it is alcohol-free. People are invited to bring their own chairs because none will be provided.
While Day of the Dead has become a definitive cultural crossover experience, Arte executive director Frank Delgado reminds people that the cultural center has been celebrating it for a long time.
“Long before you could buy Día de los Muertos T-shirts at the big-box stores, Arte Américas has been putting on this event,” he says in a press release. “We’ve been celebrating the Day of the Dead long before it was the cool thing to do.”
The Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale is marking Dia de los Muertos and All Saint’s Day with a concert blending a performance of the famed Gabriel Fauré Requiem with selections performed by the Fresno State Mariachi Ensemble and high school mariachi ensembles.
For the Sunday, Oct. 30, concert, the venue is new for the chorale: the Roosevelt High School Auditorium. (The project is supported by the School of the Arts there.)
Anna Hamre, the chorale’s conductor, is interested in the contemporary view of death that both European and Hispanic traditions hold.
“The Fauré is a wonderful classical piece that breaks away somewhat from the ancient Catholic Requiem tradition in that it does not include the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath text) designed to frighten people,” Hamre says. “This requiem is more designed to offer comfort. In a similar fashion, Day of the Dead traditions aren’t meant to frighten. The images mock death and the traditions honor deceased loved ones.”
The Fauré piece will be done with normal orchestral orchestration, followed by several mariachi numbers. Finally, all singers and mariachi musicians will perform on the last two pieces: “La Bruja” (“The Witch”) and “Cielito Lindo” for an audience singalong. Pamela Galicia, who is earning her teaching credential at Fresno State, helped coordinate the mariachi musicians and will help lead the final two pieces.
“I have always been very impressed by our Fresno State students who are wonderful mariachi musicians who also master the European traditions we teach at the university,” Hamre says. “What richness they bring to the Central Valley!”
- 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
- Eaton Plaza, 2400 Fresno St, between N and O streets
- www.arteamericas.org, 559-266-2623
- $3 (infants to elders)
Fauré Requiem and mariachi program
- 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30
- Roosevelt High School Auditorium, 4250 E. Tulare St.