San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, the Costa Rican National Orchestra presented an outstanding evening of cultural enlightenment and entertainment for the people of Arenal. The 70-member orchestra, under the direction of Marvin Araya, thrilled an enthusiastic SRO audience of more than 600, packed to the rafters of the gymnasium of Nuevo Arenal. The high ceiling and curved metal roof provided acoustical drama seldom experienced in larger venues.

The program opened with the rousing “October Festival” by Shostakovich, through the Nocturnal Serenade of Mozart, then to the exciting “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Copland, which reverberated throughout the domed gymnasium. At one point, director Araya delighted the audience by introducing various instruments that comprise a symphony orchestra.

The general theme of the Cultural Tour of 2012 is “Por Los Volcanes,” and the composition by Guzmán entitled “Arenal (Sinfonía de Los Volcanes” captured every aspect of Costa Rica’s famous geologic giants. The pastoral opening, so softly reassuring, is almost imperceptible, intruded upon by an intermittent undercurrent of sinister rumbling provided by a lightly stroked tympani.

Gradually the rumbling becomes more sustained and insistent as the bass violas add their deep, sonorously throbbing voices to the expanding volume of sound. Pastoral is obliterated by thunderous power building to a climactic eruption that threatened to lift the roof off the gymnasium. The effect on the audience was electrifying, causing an eruption of applause lasting several minutes.

Lighter fare served to calm everyone down including “Sombrero de Tres Picos” by de Falla, Smetana’s “El Moldava” and a modern arrangement by Bernstein entitled, “Mambo del Poema sinfónico de West Side Story,” in which members of the orchestra stood up and did Mambo steps, shouting “Mambo!” This had the audience laughing and clapping. The six bass violas spun their instruments 360 degrees and didn’t miss a note.

Despite scheduled performances in different towns the next two days, the orchestra performed two encore selections for an appreciative audience. The people of Arenal thank the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud y el Centro Nacional de la Musica for providing us with a memorable evening and for a cultural program that brings the National Symphony Orchestra to the people of Costa Rica.

–William & Jean Priest

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