Dia de los Muertos at the Mexic-Arte Museum

The holiday “Day of the Dead” focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for, and remember,  the dearly departed.

One of the favorite traditions is the Grand Procession, featuring a parade of folks in costume honoring the souls of departed loved-ones. Last Saturday, this event was presented as part of Mexic-Arte’s Dia de los Muertos festivities.

My niece is a pretty talented shutterbug, and took a lot of great photos that I thought were too good not to share:

Dia de la Muertos is officially on Nov. 2nd. So, gather your sugar skulls and assemble your alters, and celebrate!

~posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂

Appreciating Monet at the Blanton Museum

~posted by Carmel O’Donovan, KMFA announcer

I think Joni Mitchell hit the nail on the head when she sang: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?”

Certainly, moving as I did from London almost four years ago, I felt a great sadness as I packed the boxes and cases knowing that I had had some of the finest art galleries almost on my doorstep, and yet I had taken them for granted and consequently failed to visit them as often as I could have. Even the thought of the deeply irritating and wildly incontinent pigeons fluttering around the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square made me feel a little misty-eyed. But girding my loins, I carried on packing and before long I arrived here in Austin, Texas.

I am happy to tell you that I had not been here very long when I discovered our very own jewel in the heart of the city – The Blanton Museum of Art.  At that time my oldest son was a freshman at UT and his dorms were just around the corner, so when bringing food parcels and his clean laundry (yes I know I am a mug), I could “pop in” to the Blanton, have a swift chug of culture and drive home to cook and wash for my other children. It was a haven of civilization in my otherwise rather overly domestic existence. I became a member of The Blanton, and while I’m still guilty of not visiting as often as I could, every time I go it is quite simply a delight.

For those of you who have yet to visit The Blanton, I urge you not to miss the current exhibit, “Turner to Monet: Masterpieces of the Walters Art Museum.” The exhibit opened on October 2nd, and runs until January 2nd, 2011. It is, quite simply, world class, with 40 paintings by Degas, Monet, Turner, Manet and others, collected by the Walters family at the turn of the last century. Some of them will just take your breath away. My personal favorite is the portrait of Mrs. Monet reading under a blossom tree – the organizers clearly like that one too, as it is the picture featured on the brochure and adverts. I love being a member as I can visit as many times as I like and stay for even a few minutes and then go to the café and sample some of their delicious home-cooked goodies. And for those of you stuck for ideas for Christmas gifts (like me), what about a membership from the Blanton? Look out for me, I’ll be the one lurking under the Monet, determined to learn from my London mistakes and making the most of this treasure!


Carmel O’Donovan is a part-time announcer on KMFA 89.5; you can read more about Carmel and all our Music Hosts on our website.

A taste of La Vida Bona

~posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA music director

An excited crowd of several hundred gathered in Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus on Sunday evening to hear one of the biggest names in early music perform. Jordi Savall, the man credited with the modern rebirth of the viola da gamba, was in town with his groups Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya to perform music taken from his latest CD release: El Nuevo Mundo: Follías Criollas. Also featured were soprano Montserrat Figueras, and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo from Mexico. The concert was entitled “Route of the New World: Spain to Mexico – The musical dialogue from the Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions.”

The excitement of the audience turned to exuberance once the musicians started to work their magic onstage. Tembembe vocalists Ada Coronel and Zenén Zeferino were greeted with cheers after their performance of the traditional huasteca El Cielito Lindo. One of my favorite moments was Ms. Figueras’ performance of Trompicávalas Amor. Her music seems to originate in the center of her being, to be disseminated in waves in time with her movements. I found her a joy to watch as well as to listen to. Another high point came from the viol master himself, Jordi Savall, during an instrumental improvisation. I could feel the entire hall hanging from his every bowstroke. I could sit for hours and listen to him weave a tale with his instrument (which I learned later was an original from the  16th century!) I was also blown away by the flawless choral singing of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and the seemingly effortless way in which they switched between styles. My favorite choral piece was Chacona: a la vida bona by Juan Arañés.

The effervescent music made even my creaky German bones want to dance, but luckily that aspect was already taken care of by someone far more qualified! Donají Esparza wowed the audience with her footwork and graceful onstage presence. After the performance, the overwhelming applause resulted in an encore, and after that the musicians were called back for yet another curtain call. They were obviously touched by the passionate response their performance brought forth. I hope they will remember Austin as fondly as we’ll remember the incredible evening of music they gave us!

[Sara Hessell had the opportunity to interview Jordi Savall while he was in Austin; if you missed hearing it on Sunday’s broadcast of Ancient Voices, you can listen to it again here.]

~posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director and host of Ancient Voices.

Ballet Austin’s Studio Spotlight: an enlightening preview

~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA mid-day announcer

There are many of us who love to dance to anything and everything. I myself, have created dances to the Law and Order Theme, the Charlie Rose Theme and Ravel’s Bolero. However, when it gets right down to it, I don’t know much about real dancing.

Enter Ballet Austin’s “Studio Spotlight.” It’s an opportunity for dance-lovers and dancers to watch the pros dance, and to see excerpts of Ballet Austin’s upcoming productions, while still in rehearsal, up-close and personal. Last night, I attended the Studio Spotlight for “Carmina Burana and Kai.” Interspersed with the dance segments, Ballet’s Austin’s Associate Director, Michelle Miller, gave us some background on the works in question. Near the end of the session, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions of Artistic Director, and Choreographer, Stephen Mills. Aside from being informative, it was also exciting to see the dancers warming up and perfecting their moves. It’s great for the audience and it’s a fabulous way for Ballet Austin to extend their beneficial impact into the community.

Ballet Austin-Studio Spotlight – for more information, visit their website: www.balletaustin.org/studiospotlight

(Duration: 1 hour; Location: Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center – 501 West 3rd St.  … Dates/Times: Usually the Wednesday about a week and a half before performance dates.)

~Dianne Donovan is KMFA’s midday announcer and host/producer of Classical Austin.