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El Mundo makes vibrant Spanish music

As a child, Richard Savino began his musical journey with his voice and a trumpet.

In the Hawaii Concert Society’s forthcoming presentation the “tour guide” will be the early music ensemble, El Mundo, directed by Savino, now a world-renowned guitarist and lutenist as well as a Grammy Award nominee. The audience will travel with them across Europe and to the New World, following the spread of the music of Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.

El Mundo, founded by Savino, who is on the music faculty at California State University, Sacramento, combines bowed strings with the rarely heard accompaniment forces of mixed guitars, lutes and percussion in a setting that recreates the distinctive Latin sound of the Old and New Worlds. With the addition of renowned singers, Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Nell Snaidas, and Paul Shipper, El Mundo also performs vocal music that ranges from sublimely sensual to light-hearted and folk-like.

For the Hilo concert, Savino will play his baroque guitar, and also the theorbo — a kind of giant lute with 14 strings and a 6-foot neck.

“It’s an incredibly vibrant program,” Savino said with pride. “It’s a kaleidoscopic vision of how Spain disseminated its musical style throughout the world. In many ways, the colonization of Latin America was a tragic chapter in human history. But there were some beautiful things that came out of it.”

Tickets are $20 general, $16 for seniors 60+, and $10 for students and are available at the Most Irresistible Shop, Book Gallery, the UHH Performing Arts Center Box Office, Music Exchange, and the East Hawaii Cultural Center.

Tickets will also be available on the evening of the concert at the UHH Box Office, from 6:45 p.m.

“They were colonies, and it wasn’t a concern of the British Crown to have magnificent opera or oratorio being performed in New York or Philadelphia or Boston or South Carolina,” Russell said. “But if for example we go to New Spain — Mexico and California and Arizona and New Mexico — there is the both legal and psychological difference that they are regarded by the Spanish as part of Spain, so it’s in the interest of the Crown and the Church to have all the luxuries and sophistication and activities that you’d have if you’d been living in Spain,” including the baroque music of the period.

Often, the indigenous populations were drawn into the arts and participated in their production. The musical result was a style that even in sacred compositions bears the imprint of folk music. The use of guitars and percussion, coupled with dance rhythms and the occasional use of native languages resulted in music of great beauty and poignancy, of which the Hilo audience will hear a representative sample.


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