After our concert in Guanajuato, we headed back to Mexico City for a whirlwind second and third concerts in as many days. The compressed rehearsal and performance schedule was exhausting, but it did allow us to really enjoy the places were were visiting after our concerts in Mexico wrapped up.
Mexico City has a very different vibe than Guanajuato. It reminds me more of Los Angeles, to be honest: tons of buildings scattered about, but sprawled and disjoint. I definitely avoided walking at night without a group.
Here’s a snapshot of what I did in Mexico City:
Performing at Palacio de Bellas Artes
Right after we got off the bus from Guanajuato, we headed for Palacio de Bellas Artes, widely lauded as Mexico’s “Carnegie Hall”. Both the exterior and interior are quite a sight to see, with a beautiful gold facade and stained-glass ceiling. The acoustics were also great – drier than Bing Hall, but with a resonant warmness and roundness that enriches the color of the music we played.
There were two surprises at this venue, besides the sold-out audience demanding an encore at the end. First, we had a masterclass with Carlos Prieto, head of the National Orchestra of Mexico; he worked with us on the Márquez Danzón no. 2, and had some incredible insights into how to really “feel” the piece (one great recommendation was to imagine the Danzón as a lazy, nighttime music number played by an American big band).
The second surprise came after we performed the Danzón – Arturo Márquez himself had come to watch us perform! Everyone was freaking out over the legendary living composer personally complimenting us on the performance.
Performing at the Senate of Mexico
The next day, we walked from our hotel to the Mexican Senate’s building. After a warmup rehearsal and an official tour of the space (Senators were out of session, so we got to explore their official chamber), we gave a concert for Senators who were around, as well as their friends, family, and other employees on site. The performance was televised live by several news stations, and the open-air performance kept Brad (my stand partner) and I on our toes – despite our best efforts, music kept flying off our stand!
Yes, Teotihuacán isn’t Mexico City, but we visited the ancient Aztec site on a day trip from Mexico City, so I’m including it in this post. I enjoyed learning more about the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, including that they were used for human sacrifice (which ended with unceremoniously dumping the body down the steps of the Pyramid when they were done). I also learned firsthand that by the time you climbed to the top of the Temple of the Sun, sacrifice might have been desirable; there are so many steps, including multiple sections that are almost 90° steep! Like good tourists, getting to the top of the pyramids led to many photographs. I think my favorite photo was when we “sacrificed” Jake using an obsidian dagger Eve had acquired from a merchant.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Visiting the Museo Nacional de Antropología was a great continuation of the pre-colonial Mexican culture we started learning about at Teotihuacán. The museum’s design is very striking; visitors are greeted to a huge column with a waterfall-style fountain circumscribed around it, providing a centerpiece befitting of the massive scale of the museum itself. I loved getting to explore artifacts, including the famous “Aztec Calendar” (which was actually used as a sacrificial table, not as a calendar), as well as the upstairs wings that described the people who inhabit Mexico and their cultural heritage.
We stumbled across a karaoke bar in Mexico City, and the chance to enjoy refreshments alongside loud music and bright lights was too good to pass up. After Jake (who happens to feature prominently in a lot of these stories, now that I think about it) came in 2nd place for a singing competition we had walked into, we were all invited onto stage and burst out into a soulful, entire-bar-rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. This was an incredibly fun, impromptu bonding experience the likes of which I don’t know if I’ll ever feel (or do) again.
Pool party with Maestro Anna
On the very top of hotel Casa Blanca is a small pool that we decided to over for an afternoon (by which I mean we fit close to everyone on Tour in the pool at some point). We also were able to convince Anna to join us, and spent the evening chatting about all sorts of things, whether it was regarding SSO, Tour, or life in general.
La Pasión Según San Marcos
After our masterclass with Carlos Prieto, he mentioned that he was conducting a concert on Friday featuring a Latin American version of the Passion of St. Mark, arranged by Osvaldo Golijov (who happens to be around Stanford’s campus from time to time as well). Thanks to our resident violinist/doctor Andy Lan, who bulk-purchased 40 tickets to the show, a huge group of us walked to Palacio de Bellas Artes, this time as listeners. Some people going to the show even recognized us from our Tuesday concert!
The piece itself was phenomenal – 90 minutes of nonstop performance, singing, acting, clapping, and a huge variety of instrumentation (including religious drums and classical accordion). I was applauding at the end in part because of how ridiculously difficult it is to conduct this piece. Maestro Prieto, however, did it with aplomb, skillfully weaving and signaling the disparate forces of the orchestra into an incredibly unique performance that perfectly encapsulated the cross-cultural boundaries we were bridging on Tour.
With that, our time in Mexico City was up, but Cuba was just around the corner! To learn about the other places I visited, check out the links below:
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