program notes by composition > L > La Fiesta Mexicana

La Fiesta Mexicana

H. Owen Reed

La Fiesta Mexicana. Subtitled Mexican Folk Song Symphony for Concert Band , this work was written after Reed had spent the year of 1948 in Mexico studying folk music and composing. The symphony presents a contrast between the sacred and the secular features of Mexican culture. Most of the melodies are original, but several folk works appear as well. including the popular Mariachi tune “El Son de la Negra.” The work depicts a religious festival dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It faithfully represents all of the contrasts and contradictions of these festivals. It is both serious and comical, festive and solemn, devout and pagan, boisterous and tender.

Prelude and Aztec Dance : The tumbling of church bells and midnight fire-works signal the opening of the fiesta. Groups of Mexicans from near and far slowly descend upon the huge court surrounding the old cathedral. After a brave effort at gaiety the celebrators settle down on their serapes to a restless night until the church bells and fireworks again intrude at dawn. At midday a parade is announced by the trumpets. A band is heard in the distance and then in the plaza. Attention turns to the frenetic Aztec dancers wearing plumes and masks.

Mass : Tolling of the bells reminds that the Fiesta, is, after all, a religious celebration. Rich and poor slowly gather within the walls of the old cathedral for contemplation and worship.

Carnival : Passion governs the love, hate and joy of the Mestizo and the Indio. There is entertainment for young and old -- the itinerant circus, the market, the bullfight, the town band and always the cantinas with their band of Mariachis -- on the day of days: Fiesta!

H. Owen Reed (1910–2014) was an American composer, conductor and author. Born in Odessa, Missouri , he studied music at the University of Missouri and received degrees from Louisiana State University and the Eastman School of Music, where he was a pupil of both Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. Reed traveled extensively in the 1930s, capturing the diversity of folk music in Scandinavia, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Many of his works feature material from the Mexican, Native American, Anglo American, and African American cultures. He has published eight books on composition and theory. He was professor of music and head of composition at Michigan State University from 1939 to 1976, serving since then as professor emeritus until his death. He played jazz in college, and beyond his hundredth year in a Michigan State faculty combo known as the "Geriatric Six."

Last updated on May 9, 2016 by Palatine Concert Band