Nancy Merrill’s A Photo A Week Challenge this week is to show “live music.” Music is a very important part of my life. I love all types of music and am especially fascinated by “world” music – music from different countries and cultures.
Our favorite orchestra in the Chicago area is Chicago Sinfonietta. Every concert they play is unique and inclusive. They specialize in diversity, in honor of the founder of the orchestra, Paul Freedman, an African-American conductor and classical musician. They focus on a theme for each concert which includes performers from different genres and cultural groups. In this photo of their May 2018 concert, they invited a well-known professional gospel choir to perform with them.
Last November, they had a Day of the Dead themed concert, which included such works as Mozart’s Requiem, including a choir from Roosevelt University that wore skeleton costumes and masks during the performance. During the intermission, there were cultural dances and music from Mexico.
Music evokes such emotion and nostalgia in me. When we took a cruise to the Panama Canal in March-April 2017, we stopped at a small port in Chiapas, Mexico, where some of us took an excursion to Tuxtla Chico (I have blogged about this), a charming small town where music and dances were performed for us. Within a short time, I didn’t want to leave – all my emotions associated with past trips to Mexico were brought to the surface by the cultural atmosphere and the typical music. Here some women dressed in beautiful flowered dresses danced to music played by a marimba band.
Back on the cruise ship, some Mexican performers came aboard for a couple of days and performed for us by the Lido pool. This included a male singer and a couple of dancers, who performed dances from different regions of Mexico.
Steel pan music was also a feature of that cruise when we passed through the Caribbean, and Chicago Sinfonietta later that year featured steel pan music in one of their concerts. Here my husband Dale samples playing a steel pan, supervised by a professional steel pan player, leader of a steel pan band from Northern Illinois University, before the concert. NIU is possibly the only university in the country where music majors can specialize in steel pan music.I could continue with more examples of the music in my life, but this would become a very long post! So I’ll end with some “batucada” (percussion) from Flamengo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (recorded in November 2016).
In the town of Tuxtla Chico, Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, we visited the main church, which is in the Zócalo, or Central Square. The colorful main entrance is unique and beautiful in its simplicity.
Stained glass panels
The main altar with its statue of Santa Maria Candelaria.
Chocolate comes from cacao, a fruit that grows on a tree native to Mexico. The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica (primarily Mexico and Guatemala) had made a bitter drink from cacao seeds for millennia before the Europeans arrived, but it took the European palate to make chocolate into the delicious treat we know today by adding sugar. The language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, gave us the word from which our word “chocolate” is derived: xocolatl.
On our first stop in Mexico during our Panama Canal Cruise was at Puerto Chiapas, just west of the Guatemalan border. I had chosen a shore excursion that included a chocolate making demonstration.
We went by bus to the village of Tuxtla Chico, where in the central plaza a stage had been set up, with rows of chairs facing it. Surrounding this makeshift outdoor auditorium were vendors, selling primarily products made from chocolate as well as coffee, although there were vendors selling colorful embroidered blouses as well, and my husband and I took time to bargain for a couple of them.
On the stage, a couple of long tables covered with brightly colored woven cloth were set up with the accoutrements for making chocolate. The cacao fruit is filled with a white pulp which surrounds the seeds. The pulp can be made into an ade, which we were encouraged to try, dispensed into tiny plastic cups from the spigot of a large jug. The drink was somewhat sweet and refreshing, but I don’t know if it was pure or sugar had been added.
The first step in making chocolate by hand, as the native women were doing, is to separate the seeds (or beans, as they are often called) from the pulp. The beans are then spread out on a tray to dry and then roasted. Raw cocoa beans cannot be eaten.
After the beans are roasted, they are crushed into a coarse powder using a metate and brazo (mortal and pestle).
At this point, the demonstrator adds flavoring to the powder – sugar and cinnamon or other flavors, and continues grinding and mixing until the mixture forms a paste.
These chunks of grainy, flavored chocolate are also used to make hot chocolate by melting them in milk. All of us were given cups of hot chocolate to taste!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera
I have loved the delicious Mexican foamy hot chocolate since discovering it on my first trip to Mexico in the late 1960s. The chocolate is sold in solid bars, plain or with added flavors (cinnamon is the best and most common). To make Mexican hot chocolate at home, cut off a section of the bar (usually they are scored for individual portions) and melt it in milk in a pan on the stove. Stir constantly with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you have a foamy hot chocolate ready to drink!
After the chocolate demonstration, there was a show with dancing and music. First was the Dance of the Jaguar. Then women in traditional dress danced to marimba music. At the end, the ladies in the flowered dresses invited people to dance – I was one of them!