A Galician bagpipe is to Cristina Pato what the piano is to Elton John.
“It’s the national instrument of my country and part of my cultural identity,” said the 34-year-old Spanish performing artist – herself an accomplished pianist – of the bagpipe.
Pato first began playing the bagpipes at the age of four. Her three elder sisters were already mastering the instrument, and she wanted to follow their lead.
“Although my education as a musician is as a classical pianist, when I was born the Galician bagpipe education wasn’t yet official. So to get a musical degree you had to go through classical music,” Pato said from her home in New York City. “That’s the reason I came to the U.S. to get my doctorate in classical piano. But I already had a career as a bagpiper before I came here.”
Pato will open the 2nd International Music Festival with a performance of “Latina” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at San Fernando Cathedral. Presented by Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW), the festival features seven concerts through May 24 by world-class jazz, folk, classical and ethnic musicians and dancers at San Fernando Cathedral, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and Trinity University.
Admission is free and San Fernando concerts will be followed by an artist “Meet & Greet.” MBAW members can RSVP to guarantee seating. Otherwise, seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis for the general public.
The Galician bagpiper is on tour to promote the release of her new CD, “Latina,” which embodies a journey of self discovery, exploring heights and hurdles of the life and migrations of a Latin woman.
The concept for “Latina” stems from Pato being “intrigued by the complex meaning of the word Latina in the U.S., and through music I wanted to find a way to understand and explain its journey,” she said.
Through her musical explorations, Pato discovered the recurrent use of a 6/8 pattern (six beats of quarter notes in a waltz-like feel) from the tarantellas of Italy all the way to the Afro-Peruvian style of landó on the Pacific coast of South America.
“We all have common roots, heritage, langue and a way of life,” she said, “But exploring how a basic 6/8 pattern has evolved in different Latin countries brings up many other topics related to the context and meaning of the word ‘Latina’ that have also evolved in fascinating ways: gender, power and human migration.”
For more information, visit www.cristinapato.com.
As to what audiences can expect on May 14, a hint comes from a March 2015 review by the Chicago Tribune in which the writer wrote, “I don’t know which was more fun to watch and hear – the piercing wails of Pato’s pipes, her dancing or the easy fluidity with which she and her colleagues traded the intricate rhythms they produced on their diverse instruments, or sometimes just clapped out.”
A recording artist and performer since age 12, Pato has released four solo gaita recordings and two as a pianist. She has also collaborated on more than 30 recordings as a guest artist, including the Grammy Award winner “Yo-Yo Ma and Friends: Songs of Joy and Peace,” “Miles Español: New Sketches of Spain” and the Grammy-nominated Silk Road Ensemble album, “Off the Map.”
In 1998, Pato became the first female gaita player to release a solo album. To date, she has performed more than 600 concerts, and has collaborated with world music, jazz, classical and experimental artists, including the Chicago Symphony, The Chieftains, World Symphony Orchestra and Paquito D’Rivera.
“I think every chance of putting the (gaita) into a context that is not usually associated with classical music breaks barriers in traditional and classical music,” Pato said.
She offers a brief history lesson about the gaita, which she says many of her concert-goers are often surprised to learn.
“It’s a shepherd’s instrument,” Pato said. “The first country that comes to mind when people think of bagpipes is Scotland. But we have to remember that the first region in the world known to have shepherds is Persia. This instrument connects cultures throughout the world.”
Other performances of the 2nd International Music Festival include:
Friday, May 15, 7:30 p.m.
“Time, Place, Action” Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts – Featuring Vijay Iyer: MacArthur Genius Fellow, Harvard Music Professor and Grammy nominated jazz pianist with the award-winning Brentano String Quartet of the Yale School of Music. Best known as a jazz pianist, Iyer has released 17 albums, and in 2012 was named jazz artist of the year by “Down Beat” magazine.
Saturday, May 16, 7:30 p.m.
“Colombia Unbound” San Fernando Cathedral – Born in Bogota, Edmar Castaneda has taken the world stage by storm with the sheer force of his virtuosic command. From the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “the Colombian plays the harp unlike anyone else on earth. His hands, seemingly powered by two different people, produce a totally unique, symphonic fullness of sound, a rapid-fire of chords, balance of melodic figures and drive, served with euphoric Latin American rhythms, and the improvisatory freedom of a trained jazz musician …”
Sunday, May 17, 3 p.m.
“Home Within” Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts – Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad will share “Home Within,” a multimedia project to honor 100,000 victims of the civil war in Syria. Mourad has shared the stage with world class musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and performed globally from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Chess Festival of Mexico City. “Home Within,” created with Kinan Azmeh, has been touring Europe and North America for the past year.
Wednesday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.
“Viva Espana” Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts – Entreflamenco, founded by Antonio Granjero in 1998 in Madrid is “… the Baryshnikov of Spanish Dance” according to WQXR of New York City. Carolina Betancourt of Texas Art Magazine wrote “Granjero lays it all on the line and with every complex footwork combination, turn and finger snap, he shows you exactly who he is and how flamenco breaths within him. At times he is so forceful and unrelenting that audience members can feel the power behind the golpe …”
Thursday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
“Argentina Espectacular!” San Fernando Cathedral – After sold-out, standing-ovation performances at the Celebrity Series of Boston and Lincoln Center, composer and bandoneon player par excellence, JP Jofre will make his Musical Bridges Around the World debut with music by Astor Piazzolla, his own acclaimed compositions and a world premiere tango-ballet piece with Grammy award nominated the St. Petersburg String Quartet and renowned Argentinean dancer-choreographer Claudio Asprea from Buenos Aires.
Sunday, May 24, 6 p.m.
“African Rhythms” Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, Trinity University – Pianist Randy Weston grew up surrounded by some of the greatest musicians in jazz. But it is his deep connection to Africa that inspired his personal style of music. “The music of Africa is music that is totally in tune with the universe and the earth and the sky,” he says. “This music is totally in touch with Mother Nature. Mother Nature is always improvising — it’s cold, it’s hot, it rains, it snows … this music is in touch with the universe.”
“We believe that exposure to the world’s cultures will change perceptions,” said Anya Grokhovski, MBAW artistic director and CEO. “The International Music Festival is proof that all cultures can live in peace.”
For more information or for complete artist bios, visit www.musicalbridges.org or call (210) 464-1534.
Sponsors of the International Music Festival are Central Texas Pain Center, Hunter’s Creek Pharmacy, Drs. Eric and Michelle Miller, Mr. Michael Porter and Mrs. Mary Batten, Ms. Ann Ash, The Brown Foundation Inc., Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, Anne and Charles Parrish, City of San Antonio Department for Culture and Creative Development, Texas Commission on the Arts, Southwest Airlines, KRTU, South Texas Money Management and Jeanie Wyatt, and Drs. Luis and Awilda Ramos, Baywood Hotels, Dr. David and Elizabeth Friedman, Hotel Valencia, Trinity University KRTU-FM 91.7, San Fernando Cathedral, and Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
Music instruments provided by Alamo Music; Lachezar Kostov, cello; and Jay Podjenski, drums.
*Featured/top image: Cristina Pato is on tour to promote her new album, “Latina.”