Young vocalist’s ‘Cucu Rrucucú Paloma’ a sensation!

Alexis Jacquett

Mariachi Chula Vista

Alexis Jacquett

LEMON GROVE — Big things come in little packages.  This was certainly true on Friday, Oct. 8, when the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra Master Chorale and the Mariachi Chula Vista performed at St. John of the Cross Catholic Church.  

Vocalist and violin player Jose Casillas is only 13, but has a deep voice which, though not quite that of a man, struck many members of the audience as unusually mature.  He had such stage presence as he sang Cucu Rrucucú Paloma that one could sense the audience collectively drawing in its breath.  Personally, I was stunned by his performance.

When Jose  sang, he was confident and thoroughly in command.  But later when he was given a curtain call, you could sense he was embarrassed when his young age was revealed by the group’s director, Mark Fogelquist.  As the audience reacted with a “Wow,” Jose reddened like a boy whose grandmother was tweaking his cheeks.

Jose is an 8th grader at Chula Vista Middle School, from which students join others at Chula Vista High School to participate in the combined School of Creative and Performing Arts.  Fogelquist , who teaches five music classes daily to a total of  144 students, selects 14 for Mariachi Chula Vista.  “I pick the ones who have the talent and the drive,” explained Fogelquist, who prior to becoming a teacher in 1993 was a member of the Mariachi Uclatan, a group drawn from the UCLA campus.

The collaboration of Grossmont’s Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale with Mariachi Chula Vista came at the end of the concert in a filled-to-capacity sanctuary that normally seats approximately 800.  The stage was extended over some of the front pews to accommodate more than 80 musicians.

Often, a musical selection would start with a melody played by one group of instruments, and then echoed by another, alternating in such a manner that it seemed a happy musical battle.  The effect was to give a lasting positive impression of Latin American music.

Dr. Randall Tweed, musical director of the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale, conducted with enthusaism and obvious enjoyment as he signalled each section to make its musical entrance.

Though the chorale group was large, it had great inter-personal chemistry with plenty of synergy.

The setting of the church enhanced the impact of the music.  There was something about the high vaulted ceilings, the pews, and the figure of Jesus on the cross that lent to the music a spiritual quality.

Normally the church is not a place I would go on a date night, but I found the evening and the venue to be rewarding.

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Jacquett is a student in Media Comm 132.