Performance preview: Don’s Mariachi.

Trumpeter David Ceja plays El Balaju, a fast-paced song with lively trumpets notes and sharp violin strums, with diligence as he pushes down on the keys.

“The arrangement is very technical, and each instrument has its own solo,” Ceja said.

The ‘Don’ Mariachi Ensemble serenades audiences at Phillips Hall Theater May 11 at 8 p.m. with the sounds of violins, guitars, basses and trumpets.

Professor of music and ethic studies, David Lopez, had a specific idea of how he wanted the song, El Balaju to begin during an afternoon rehearsal. Instructing others in the rhythm, he snapped his fingers to the ‘boom’ sounds he made.

“Mariachi is played with aggression,” said Lopez. “If you play with aggression you’re going to hit the right notes and get the results you want.”

Lopez directs the band, which will perform 12 songs of love and regret in true Latin passion.

Originating in Jalisco, Mexico in the late 19th century, mariachi gained popularity in the 1930s as the most nationally prominent folk-derived Mexican music.

Songs made popular by Mariachi include La Cucaracha, Cielito Lindo, La Bamba, and The Hat Dance.

A mariachi ensemble plays with heavy, percussive acoustic guitar strumming contrasted with soft high and low trumpet notes and backed by poetic Spanish lyrics.

The Santa Ana College ensemble band was first formed in 1999 by a handful of students interested in playing mariachi music.

“Each new semester we are in danger of not having enough students and have been anticipating cancelling the program,” Lopez said.

Lopez points to the changing dynamics of community college education as a reason the program is in danger.

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Some years it is tough to draw the required 15 students. If those seats aren’t filled, Lopez added, the class is cancelled.

The event is $8 for general admission, $6 for students, and $4 for children. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

Don’s Mariachi Video slideshow: Our talent at rehearsal.

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