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VOL. 127 | NO. 39 | Monday, February 27, 2012

Opus One Turns Up Latin Heat


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The Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s Opus One concert series mixes local singers with classically trained musicians in unusual venues for a mixture of sounds.

Colombian-born jazz artist Marcela Pinilla is the latest Memphis singer to share the stage with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in its highly popular, cross-genre musical experience Opus One. Two concerts will take place on March 1 and 2 at the Rumba Room.

(Photo: Courtesy of  Christopher Parks)

Next to perform is the South American flavor of Colombian jazz singer Marcela Pinilla.

A pair of concerts, set for Thursday, March 1, and Friday, March 2, will also bring Opus One to a first-time concert hall, the Rumba Room, 303 S. Main St., in the South Main Historic Arts District.

“They have a very big dance floor and that’s where the orchestra is going to be,” Pinilla said of the Rumba Room, which is frequently the site of packed Salsa and Latin dances.

“Maybe people will get up and dance. I don’t know how big of a dance floor we’re going to have because of the size of the orchestra, but there’s always something that can be done.”

Opus One began a year ago as an effort by MSO to draw in more mainstream music fans, particularly those who enjoy rock, hip-hop, blues and soul music. The orchestra, usually with about 40 players, performs without a conductor and with casual attire – think blue jeans and blouses instead of tuxedos and formal gowns.

The main point of the series, though, is to incorporate the music of local artists like Amy LaVere, Susan Marshall and Al Kapone, who was last to perform with the group, at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street.

MSO collaborates with the artists on their own works and MSO arrangers draw out the charts for the orchestra.

“It took a lot of meetings, deciding the songs we wanted to do and finding the perfect pieces for the orchestra,” Pinilla said. “It’s been a few months preparing for that.”

In her case that means a mix of jazz with Spanish heat, traditional Colombian music and her own original songs, which she said have a world music flavor.

Pinilla has lived in Memphis for 20 years but was born in Bogota, Colombia. She started singing at age 5 but gave it up for gymnastics. When she was 14 she sang with a band at her school, and a producer who heard her asked her to record a song for a TV program.

She’s been singing professionally ever since. She sings on two albums released by other bands and is planning to release her second solo album later this year.

Pinilla said she typically stays close to home but hopes to travel more to Asia in the future where she has a large following.

“It was kind of an accident, but that’s how this all started,” she said.

On the concert slate are two of her own songs, “Yo Me LLamo Cumbia” and “Un Mundo Bueno,” which she sings with the help of her four children. Her bass player, drummer and pianist will also play along with the orchestra.

“I’m very passionate about how music can bring us all together,” Pinilla said. “For an hour or an hour and a half that a concert lasts, I like to see how people that didn’t know each other start getting along. When I write, I think about that and I write about coming together.”

And that makes sense for a concert about uniting different sounds. The orchestra will also have a moment or two to show off its sound, playing Johann Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz.” “The Funky Chicken” and “Zydeco Madness” are on the program as well.

“It’s so great to be able to create music with so many musicians at the same time,” Pinilla said. “I’ve always been very fascinated with Opus One. I was very happy when they contacted me.”

Tickets for Opus One featuring Marcela Pinilla can be purchased online by visiting www.memphissymphony.org, and Opus One has an online community at www.OpusOneMemphis.wordpress.com.

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