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The Impossible Orchestra: Alondra de la Parra’s musical dream team helping Mexico from afar

The Impossible Orchestra aims to raise funds to help women and children suffering from violence in Mexico

The Impossible Orchestra: Alondra de la Parra’s musical dream team helping Mexico from afar
The project has already raised MXN $7 million - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 29/08/2020 11:34 Alida Piñón Mexico City Actualizada 11:40

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Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra created a project that could only take place during times of great challenges and major changes. She assembled 30 of the best musicians in the world, many of whom are members of the Berlin Philarmonic, as well as amazing soloists like Paquito D’Rivera, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón, and ballerina Elisa Carrillo, who is the prima ballerina at the Staatsballet Berlin, to comprise the Impossible Orchestra and perform, from different parts of the world the piece “Danzòn No. 2” by composer Arturo Márquez in order to help children and women who are in vulnerable conditions.

De la Parra presented the Impossible Orchestra on August 25 along with Paquito D’Rivera, Elisa Carrillo, and Pacho Flores, among others, to inform that the piece they recorded together during several months in confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic is now available on different online platforms, such as YouTube.

In a news briefing, the Mexican conductor who lives in Berlin explained that her interest to help Mexico was awakened during the coronavirus lockdown. “It’s a project for Mexico. The pandemic took us all by surprise; I and all my colleagues had all our concerts canceled, the whole schedule, the dreams, they are faded away. At that moment, being at home, I thought of what we could do. A matter that really concerns me, and even more with the pandemic, is violence against women and children. Without concerts, what could I do?” she said.

Hence, the conductor began calling her friends, colleagues, teachers, and “music idols” to tell them about her concern regarding women and children facing violence in Mexico. “To my surprise, 30 of the best musicians from 14 different countries said yes; there were even people who accepted without knowing about the project; they accepted because of the cause. What I wanted was to create a piece with the highest quality. I chose Danzòn No. 2 by Arturo Márquez because it makes me feel like home. That is how the dream team was created,” she said.

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And she added: “It’s an impossible orchestra because they are musicians who would have never been able to perform together but now they do because we are in a situation in which they not only had time but also will. It’s as if we had gathered Maradona, Messi, and Ronaldo to play together; that’s what we’ve done with classical music.”

The Philarmonic Orchestra includes, for instance, musicians from the Berlin Philarmonic and the New York Philarmonic, as well as soloists like Cuban trumpetists Arturo Sandoval, who is also a 10-times Grammy winner, and Pacho Flores an exclusive artist of Deutsche Grammophon and who has recorded with the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin.

De la Parra, who is not only promoting the project but hse also participated as a pianist, said she invited ballerina Elisa Carrillo, who performed choreography from renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, specifically created for the Impossible Orchestra. From Berlin and New York, Carrillo and Wheeldon created the “impossible dance.” Likewise, the 30 musicians recorded from six different countries, such as the U.S., France, and Germany.

Regarding the participation of Rolando Villazón, musicians agreed that, since the piece does not require voice, he could play the claves.

The material was then gathered in Berlin where thanks do the help of the Deutsche Welle and other producing houses, the video was edited with the highest image and sound quality. The final product is the result of the enormous logistics and production operation.

According to De la Parra, so far, they have been able to raise MXN $7 million thanks to sponsoring companies that have joined the cause. Moreover, they expect views of the video to generate more funds due to monetizing. What they raise will be donated to two Mexican foundations that work for women and children: Fondo Semillas and Save the Children Mexico.

About her participation, Elisa Carrillo said: “It’s a beautiful project; it was born from all the love we have for Mexico. I admire Alondra and she made possible the impossible. This project helped me a lot; it made me feel alive during the lockdown; it made me feel that in spite of not being in a stage, I could give the public what I have,” she said.

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She added that “It was a very difficult work although I am happy; they were long rehearsals; we could spend up to three hours watching a part that only lasted for 30 seconds. What helped me was that he explained everything to me with great clarity; he told me what he wanted in every detail. Moreover, he knows our country and told me he understood the music. I never thought of doing something like this in my life. We dancers were taking classes from home; entering a room again helped me remember how much I love what I do, it was a light in my way,” explained Carrillo.

De la Parra asserted that Danzón No. 2 is one of the most interpreted pieces in the world over pieces as renowned as Ravel’s Bolero.

She added that this is the first effort by the Impossible Orchestra but she hopes “there are several more episodes” with which to address other concerns in the world.

For De la Parra, it is important not to stop insisting on the fight to make violence against women and children visible in Mexico, a phenomenon that has increased during the pandemic. “I told musicians about the tragedies taking place, the children who suffer from violence, the women who are murdered, the statistics. They all said yes immediately because none of that can exist, none of that can go on,” said De la Parra in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL from Berlin.

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“At that moment, we could not see our groups, we could not get together; our batons were resting in the table. What could we do? Playing the instrument we know; that’s why, in my case, I played the piano. Nevertheless, the project was directed by me, every compass, every note was conducted by me, even more than if I had the baton in my hand because, in this case, I had to polish every version and every note by each musician; it was all recorded separately; it was a major musical challenge for me; it was very entertaining and tiresome, but it was completely worth it,” said the Mexican conductor.

Regarding this version, De la Parra explained: “If we were going to have superstars playing together, I didn’t think it would be interesting to the same Danzón as usual, although it is a beautiful piece, I wanted to give it a different touch. We had the great opportunity to be in contact with Arturo Márquez and being able to ask him what he thought about the changes; he approved them, he was extremely generous; he transferred us the rights and composed the ‘Impossible Dance’ to conclude the project – which can be heard at the credits of the video; he granted all my wishes. For instance, not having a violin solo because we had four great violinists; having a cello solo; Pacho Flores’s solo is an audacity because it goes completely out of the music sheet and Master Mñarquez approved it. The orchestra is impossible because it goes out of the music sheet, it gathers the best musicians, and has Mexico’s best ballerina; all of them in a non-existent space which is tangible at the same time.”

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