'Sounds of the South' coming to BYU in new festival this August

By Cindy Moorhead

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 14 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The roots of Brigham Young University’s newest large program were set down four and a half decades ago in the mind of J. Arden Hopkin, currently head of vocal studies at BYU.

After growing up in California, Hopkin served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to South America in what was then called the Andes Mission. It included Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, giving the young Mormon missionary an opportunity to experience three varieties of Spanish and three Latin-American cultures. When the mission boundaries were changed, a fourth was added: Venezuela.

“It awakened in me a real interest in Latin-American culture and music,” Hopkin said. That interest would never leave him and will culminate this summer when the Sones SureÑos (Sounds of the South) Festival of Latin American Classical Music debuts on the BYU campus in Provo.

The weeklong festival, scheduled for Aug. 6–11, will be a celebration of Latin American music. It will be “a coming together of people who are experts in Latin American music, leading to performances,” Hopkin said. “There will be some lectures by local professors, but those will be secondary. The festival is for people to come and enjoy Latin-American music.”

If you’re thinking mariachis, you’re not far off. The festival will bring to Provo former opera singer Juanita Ulloa, a six-time winner of the Festival de la CanciÓn Latinoamericana and the recipient of two Latin Grammy Awards for her mariachi CDs. Another big-name guest performer is Javier de los Santos, a well-known classical guitarist who founded his own Mariachi San Jose de los Santos in Grand Junction, Colo.

As might be expected of a university-sponsored event, there will be classes as well as concerts for some festival performers and participants.

“We are targeting junior faculty members who are seeking faculty development, graduate students in voice who seek to expand their circle of experience and singers with ethnic and cultural ties to Latin America,” Hopkin said.

Individuals interested in vocal performance will receive private coaching sessions with master teachers. They will enroll, pay tuition and then get to perform in public the music they’ve been preparing all week. There also will be master classes in voice, piano and guitar. Nightly concerts will be held that will be open to the public.

Noted Brazilian pianist Luiz de Moura Castro will teach throughout the week and perform one evening. He has taught and performed throughout the world and is currently professor of piano at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, Conn.

Kathleen J. Wilson, a singer, vocal music professor and associate director of the School of Music at Florida International University, has lived in Colombia and Venezuela and has a strong interest in Latin American music. She also will teachand will perform. She is the editor of "The Art Song in Latin America: Selected Works by Twentieth-Century Composers," for which Hopkin provided translations and phonetic transcriptions.

Lawrence Green, professor of guitar at BYU and the founder with his wife Robyn of the local band Crazy Coyote, will also teach and perform at the festival.

The festival performances will be recorded and rebroadcast by BYUtv International, which will both benefit the festival and increase BYU’s name recognition in Latin America, Hopkin said.

A significant part of the public Hopkin is hoping to attract to the festival are the members of the Utah Hispanic community.

“There appears to be significant interest in the local Latino community, especially about the mariachi element of the festival,” he said.

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