Free concert featuring HSO and mariachi band returns to Kollen Park

When Kay Walvoord looks back at her nearly 35 years leading the Holland Symphony Orchestra, she says one of the highlights came last summer when HSO was able to do a long-awaited collaboration with a mariachi band.

“I joke that if I could have retired that evening, I would have because it was such a magical collaboration of creating music that is accessible to the entire community, not just our traditional audience,” Walvoord says.

More than 1,500 people came for the free concert on a warm summer evening in Kollen Park on Holland’s waterfront. It was the largest attendance for an HSO concert. 

Now, the community orchestra is hoping to not only repeat that experience but take it up a notch. The free community concert on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. will take place at Kollen Park, at VanRaalte Avenue and 10th Street. (In case of rain, the concert will be held indoors at ME Yacht Restoration, 471 Howard Ave., Holland. Rain decisions will be made by 4 p.m. Saturday.)

‘Mariachi, Movies, and More’

The concert was years in the making because it required a mariachi band that would perform in the community’s orchestra’s modest price range that also could perform orchestral music.

HSO found that in Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar. The Los Angeles band is led by Grammy-winning Los Angeles musician Jimmy K. Cuéllar, son of the founder and a composer who can arrange music for both symphony and his band.

The orchestra will be conducted by Mark Alpizar. Concertgoers can bring a chair and enjoy  “Mariachi, Movies, and More,” including symphonic music from movies such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Coco,” as well as music from video games and mariachi music.”

For violinist Josh Zallar, the audience’s reaction to the concert last year was different than anything he had experienced during a symphony concert. 

“It was a community celebration. I haven't seen anything like that. Just the energy, the smiles, the laughter, and the joy filling the park was pretty amazing,” says Zallar, who loved watching the audience — including his two young children, Olivia and Jack — dance to the upbeat folk music.

After the concert, a woman approached an HSO staff member to ask if the orchestra could do a similar concert for her Vietnamese community. That request prompted HSO to launch Music Unites Us, an initiative to learn more about the community’s music culture traditions. (The deadline for submitting an application is Aug. 31.) Next summer, HSO is planning a Music Unites Us Concert that will feature selected musical groups performing with the orchestra.

Local dancers to perform

Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar was founded in 1994 by Jaime Cuéllar. The ensemble of eight to 12 mariachi musicians is now led by his son, Jimmy, a three-time Grammy Award winner. The group was selected for a 2017 production by “MiTú,” a Latino lifestyle network, in which they teamed with Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles to recreate “Tale as Old as Time” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Avid proponents of music education, the group teaches mariachi for all ages at its own Academy for Performing Arts.

This year, the concert will feature Ballet Folklorico Sol Azteca dancers, who will join in selected numbers. The group seeks to preserve authentic Mexican folkloric dance, costumes, and music. Most of the dancers are students at Holland Public Schools under the direction of Angela Gonzalez-Urbina.

The concert holds a special place in the heart of Juanita Bocanegra, who served on the Holland Symphony Orchestra board. Bocanegra, who grew up a migrant farm worker and was elected Ottawa County’s first Latina, Spanish-speaking judge, believes the concert celebrates the contribution Holland’s second-biggest ethnic group brings to the community.

Although she was unable to attend last year’s show, she helped get the word out in West Michigan’s Hispanic community. This year, she’ll be attending and dedicating a song to the community’s migrant farm workers. 

“Music is very important to our culture, and we were talking about being able to diversify across the community and being able to bring in different members from different sectors of the community,” Bocanegra said. 

“It’s important to me to have my community enjoy the kinds of things that Holland has to offer and that orchestra music has to offer. And one way to pique that interest is to have music that they are used to hearing. Orchestra is not something that you often hear out in the field, where people are picking fruits and cutting trees and doing other kinds of fieldwork.” 

This free concert is made possible through the sponsorship of Gentex and a grant from the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. It is additionally supported by Macatawa Bank, Michigan Arts & Culture Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Food trucks joining the event include Mezkla, El Caribe, The Takeout Takeover, Underground Cookie Club and Mac Shack.

Season ticket information for the Holland Symphony Orchestra will be available
during the evening. More information is on the HSO website


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.