On a sunny afternoon in the beautiful St. Francis Xavier College Church, we took our audience members on a musical journey around the world in our concert Gift of Renewal: A Traveler’s Tale on Sunday, April 28, 2019. The Women’s HOPE Chorale sang songs from Japan, Norway, Spain, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Chile, and our featured soloists brought us music from the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Korea, Portugal, and France.
The most exciting moment was our world premiere of La Vida es Bella: A Spiritual Merengue, which we commissioned from composer Darwin Aquino with lyrics from Gabriella Mistral’s poem “Decalogue of the Artist.” Scored for women’s chorus, piano, two mezzo-soprano soloists, cello, and interactive percussion, the work combines lyrics in English and Spanish to celebrate beauty, art, and song. It was difficult to learn and an exceptionally rewarding musical experience for us. Here’s what Darwin Aquino, composer, says about the piece and its conception:
“La Vida es Bella” (Life is Beautiful) was specially composed to celebrate love, women, beauty and art. Inspired in the invigorating rhythm of the Merengue (the national dance of my country, the Dominican Republic), this music brings to life Mistral’s sensitive texts concerning the existence of an Artist.
The piece starts with an extremely calm and flexible atmosphere announced by the Triangle, where the Piano extends our perception of time, accompanying an expressive Violoncello solo with sustained sonorities. Two mezzo soprano solos open a soft dialogue with the poem main words, as a preamble to the first “a capella” intervention of the Chorus.
From here the music builds continuously in excitement, passion and energy, incorporating some Caribbean percussion instruments like the Claves and Pandero con Parche (Tambourine). A ravishing “Jaleo” (main section of a Merengue) brings us to the culmination of this dance, now revealing the original song in which the work is inspired. It is the Merengue I danced with my beloved wife Benedetta Orsi in the day of our wedding in the Dominican Republic. This music is dedicated to her honoring all the beauty that she has brought to my life.
Darwin Aquino, St. Louis, April 11, 2019