Interplay — Pacific Mambo Orchestra

Pacific Mambo Orchestra captures the sounds of nature in Stern Grove Festival commission


interplay_pmoWest coast Latin big band Pacific Mambo Orchestra is taking part in Stern Grove Festival’s new commission series, celebrating the talent of local artists. This season, seven artists from our summer lineup are creating a new piece of work just for our stage. Taking inspiration from “In Concert with Nature”, these commissioned works highlight the connection between the space, the performer and the audience that is so unique to Stern Grove Festival. Read on to learn about PMO’s progress in this commission.


Pacific Mambo Orchestra: When PMO first learned about the opportunity to do a commissioned piece for Stern Grove Festival, we were really excited about it!

Stern Grove: The commission focuses on the relationship between the artist and the environment. How has this shaped the sound of your piece?

When we heard the theme ”In Concert with Nature”, we immediately thought of a more “orchestral” work, meaning usage of woodwinds (like flutes and clarinets) and utilizing that kind of instrumentation in a more symphonic sense. The idea of a 3-part suite followed pretty much immediately after that and that would fall into the more “classical” approach as well.

This commission is a new experience for you as an artist. What was the most challenging aspect in creating the work?

Given that we are a Latin big band that draws its sound from different rhythms from the Southern hemisphere, the challenge was to combine symphonic/orchestral ideas with the passionate, bombastic, and sometimes fiery sound of a huge horn section! Furthermore, the challenge was to tie in the title of the work.

So, the idea of a 3-part suite would open up the possibility to address different aspects of nature, like heavy weather, soft rustling of leaves in the wind, etc.

Tell us more about the makeup of the 3-part suite.

The first movement starts with a 12/8 Afro-Cuban rhythm, which will also introduce the dancers to the stage. The choreography will be modern and expressive – not like a partner dance.

A fairly chromatic alto flute melody establishes the first theme, followed by a counterpoint clarinet melody, followed by the third theme, played by low brass. These three melodies are switched around from instrument section to instrument section, weaving in and out, depicting the unpredictability of nature.

Out of the last climatic and furious chord and fermata of the first movement comes a soft bossa nova rhythm, which introduces the second movement, and leads into a very harmonious melody, again introduced by the flutes. Vocals in Portuguese enter, singing about nature.

The dance choreography of the second movement is very synchronized and controlled and reflects the fair and warm climate/weather.

The third movement is a surprise…

Come to Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s performance on June 21 at 2 p.m! Joining them will be special guests Sheila E. and Marlow Rosado, and local dance company Salsamania. Here’s a sneak peek of the first suite:

June, 2015 Stern Grove Festival

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