GRCC choral students celebrating Dia de los Muertos, Latin American heritage with bilingual concert

Grand Rapids Community College choral students are celebrating Día de los Muertos, and Latin American heritage and culture with a bilingual concert on Friday.

Caleb Wenzel, GRCC’s director of Choral and Vocal Activities, said while choirs often perform in multiple languages, this program is specifically focused on Latin American languages. Songs will be performed in Castilian Spanish, but also Nahuatl, the native language of Mexico; and Quechua, the native language of Perú.

The program will feature reading of poetry and short stories in English and Spanish in between musical selections. Most of the reading literature comes from award-winning author Sandra Cisneros.

Wenzel noted the bilingual performance comes just after the end of Hispanic Heritage Month and a couple weeks before the celebration of Los Muertos.  

He said the choral music of Mexico remains one of the most overlooked portions of North American choral literature, and the goal is to expand the canon of what music professionals consider standard repertoire. Wenzel also noted GRCC and the greater community has a growing and vibrant Hispanic community.

“We want our students to have bold imaginations,” he said. “Being able to see themselves and their family history as crucial to the arts life of today is critical. In the same way, it’s about expanding the imagination of our students whose families have lived in West Michigan for many generations. We often think of classical music in America as something that started on the East Coast, but as we will teach our audience on Friday night, the first piece of music published in the Americas came from Perú and was a composition not in Latin, English, or even Spanish; it was a composition in Quechua!”

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