Published On: Sat, Oct 15th, 2016

Renowned violinist who calls Merida home invites public to ISQY concerts

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The Yucatan Times conducted an exclusive interview with Christopher Collins, a world-renowned violin virtuoso who has a home here in Merida but also lives in the New York City area, travels around the world playing in all kinds of world class festivals, is the Premier Concertino of the Symphony Orchestra of the Yucatan, and is the leader of the International String Quartet of Yucatan. This is what Chris said to our reporter:

My real name is Christopher Collins Lee, but here in Mérida, I´ve become known as Christopher Collins. Over the years people in Spanish speaking countries have assumed that Collins is my fathers last name, but actually Collins is just a family name and Lee is my father´s last name. I liked the name Christopher Collins so I let it happen. Also Christopher Lee was a famous actor that used to play Dracula among other characters, so I think that name is already taken, and I´d rather go with Christopher Collins, I like it better!!
Since I plan someday to become Mexican, Yucatecan and Meridano, I guess now I have a brand new name to go along with it. I´ll be obtaining permanent residence status soon and eventually hope to have dual citizenship.
Since I love Merida and started to spend more time here, I decided to buy and renovate a wonderful old colonial house in centro that used to be a car parts and repair shop 18 years ago. It took a lot of work to turn it into what it is today, but it was worth it and it feels like my first not my second home.
TYT: It is a beautiful house, congratulations.
Thank you, now, this front room with the double glazed windows for quiet, is the music room, it´s where the quartet rehearses, and also I teach here.
I wasn’t always Concertino of the Sinfonica. At first I played as soloist with the Orchestra each year, and taught some of the violinists. Then, about 10 years ago, the concertino at the time, a Colombian violinist, decided to leave suddenly as his wife couldn’t take the heat!
Then little by little, I started to come to Mérida more often, whenever I was free. Gotcha, the other Concertino prefers when I´m here, so it works out perfectly! Though I have another old house in New Jersey, about 10 minutes from Manhattan, I´m there less and less, due to other engagements and wanting to be here in Merida as much as possible. I´m going to sell the New Jersey house soon, and use Merida as my base of operations I figure in about three more years.
TYT: I see you have a piano here, do you play other instruments besides the violin?
Yes, I love to play the piano but not professionally. When I come home late from playing, instead of watching TV, I play the piano, it helps me to relax. Luckily the walls of my house are thick enough, so no one complains.TYT: What can you tell us about the International string quartet of Yucatan?
So much of the world´s greatest music has been written for the string quartet. It sort of compares in literature to the works of Shakespeare, Dante, or Cervantes. They contain so much truth, that they never grow old. It´s a gift. So, throughout my life, I’ve always had string quartets, sometimes even more than one quartet at a time. It´s always challenging, and one lifetime isn´t nearly enough time to do it all justice. When I chose my instrument, I had no idea that this was going to become my life… there was this good family friend that I knew could teach me, so from the age of six, it´s taken me on this amazing trip. I’ve never had to do another kind of job. I went to conservatories, I had a Fulbright to Europe, and all my life, I’ve loved all kinds of music, symphonic, opera, jazz (I used to play a lot with Sarah Vaughn) and string quartets.
We started the ISQY 6 years ago, because the opportunity came up to start a monthly series at Hacienda Xcanatún. It was a big success pretty much from the beginning, but nowadays the Chapel there  is too small for the growing audience we have!!! We plan to be more of a part of the City at large, and tour Mexico, playing wherever we can, as often as we can.
Now we have a bigger venue located on the south side of Mérida. As soon as people come there, we think they will love it! It´s not as well known as Xcanatún, but in a short time it will be. It’s just as beautiful and special, it has the old trees and beautiful buildings too, and it´s called Hacienda Santa Cruz Palomeque.
It is managed by wonderful people involved in environmental issues. We will be performing in their “Gran Sala”, a seventeenth century building, beautifully maintained, and they are generously providing us with everything we need. The stage, rug and chairs are due this week in fact.
The hacienda also has an excellent restaurant. It features a woman chef from Mexico City, who has won a lot of prizes, served several political personages including Obama They specialize in Yucatecan food, but it is a very high-end gourmet type of place, so it really is a treat, I´m sure people is going to love it.
I really feel very excited about this new phase for the quartet. There are also plans to do some recordings, and we are going to have a strong presence on the internet.

We played two concerts recently at the Olimpo here in downtown Mérida, and we had the biggest crowd we’ve ever had, I think it’s because we are now on the web. We never used to be. We were known as the guys who play each month at “Xcanatun”, but now we’re going worldwide, and we want to play in the many chamber music festivals around Mexico, and farther, representing the Yucatan.
I´m told that Mexicans tend to think of the Yucatán as so far away, a kind of “backwater”, but hopefully when they hear our quartet, they´ll realize that Merida is on the cutting edge of the art world, musically and culturally, with more galleries and music than any other Mexican city it´s size. We also will be publicizing the Symphony since we are a branch of the Symphony´s outreach. Our Symphony audience knows us already, we’re family, and I’m sure it will be fun for them to hear us as a quartet.
We just recently announced our dates for the whole year, our first concert is going to be October 20th, most of our concerts are going to be Thursday nights.


TYT: Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners will be good for the hacienda’s restaurant of course
We are going to do a spectacular dinner concert for Christmas, and then, one of the concerts we’re playing happens to be on Thanksgiving Day which of course is a special day for Americans, so, if they want to have a special turkey dinner featuring the music of the quartet, they should come to Hacienda Santa Cruz.
It´s a 20 minute drive from centro, just off the Periferico, you just take exit number two and you go straight ahead for two or three minutes and that’s it!
Finally, last thing I can tell you about Hacienda Santa Cruz is that it was built in 1640, and my violin was made in 1680, so it’s even older than my violin! You can experience them both on October 20th and throughout the year!

Interview by Alejandro Azcárate for TYT

Thursday 20 of October 8:00 PM
Hacienda Santa Cruz
Calle 86 S/N. Santa Cruz Palomeque

Cuatro, por el tango                                                         Astor Piazzolla
Cuarteto de cuerda en D mayor, K. 499                          W.A. Mozart
Molto Allegro
Cuarteto de cuerda en G menor, opus 27                         Edvard Grieg
I. Un Poco Andante – Allegro molto ed agitato
II. Romanze: Andantino
III. Intermezzo: Allegro molto marcato – Più vivo e scherzando
IV. Finale: Lento – Presto al Saltarello
Tickets on sale at Teatro Fantasio box office (Calle 60 x 59 y 61 Centro) Tel: 9232301
Buy your tickets online
Enjoy an unforgetable dinner at Hacienda Santa Cruz (before or after the concert).
Restaurante Valentina.
Donate to ISQY via PayPal





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