Not many people know that there have been multiple attempts to establish a symphony orchestra in Merida ever since the middle of the 19th Century.
Several local composers created symphonic music and were interested in promoting classical music in the largest city on the Peninsula. In the 1920’s the Orquesta Sinfonica de Merida was created, and over the years, several temporary orchestras were developed as well. Apparently one of them even had the brief support of Queen Elizabeth of England when she was still a princess.
However, due to economical difficulties, lack of support, and unavailability of qualified musicians, each and every one of those efforts failed.
At the end of the 20th century, a chamber orchestra called Conjunto de Cuerdas del Salon de la Historia (String Ensemble of the Historical Salon) survived and became the stepping stone for what is now the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan (Yucatan Symphony Orchestra).
In the process of becoming involved with the orchestra, the people of Merida discovered that the drive to create today’s Symphony Orchestra has been long and hard and has included the combined efforts of many individuals from State government, the musical community, and private citizens.
A Patronato (a foundation) was created in the 1990’s to raise funds specifically for an orchestra. Government support was sought and obtained from the Instituto de Cultura de Yucatan (or ICY, the State government institute that supports music, dance and the arts), and in 2002, an international search for qualified classical musicians was successfully conducted.
Finally, in 2003 , the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan had its first season at the José Peón Contreras Theatre. Out of the 38 musicians who played, 12 were Mexican-born and 26 were extranjeros(foreigners). By 2007, the orchestra consisted of 55 musicians, hailing from farflung places around the world, including the UK, USA, Italy, the Czech Republic, Cuba, Poland, Romania, Colombia, Bulgaria, Russia, Japan, France, New Zealand, Spain and of course, from Mexico. Since opening night, the orchestra has played many seasons, innumerable concerts and has begun to perform operas.
The symphony’s repertoire includes classical, contemporary, film, popular and Mexican music. In fact, connoisseurs have mentioned that they have been especially pleased to learn that the orchestra has a commitment to play music from Latin American, Mexican, and local composers, in addition to all the traditional classical composers.
Many regular attendees of the symphony performances feel this enables them to widen their musical horizons and to hear music that they would never get to hear otherwise.
Source: Yucatan Living
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