The Austin Baroque Orchestra comes to San Antonio two or three times a year. I spoke to their artistic director to find out what sets them apart; mostly it’s the instruments they use to make the music they play. Like this one: a theorbo.
"Theorbo: it’s a really large lute with really large bass strings on it,” said Billy Traylor.
“It usually sticks up a good three or four feet above the head of the person playing it. It’s a very long-necked instrument.”
Some of instruments are unfamiliar, but the music they make doesn’t sound so different.
It’s not "The Voice" or "American Idol," but there are some vocal tryouts coming soon. No, you can’t expect to be dissed by tattoo’d rock stars, but you just might get to travel internationally if you pass the audition.
“We are looking for all kinds of singers, all kinds of voice parts," said Chancey Blackburn, the vice-chair of the San Antonio Mastersingers. "The chorus is made up of singers who have been masters of music performance, all the way to singers like me, with no formal training.”
I asked her what someone who is thinking of coming to try out can expect.
Arts San Antonio is bringing in a big act to the newly re-opened Aztec Theatre. It’s the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. I asked their piano-playing band-leader, Oscar Hernandez, to describe their music.
“I guess it’s salsa music that’s based in New York City, steeped in the tradition of what salsa music was before it became salsa music back in the 50s, 60s and 70s," he said. "Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the finest music ensembles of any band, of any kind of music that you’ll hear anywhere in the world.”
He’s not just making big claims, either. These guys have the chops.