Aaron and George Prado perform Ellington and Gershwin. Photo by Page Graham.

Las Américas Music Festival 2016 kicked off its official event lineup Tuesday evening with a special preview held at the luxurious Hotel Emma, located next to the San Antonio River in the historic Pearl Brewery complex.

Now in its sixth year, the 2016 festival is led by Maestro Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

“In developing Las Américas Festival, the Maestro sought to make the concert series far more accessible,” said David Gross, president of the San Antonio Symphony. “Not only (are there) more groups participating, but there’s more musical repertoire to choose from.”

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The event featured short programs several of the festival’s 17 partnering organizations, including members of the San Antonio Symphony, Children’s Chorus of San Antonio, San Antonio Choral Society, Musical Bridges Around the World and the San Antonio International Piano Competition.

Lang-Lessing arrived at the program’s intermission after after an audition that ran long, but he had only good things to say about the festival and the program venue.

“I am in love with Emma,” Lang-Lessing joked. “Don’t tell my wife.”

San Antonio Symphony Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing regales the audience. Photo by Page Graham.
San Antonio Symphony Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing regales the audience. Photo by Page Graham.

The event provided an excellent opportunity for patrons to experience the Emma’s newly opened, first-class facilities.

“I think this is one of the best hotels in the world and it speaks to what San Antonio is about,” Lang-Lessing said.”It is cool, hip, cozy, warm and comfy without being tacky.”

He went on to speak about his inspiration for the theme of the festival, and invited the community to enjoy this year’s programs.

“San Antonio is a unique city in Texas and the nation,” he added. “This is a place where cultures are maintained and blended without being a big mash-up. Here we live together. Musicians don’t believe in building walls; musicians believe in building bridges.”

Aaron and George Prado perform Ellington and Gershwin. Photo by Page Graham.
Aaron and George Prado perform Ellington and Gershwin. Photo by Page Graham.

This weekend, the Symphony will perform its first Las Américas concerts to feature the music of composers that range from George Gershwin and Duke Ellington to Billy Strayhorn. Lang-Lessing will conduct and guest musician Vincent Balse will accompany with piano.

A free simulcast presentation of the complete “Rhapsody in Blue” program will begin on Friday at 8 p.m.  The simulcast event, sponsored by H-E-B, will be screened on a 30-foot video wall of the River Walk Plaza at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. No outside food, drinks, or pets will be allowed, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own seating and blankets. Entry to the River Walk Plaza will begin at approximately 7 p.m.

Friday evening’s performance is an official event of the City’s MLK, Jr. Commission, and honors the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to a press release, the live performance “is dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. in celebration of his life, his humanitarian spirit, and his belief in the unity of all mankind.”

The Rhapsody tickets can be purchased at a 20% discount using the promo code “KingWeek” at the Tobin Center Box Office.

All Las Américas events offer patrons a “buy one, get a second ticket” here. For a complete listing of all events, visit the Las Américas Music Festival page on the symphony website.

*Top Image: Aaron and George Prado perform Ellington and Gershwin. Photo by Page Graham.

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Page Graham and Tami Kegley

Tami Kegley has lived the life of an artist. Through multiple careers — dancer, percussionist, performance artist, sculptor, goldsmith, gallerist — she has pursued her need to create. Photographer...