Saturday evening at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the world will be united in song. That is the hope, at least, of musician Azul Barrientos, who has been in residence at the center delivering monthly Noche Azul de Esperanza music programs since 2007.

The Dec. 21 program theme is world music, which suits Barrientos’ multi-ethnic approach. A native of Mexico City, she generally plays Latin American songs, but even that category includes influences and inflections from all over the world.

Playing songs from the Roma peoples, from Macedonia, Hungary, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Russia by way of Edinburgh (where she met several Romani musicians), serves the purpose of uniting people, she said. “At the end of the day, we all want to feel united at the bottom of our hearts.”

Barrientos said that though traditions have particular qualities, music even from far-flung places can sound familiar. “Once you start listening to traditional music from all around, even from places that you wouldn’t think you know … you realize that it’s so similar,” she said. Lullabies, love songs, and songs of longing for a place are all common themes that repeat in different parts of the world.

Noche Azul concerts also foster local community. People attend not only to see her, Barrientos said, but “also to be within that community to talk to friends or acquaintances, but that they only see at Noche Azul … they’re also looking forward to seeing each other.”

Imgard Rop, Esperanza Center media outreach assistant, agreed that a sense of sharing community space is what makes the concerts unique in San Antonio. And as Barrientos’ programs and guest musicians change, “It’s a different atmosphere that you get every month. It’s like the first time every time.”  

Regular food offerings also create a homey atmosphere, Rop said, with holiday-season tamales in addition to the usual rice, beans, and buñuelos. Barrientos also will nod to the season with religious villancicos, essentially a Latin American Christmas carol based on the nativity.

Another late December birthday will be celebrated in the form of an original song dedicated to San Antonio labor leader Emma Tenayuca, who was born Dec. 21. Barrientos focuses on social justice, because “we all want the same [things]. We all want to eat, to go to bed and be safe at the end of the night.”

She will also pay tribute to music of the United States by playing a version of “Round Midnight” by American jazz pianist Thelonius Monk, with lyrics in Spanish.

Rop advises people to arrive at 6:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. performance, because the 150 seats of the center’s second floor theater tend to fill quickly. The suggested ticket price is $7 “mas o menos,” because no one is turned away, Rop said, and larger donations are accepted. Advance tickets are not available.

More information on the Noche Azul concert series is available on the Esperanza Center website.  

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...