This Saturday was a milestone. At the Francisco Lopez Cruz Foundation where Bella and I study music, it was Dia de Logros or Day of Accomplishments. Bella has reached the halfway point in her study of the Cuatro and I completed a third term of Bongo. On this day, students present a concert and Bella played with her Cuatro class a Puerto Rican favorite, Alma Boricua and the audience was singing and cheering along with the song. She also played with Taller Orchestra and they played these well known Puerto Rican songs Preciosa, Dime and Campinatas de Cristal. Pictured above, obviously in high spirits, Bella is tuning up and ready to go. She is wearing her very red shirt! Each instructor decides on a color of shirt and her cuatro class selected RED! The day lasted from about 2:00 p.m. until well after dark. After a summer of practicing on our own, formal classes begin again in late August.
Yesterday was a wonderful day. We invited by a good friend who is active in a local Parranda in San Sebastian called Los Nietos de Papa or Grandchildren of the Father, to join in and follow the group. At Christmas time, many towns host these large semi-professional groups of musicians and costumed dancers as they make their way from house to house on large trucks. The groups are followed by a small caravan of cars and some smaller trucks with advertising. Traffic is blocked and at one point we could hear at least three parrandas moving around San Sebastian. The groups stop at homes to which they are invited and play a set complete with joyous and sometimes frenzied dancing. The group of musicians and caravaners is feted along with the neighbors with refreshments and light snacks. The progression of playing and singing continues well into the night. For this particular day, the Parranda finished its day at a local amusement park and entertained about 5,000 people!
Our day began early with a stop at the organizing point. Here all of the dancers gathered and the group was fed well... Typically the day begins with an asopao (thick soup) but today we were served another Christmas staple, lechon (roasted pork). After a benediction and dedication to this year's parranda, the players, dancers and followers mounted up and began the progression.
While these large parrandas play a particular variety of music and the show is top notch, the concept of the parranda and the playing of live music by small groups of local musicians is alive at all levels of play and performance. At a family gathering, a couple of family members may take out their insruments and play the favorites... or a small group of friends may play at one of the hundreds of holiday parties. Though it is without the benefit of a large sound truck and dancers... the same spirit of joy and love of music and place are present.