Classical Music

Local Concert Raises Funds For Disaster Recovery In Mexico And Puerto Rico

Houston musicians support their native lands, each other, and faraway loved ones in the aftermath of massive natural disasters.

Cecilia Duarte (mezzo-soprano) and Gonzalo Ramos (composer & Artistic Director of the Bravura Concert Series, All Saints Catholic Church) at HPM

The day after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico on September 19, Cecilia Duarte posted this on Facebook: “Being a Mexican in Houston is tough today … My beloved H-Town has not yet recovered from the damages of Harvey … [and] it’s so hard to see what my beloved Mexico is enduring.”

That same day, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, soon devastating the island.

“I just woke up and told my husband, I feel like I need to do something else, you know, and I need to give a part of what I am and who I am, and what I am as an artist,” Duarte recalls.

So the acclaimed mezzo-soprano, who has performed with Houston Grand Opera and many other local and international ensembles, rallied her fellow musicians in the Hispanic community to organize, in just a matter days, Take My Hand: A Benefit Concert for Mexico and Puerto Rico, set for this Sunday at All Saints Catholic Church in The Heights.

The line-up will feature top local musicians with personal ties to the affected regions. That includes Duarte, herself, and her co-organizer, Gonzalo Ramos – a composer and director of the Bravura Concert Series at All Saints.  

Luckily for both of them, their families in Mexico are safe and only suffered minor effects from the earthquakes. However, “the effects for a lot of our friends have not been [minor], and that’s the same case for a lot of people who have touched our lives,” says Ramos.

He explains that they have friends, as well as family of friends and parishioners, in Mexico and Puerto Rico who have been directly impacted by “the loss of power, the loss of their homes, of the businesses. They’re without just the basic needs.”

Fresh from their own experiences with Harvey, these Houston artists have opened their hearts even wider to raise awareness and funds to help those in similar, and worse, situations in their native lands.

“I think we as immigrants have our hearts, you know, broken in two. We live here, we raise our families, we go to school, we get to do what we love, while at the same time we’re always thinking about that other part of our lives that stays there,” Duarte notes.

She feels both a responsibility and a joy to be able to contribute to the relief efforts through music.

From classical pieces by Mexican composers to mariachi music and popular songs, and even a composition by Gonzalo Ramos, himself, the program will celebrate the beauty of Latin American music. 

It’s music that talks about life and love and hope, and it comes from the heart.  Like the song “Verde Luz,” which will be featured on the concert.

“I saw the other day on Facebook, a Puerto Rican friend of mine saying that she could finally talk to her mom in back in Puerto Rico and that she asked her to sing ‘Verde Luz’ to her, and so of course she was able to do it in the middle of tears,” shares Duarte.

That beloved song is kind of like the unofficial Puerto Rican national anthem.

“Verde Luz means green light, you know, where he talks about Puerto Rico and the beauty of its beaches and ‘if I’m far away from you, know that I love you and that I think of you,’ and so it just brings out all of the emotions inside.  And, as well, we have Mexican songs that are like that, that talk about that. So we just hope that everyone in the audience is able to feel their people close to them.”

Take My Hand: A Benefit Concert for Mexico and Puerto Rico is this Sunday, October 8, at 5pm at All Saints Catholic Church. The concert is free, and audience members can make donations, which will go toward disaster recovery through two organizations working directly with those locations.

Listen to the complete interview with Cecilia Duarte and Gonzalo Ramos below:

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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