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September 18, 2007 > Symphony, bank host Carlos Reyes concert

Symphony, bank host Carlos Reyes concert

Submitted By Eman Isadiar

East Bay musician Carlos Reyes and his six-piece band gave a memorable performance under the stars at the Smith Center amphitheater of Ohlone College on Saturday, September 8 at 8 pm. Reyes led the group on the violin and the Paraguayan harp in a unique blend of jazz, pop, gypsy and rock with a Latin flavor. The show also introduced a handful of young and emerging performers mentored by Reyes.

Having debuted with the Oakland Symphony as a harp soloist at age 14, Reyes traces his artistic roots back to his childhood in the East Bay. In the same year, he also appeared with the Oakland Youth Symphony as a violin soloist, presumably with a concerto from the classical repertoire. This early training combined with influences from his native Paraguay likely account for the ease with which Reyes slips from one style into another, creating a truly eclectic sound.

On the violin, Carlos Reyes seems equally at home playing the fiddle with a country and western flair, as he does drawing rich and grainy sounds akin to Romanian music, complete with the haunting augmented second intervals of eastern European folk tunes. Perhaps the most impressive technique demonstrated by Reyes was bowing the lower open strings of the violin while simultaneously plucking a pizzicato on the higher strings. On the Paraguayan harp, which resembles a reduced-scale concert harp without the pedals, Reyes has the ability to pick a wide range of sonorities on the various registers of his instrument, evoking baroque lutes and mandolins as well as the unmistakable sound of sweeping arpeggios typical of the instrument.

The program was a mix of original works peppered with fragments of widely popular tunes such as Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" and Mancini's "The Pink Panther." The highly improvised quality of Reyes' music-deeply rooted in jazz-draws the listener into the creative process as it happens spontaneously on stage. Throughout the show, Reyes generously shared the spotlight by introducing a handful of up-and-coming artists, including a talented 13 year-old dancer named Chelsea whose act was the culminating grand finale of the concert. However, this gesture would have been more effective had there been printed programs, which would have increased the likelihood that the audience would recognize the young artists by name in performances elsewhere. Reyes announced each number from the stage with a joke or two, which brought a touch of informality to an audience of well-dressed and well-mannered symphony patrons. In one joke, Reyes said he was known in immigration circles as "Chuck King." It is doubtful that everyone spoke enough Spanish to recognize this as a loose translation of "Carlos Reyes"; nevertheless, the audience seemed to warm up to the humor the evening progressed.

Though unusual for a summer night in Fremont, it became slightly too chilly for an outdoor performance during the second half of the program. There was also a minor disruption caused by people calling 911 on their cell phones when an elderly woman collapsed. Despite these disturbances, Reyes still managed to dazzle the audience with his virtuoso technique and rhythmic precision on the violin as on his thirty-six string Paraguayan harp. All in all, this was a highly enjoyable concert which will hopefully pave the way for future performances by Carlos Reyes in Fremont.

Sponsored by the Fremont Bank Foundation and produced by the Fremont Symphony Guild, this appearance by Carlos Reyes was also made possible through the personal efforts of Howard Hyman and Caryl Dockter of the two institutions respectively. Both individuals are past presidents of the board of directors of the Fremont Symphony Orchestra, which incidentally, opens its season on Saturday, September 22 at 8 p.m. at the Smith Center of Ohlone College, with a program of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and the world premier of a new work by contemporary composer Albert Chang.

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