McIntyre Hall

South to Skagit

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Before I become consumed by Halloween in Bellingham and all of the various and plentiful happenings that come with it, I must first turn my attention southward, to Skagit County.

Generally speaking, when I journey south across the county line during this time of the year, I am seeking a corn maze or pumpkin patch or some variation of a haunted house. Fun outings, certainly, but hardly enriching cultural pursuits.

For those times when culture is what I crave, I need not search hither and yon over the sprawling Skagit Valley to find it. Instead, I can park myself at McIntyre Hall and let the culture wash over me in wave after entertaining wave.

The Paperboys might not be from this area—they’re not even from this country—but that hasn’t stopped us from adopting the genre-blending Canadian folksters as our own. We not only show up for their concerts every time they’ve toured through here during their nearly three decades of existence, but we also turn out enthusiastically for the individual band members’ various side projects. And there is no Paperboy we love more than Tom Landa—it is his group, after all.

Therefore, it stands to reason that when Landa brings his Latin band Locarno back around this way and to McIntyre Hall for a Fri., Oct. 19 concert, we’ll be there to give him the greeting he’s grown accustomed to. Those unfamiliar with Landa’s personal history might wonder what a Canadian who made his name playing Celtic-influenced music is doing fronting a Latin band, but as strange as it sounds, it actually makes perfect sense. While we tend to think of him as being Canadian to the core, Landa was actually born and raised in Mexico City, and only became one of our neighbors to the north as a teenager. As such, part of his head and heart—not to mention his musical sensibilities—has always belonged to the place of his birth. A decade ago, he was awarded a grant from the Canadian government to study Mexican music in Veracruz, where he studied jarana jarocha, which is the name of both an eight-string guitar (don’t call it a ukulele) and the kind of music it produces. When his time in Mexico was up, Landa loaded up his jarana, hightailed it home and founded Locarno.

Much in the way that Landa melds and mashes up genres with the Paperboys, he does the same with Locarno, except the ingredients are decidedly different. Instead of folk, Celtic and bluegrass influences, Landa cobbles together the traditions of Mexico with music from Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, and more. And, as with the Paperboys, the result is a sound that is somehow unique yet familiar, nimble while appearing effortless. Rounding out Landa’s Latin ensemble is not your standard guitar-bass-drum setup, but rather more exotic instruments such as congas, timbales, pandero (don’t call it a tambourine), violin and horns.

Following in Landa and Locarno’s footsteps a mere 24 hours later will be Skagit Symphony, who will throw a gala to kick off a season like none other in its recent history. After almost a decade and a half, Maestro Roupen Shakarian has stepped down, and the symphony will devote its 2018-2019 season to auditioning four different candidates for the position at its four marquee events. The first of the four working interviews will be the aforementioned Sat., Oct. 20 gala, where guest conductor Bobby Collins will put the symphony through its paces with a program that ranges from Berlioz to Verdi to Tchaikovsky. Collins will also give a pre-concert lecture in the concert hall for those who’d like to get a sense of what he’s like before he ascends the podium and takes temporary command of the orchestra. As the season goes on, each of the other three candidates will step into the spotlight, and when next year’s 40th anniversary season begins, it will do so with its new music director firmly at the helm.

Slightly further out on the entertainment horizon, beginning Fri., Oct. 26 and running through Nov. 4 is one of the most famous operas ever written: La Boheme. Puccini’s tragic love story between Mimi and Rodolfo set among the bohemians of France’s Latin Quarter is being staged by Pacific Northwest Opera, formerly known as Skagit Opera. Of course, the opera company is no stranger to taking on beloved classics of the form—in 2016, they performed Carmen, while the year before saw them offering their interpretation of Cosi Fan Tutti. And don’t be fooled by their location outside of a major metropolitan hub—the typical home of top-notch opera companies—Pacific Northwest Opera goes all out with full staging and sets, tapping regional and far-flung artists alike to bring its creations to full-throated life. They’ve done so with great success, thoroughly delighting attendees—and opera fans are some of the most discerning audiences anywhere.

With so much to offer, McIntyre Hall is an excellent destination for those seeking musical entertainment of all varieties. Just don’t get lost in a corn maze on your way there.

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