By MEGAN FELLING, Contributing Writer | Photo courtesy Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
The Kauffman Center Presents series
One of the oldest and most famous mariachi ensembles, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, will be appearing at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on May 19 as part of the Kauffman Center Presents series.
An art form passed down through generations, mariachi continues to weave the thread of history and deeply-rooted traditions through modern life.
Mariachi Vargas was originally founded in 1898 as a quartet performing regional folk music, later becoming famous accompanying singers such as Luis Miguel, and appearing in over 200 films. With the growth of radio and television, the mariachi style gradually became the national popular music and a unique symbol of Mexico, with Mariachi Vargas noted as the standard of excellence.
Jose “Pepe” Martinez joined the group as musical director 38 years ago. He explains, “Mariachi is a music that embodies the culture of Mexico. It can make you laugh, cry and sing along all at the same time. Mariachi music is an integral part of everyday life – it is
played at weddings, baptisms, funerals and fiestas. It truly is a part of the fabric of life.”
Thirteen members, including Martinez’s son, will present an exciting, high-energy concert experience using a combination of violins, harp, trumpets, guitaron, vihuela (a high-pitched, five string guitar) and guitara. According to Martinez, there are many candidates who audition to become part of this quintessential ensemble. “They must be able to read and write music, have a great voice and be extremely proficient with their knowledge of their instrument.”
“The group continually evolves and is truly a collection of the individual talents that make Mariachi Vargas such a cohesive ensemble. We have played with symphonies around the world and presented the first mariachi opera, but we continue to perform the traditional music that defines this genre and that the people love.”
This ideology follows the Kauffman Center’s aim to provide excellent performing arts opportunities and a commitment to diverse programming emphasizing extraordinary artists that reach audiences throughout and beyond the Kansas City region.
“The arts offer a range of diverse ways to express oneself,” says Jane Chu, President and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. “Our Kauffman Center Presents series is specifically designed to complement programs offered by other arts organizations in the community and provide more artistic options. Even the ticket prices are diverse.
We are delighted to welcome Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán to the Muriel Kauffman Theatre and to feature this traditional art form.”
Today, mariachi music is played around the world. The Mexico City based group tours the US every year mesmerizing audiences, and continues to add cities, recently touring the entire country with Linda Ronstadt.
Martinez noted, “We have played Kansas City before and love the city and the fans that come to see us perform. We have an all new show we will present. We have heard about the Kauffman Center and are very interested in performing there. We are honored to be invited to this prestigious venue and hope to give a great performance!”
With the classic costumes, pageantry and musicianship the public has come to expect of mariachi music, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is often billed as “the best mariachi in the world.”
“Over the past 115 years (since 1898), five generations of talented instrumentalists and vocalists have performed with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Their beloved songs are part of the rich history of mariachi music that has been shared from generation to generation,” Chu says.
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán has recorded numerous CDs. Their music is available at many retail outlets, online and some of their new and most requested CDs will be available at the performance.
“Patrons should expect to see and hear a very high energy show. We feel the emotion of the crowd and give it right back in our performance. It will be a very emotional and unforgettable evening,” Martinez says.
For tickets to Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and other events, visit kauffmancenter.org or call the box office at 816.994.7222.•