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Tiempo Libre 2012
Tiempo Libre with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra
Hemmens Cultural Center, 20 October 2012
Review by Bill Tilford, Photos by Joshua Bennett
All Rights Reserved
For whatever reason, this concert was missing many of the Timba songs that we had been led to believe would be included in the evening's program, and under normal circumstances, our reaction would be to throw a penalty flag. However, the concert that was finally delivered was so good that we don't think that any of the attendees (including us) were disappointed by what they heard if the concert were taken on its own terms.
This concert was the second night of a two night Pops series called A Night In Havana with Matthew Kraemer as conductor. The Elgin Symphony opened with Gershwin's Cuban Overture followed by El Cumbanchero, a song with an interesting pedigree - it's a Cuban standard originally penned by a Puerto Rican composer. Tiempo Libre joined the orchestra for Baqueteo and some very nice medleys of Cha Chas and Mambos. Some of the high points of the night were in these medleys including one of the concert's very best moments, a much funkier than usual version of Sabor a Mi. The orchestra and the band interacted very well. Occasionally these "guest appearance" exercises by orchestras sound like two different ensembles attempting to somehow coexist, but the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and Tiempo Libre functioned well as a unit.
The orchestra then performed Malagueña by itself. After the intermission, it returned to open with some selections from Carmen and was rejoined by Tiempo Libre for Air on a G String and a medley of Boleros. The orchestra then went by itself for Tico Tico and Aquarela do Brasil, and Tiempo Libre rejoined them at the end for Tu Conga Bach, which was part of their Grammy-nominated Bach in Havana.
At several points in the evening, the crowd clapped along when Tiempo Libre was with the orchestra (there was even a little singing from the crowd during Son de La Loma and some other familiar songs). Although this wasn't quite the program that we had originally expected, it was a program that worked, especially since there was no dance space at the front of the concert hall (this didn't prevent a few of the audience from dancing in their seats during some songs.). We applaud the Elgin Symphony Orchestra (which, incidentally, is a very talented orchestra worth checking out for its other concerts as well) for working with Tiempo Libre for this concert, and we will also observe that it is good to see this happening in smaller cities like Elgin, Illinois, Lexington, Kentucky and other similar places. Whatever else it is doing, Tiempo Libre is spreading the message of la música cubana beyond our largest cities into the heartland. And that, friends, is a good thing.
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