ALICUANTA is a staged song cycle set to the texts of Mexican poet Francisco Serrano, co-composed by pianist David Ryshpan and vocalist Gitanjali Jain Serrano. Through poetry, music, dance and visual elements, ALICUANTA is an examination of the memory of an ancestor; an attempt to find peace within the tumultuous history of 1920s Mexico. The legacy explored is that of the General Francisco Roque Serrano (1889-1927), an influential yet mysterious figure of the Revolutionary era and Gitanjali’s great-grandfather, assassinated by his opponent in the midst of the presidential campaign. In addition to the songs, the suite includes three improvised interludes based on Serrano’s poem “Elegía trágica” (Tragic elegy), in homage to the General. The album closes with powerful excerpts from General Serrano’s “Manifiesto a la Nación.”
The process of creating ALICUANTA began in 2010, when Gitanjali introduced David to the work of Francisco Serrano – her uncle – as David harbours a great creative affinity for Latin American poetry. On his 2008 album, Cycles (Ropeadope), David set poems by Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges to music for Indigone Trio & Strings. As he writes in the liner notes, “the poetry of Francisco Serrano immediately got my compositional cylinders firing.” Work began in earnest with the assistance of a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Along the creative path, David and Gitanjali sought out the mentorship of Argentine pianist/composer Guillermo Klein, sound designer David “Dubline” Drury, and vocal coach Madeleine Palmer. The fully staged premiere of the work, including projections created by Mexican visual artist Pablo Serrano, and Toronto-based dancer/choreographer Danny Wild, took place November 2, 2012 at Montreal’s Salle Gesù, and was re-mounted in Toronto in early 2014 as part of Aluna Theatre’s Panamerican Routes festival.
The ensemble on ALICUANTA, masterfully documented by Juno-award winning recordist Paul Johnston, includes David’s long-time colleagues Sébastien Pellerin on bass and Mark Nelson on drums, cajón and percussion, with a string quartet consisting of Toronto’s Anna Atkinson (Grannis Bea) and Steph Park on violins, Lilian Belknap on viola, and Montrealer Élisabeth Giroux (La La La Human Steps) on cello.
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