Wednesday Folk Traditions Presents: 

Achéray Ensemble on August 6th, 2014

HADLEY – The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum continues its 33rd season of Wednesday Folk Traditions on August 6, 2014, with Achéray Ensemble. Achéray Ensemble is a polychromatic mirror of Latin American music that ignites the energy of Afro-Latin rhythms with the spellbinding spirit of South American indigenous music. The result is a contemporary cultural hybrid with strokes of jazz and classical references. This and all other performances are held Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm in the Sunken Garden at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Route 47, Hadley, MA 01035. General admission is $10, or $2 for children 16 and under. Picnickers are welcome on the museum grounds beginning at 5:00 pm. The Museum and grounds are a smoke free site. 

Achéray is a new ensemble, designed to present the work of musician Juan-Carlos Carpio. Spending his childhood in Ecuador and Argentina, Carpio started playing South American folk music on the guitar in his teens. He then traveled to Peru, where he visited ancient sites and was first exposed to Andes music, which he identifies as a turning point in his musical journey. “It spoke to me in a way that nothing had previously spoken to me before,” Carpio says. Having grown up under the influence of Western and English rock music, this was a shift for Carpio – simultaneously discovering a new world in music, and rediscovering the country and the continent he was born into. A few years later he came into contact with African music. The result of his myriad experiences with vastly different styles of music is a synthesis of different styles: Carpio notes that his main two influences for the Achéray project are Afro-Latin music and indigenous Latin-American music. 

Achéray Ensemble is first and foremost Juan-Carlos Carpio’s project: a search for personal musical expression that reflects his identification with the wide scope of Latin American musical styles. For the last two years, Carpio has been composing music that seeks to articulate his personal history with Latin American music and assembling an ensemble with a sensibility suitable to the realization of his vision. Although Achéray is a new ensemble, Carpio has been working independently on this project for a long time. “In any art, when you get to a point when you are ready to show and share with the public what you’ve been working on…it’s not a beginning,” he remarks. He wishes to share this experience with the public, “an experience that is collective to an entire culture, but at the same time is individual and personal.”

Carpio notes that because the project has such a specific focus, it was a challenge to find a group of ensemble members to fulfill roles as musicians. “The ideal is to have a line-up that is permanent,” Carpio says, although this is challenging, as all current members have different performing and educational commitments. Carpio’s current lineup includes an Ecuadorian and a Cuban musician, with the other three members hailing from the United States: Ahmed Gonzalez on flute and guiro, Greg Snedeker on cello, Marcello Woloski on percussion, René Gonzales on bongos, and Juan-Carlos Carpio on guitar, bass guitar, percussion, and Puerto-Rican cuatro. “The idea of the quintet is to have the most efficient ensemble with the fewest members,” Carpio notes. Ensemble members fulfill multiple roles, moving to cover instruments as befits the demands of each particular song. Members also hail from different musical backgrounds, such as Latin American folk music, jazz, and classical, which all serve to inform the project’s musical identity. 

“There are conscious and unconscious influences that are present in all artistic creation,” says Carpio. While Latin-American tradition drives the project, Carpio also speaks of the strong jazz and classical influences present in his compositions. “I look for certain textures,” Carpio says, and his lineup reflects that. While his ensemble features traditional South American instrumentation, there are also modified elements, like the cello. String instruments, while present in the South American and Andes ancestral communities upon which Carpio draws, are assimilated Western instruments. “Having the cello was a choice,” Carpio says. “There’s no cello in that tradition.” The cello in Achéray is a compromise between the reality of instrumental logistics and having the voice of a string instrument present. Carpio also speaks of being heavily influenced by the character of dynamics within classical music. “Dynamics are not present or pervasive in popular music in much of the world,” Carpio says. Jazz influence is apparent in the harmonies and opportunities for improvisation within songs. For the Wednesday Folk Traditions concert, Achéray Ensemble will perform original instrumental compositions as well as folk pieces from different Latin American countries arranged to maintain a common ground between original and folk music, as well as some American jazz standards revisited within some Latin American musical styles. 

Juan-Carlos Carpio hopes to leave his audiences with an interest in exploring Latin American music beyond what the mainstream music market has to offer. “Aside from the music, Latin America has a culture that is dynamic and eclectic by nature, and at the same time has a layer of common universal identity with musical expression from other cultures,” he says. His biggest ongoing challenge is to find the performance opportunities and audience interest for music that may not fit the most popularized notion of “Latin music” in this country. The name of his project actually derives from two seemingly disparate sources – the African Yoruba word “aché” which is an affirmation and a way to honor someone as a person, and the South American Quechua word “churay,” which is used in a static moment of music, as a way of inciting the musician to put their full energy and soul into the music. The Yoruba culture also has roots in Cuba and Brazil, and the Quechua language is spoken in the Andes. “I am a mix of everything that has taken place historically [in South America] for the last five centuries,” Carpio says. “The culture is a new culture. It’s my passion…that musical universe is fascinating to me.” 

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