By David Steinberg
Erskine Maytorena isn’t exaggerating when he says that Qtango Fest is the largest live tango music event in the world. The key word in his declaration is live. “We have no recorded music at all. We have the most events that feature live music,” Maytorena said about the Albuquerque festival, now in its second year. Maytorena is the founder, organizer, and director of the 2019 festival. All events take place at the First United Methodist Church in Downtown Albuquerque.
The festival kicks off at noon Wednesday, March 13 with a half-hour performance that is part of the church’s Bach’s Lunch Concert series. The concert’s featured artist is Japan’s Yukie Kawanani, whom Maytorena describes as one of the best bandoneon players around. “She performed last year at the festival and was probably the biggest hit. She has a sparkling personality. She’s someone everyone loves to play with yet she has no ego,” he said. Kawanami will do solos and perform with ensembles.
Other box lunch performers will be Maytorena’s Qtango ensemble, violinist Keiko Kadby, who will solo and play with the quintet Los Angeles del Tango. Also performing will be members of Tango Llaneros of Lubbock, Texas. A $5 box lunch is available and donations are accepted. Donations will help pay to restore the church’s piano.
Thursday, March 14 is a free gala concert titled “A Short History of Tango.” The featured ensemble is La Juan D’Arienzo, an 11-piece band with four bandoneons from Buenos Aires. “We’ll talk about some background of tango. We’ll talk about arrangers of tango music.
The arrangements are equivalent to the big band arrangements of the swing era. That’s the parallel I want to draw. There are multiple versions of many famous tango compositions,” said Maytorena, who plays bandoneon and sings. Performing at the gala will be the Qtango ensemble, Keiko Kadby, Yukie Kawanami, Tango Llaneros and the Los Angeles del Tango ensemble that will have Mary Anne Sereth doubling on bass and violin. Mary Anne Sereth plays double bass with Los Angeles del Tango and will be on violin in the grand orchestrra. At 6:30 p.m. Friday is an Art Deco Milonga, a party primarily for dancers.
Saturday after there are two classes for dancers taught with a full orchestra. It is followed by a Black and White Milonga, a dress-up party that starts at 6:30 p.m. Space is limited. Call 506-1728 for reservations. The Sunday March 17 Tea Milonga begins at 3 p.m. It, too, is mainly for dancers.
Qtango Fest 2019 runs from Wednesday, March 13 through Sunday, March 17. All events take place at the First United Methodist Church, 315 Coal SE. Some events are free and some are with admission. For more information visit www.qtango.com or call 506-1728.
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