A Music in Corrales concert brings in the Friction Quartet which will perform in La Entrada Park at 3 p.m Saturday, October 23. In addition to works by Dvořák and Prokofiev, a special feature of this concert is the live premier of a new version of “El Correcaminos” a four-movement composition by Nicholas Lell Benavides. The original version premiered in San Francisco in 2019. Benavides grew up in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, just across the river, and graduated from Albuquerque Academy before attending Santa Clara, San Francisco Conservatory and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. He is a storyteller through music, drawing on his New Mexico roots and culture.
He recently premiered a new opera at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for Washington National Opera called “Pepito” with librettist Marella Martin Koch. They have been selected as the recipients of West Edge Opera’s Aperture commission to develop an evening length opera about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.
Below are El Correcaminos program notes:
“It’s difficult to capture New Mexico in one symbol. I, like many New Mexicans, am the product of generations of love, conflict, migration, peace, war, spirituality, colonialism and progressivism. New Mexico is the meeting place of the South, West, East and North, much like the four-sided Zia symbol on our state flag.
“Puebloans lived here for thousands of years, followed by the Navajo (Diné), the Spanish, then Mexicans, and finally the Americans. I’ve found myself pondering how they all saw the same Land of Enchantment and how some must have gotten along and even fallen in love.
“New Mexico’s state bird, the roadrunner, has a universal and positive appeal for almost all of the cultures that intermingled there. Roadrunners are beautiful, athletic, fearless and mysterious.
“The first movement, ‘Chaparral Bird,’ is about the Americans heading West. Their primary concern was getting lost and their superstition was that the roadrunner would lead them back to the trail. It’s about wading into the unknown and finding your way again.
“The second movement, ‘El Correcaminos,’ is primarily about the Mexicans who arrived (influenced by the Spanish) from the South (and somewhat the West) in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were looking to settle permanently, and saw el correcaminos as a fertility blessing like a stork. They were elated to see one, as it meant there was a future in this place.
“The third movement, ‘Tadai,’ takes its name from the O’odham language, one of the many Uto-Aztecan languages. The Hopi, one of the diverse groups of Puebloans in the Southwest (who speak a language in this family, believed that the roadrunner could protect against evil spirits. The symmetrical feet could conceal which direction the bird was headed, making them difficult to track. This movement uses symmetrical structures that are constantly rotating and breaking. The piece feels repetitive, but never exactly repeats itself.
“The fourth movement, ‘Cyx,’ is how I imagine the roadrunner thinks of itself. The name comes from the scientific name for roadrunner, Geococcyx. As a child I would see how close I could get to one, and then I’d find myself retreating as I realized the bird was not about to cede ground to me, a creature it has survived and lived alongside for thousands of years. This movement combines elements from all the previous movements and bolts frantically from one bit of material to the next.”