Urs Leonhardt Steiner knew he had to take a stand. After months of hearing President Trump's xenophobic rhetoric -- particularly his maligning of the Mexican people -- the music director of the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus envisioned a concert combining classical and Mexican folk music to build a cross-cultural bridge at a time of deep divisions.
"I wanted to make a statement that Mexico has a very high level of culture, and they have a bunch of beautiful music," he says.
Steiner joined forces with local musician, conductor, and educator Martha Rodriguez-Salazar to plan ¡Viva Mexico! Beyond Border Walls, a concert taking place Nov. 5 at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre. In addition to musicians from Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the event features Coro Redes y Cantos de Chapala, a traditional folk music chorus from the Mexican state of Jalisco. The musicians will perform works from two famous composers, Aaron Copland and José Pablo Moncayo, as well as lesser-known Mexican and Latin American compositions from Antonio Flores and Eduardo Gamboa, both from Mexico City, and Nicaraguan composer Carlos Gonzalez Siles, whose music, Steiner says, has never been performed in the United States.
¡Viva Mexico! celebrates "the richness of Mexican music -- not only the classical music but the folk music, and not only famous composers but composers who are not well known," says Rodriguez-Salazar. She serves as guest conductor for the concert, which, for her, is personally significant.