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For someone who is passionate about all genres of music, it is not every day that one gets to enjoy a classical music concert with a Latin twist— a very special and rare treat for Mother’s Day on a beautiful and unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in downtown Toronto. But this is exactly what happened as Alma Latina was invited to attend the Ontario Pops Orchestra “Music for Mom”, the third concert of the eclectic orchestra’s 2017-2018 season.

We arrived at Zoomer Hall, the colourful venue that’s part of CityTV’s founder and iconic Toronto figure Moses Znaimer’s Liberty Village complex; a mega arts complex which also houses Zoomer Magazine, Classical 96.3FM and Zoomer Radio 740AM. As we entered the beautiful concert hall, a seemingly unending trickle of people continued to enter and by the time the concert started, there was not an empty seat in the house. We were delighted by a repertoire that included feature performances by Toronto singer/pianist and radio personality Laura Fernandez, Clarinetist Kristina Amador and Guatemalan Bassonist Luis Lemus. The afternoon was perfectly complimented by the strings of the Ontario Pops performing music from a truly wide-ranging repertoire that included songs and pieces like Yesterday (The Beatles), Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Pachebel’s Canon in D Major, the Game of Thrones theme, Crusell’s Clarinet Quartet, Graun’s Bassoon Concerto, and I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles). Laura Fernandez transported not just all the lucky moms but the entire audience to a magical warm night at the Mayan Riviera when she performed a spellbinding rendition of “Bésame Mucho”. The afternoon ended with a fun and interactive performance of Hava Nagila, that had everyone clapping and enjoying immensely this captivating afternoon of orchestral music— one of the best Mother’s Day gifts anyone could hope for.

Ontario’s newest musical offering, the Ontario Pops Orchestra, is the musical brainchild of Colombian Conductor Carlos Bastidas. The young orchestra specializes in light classical and popular music performances. This local nonprofit organization is currently made up of volunteer musicians and administrators. The talented group of musicians hope to continue the growth of the orchestra by “providing more performance and development opportunities for musicians, and by increasing engagement with communities across Ontario…By sharing popular, light classical, Broadway, film, and other symphonic music with Ontario communities, we hope to engage a large and diverse audience with high-quality music of broad, inspirational appeal, and educational value.”

And as Maestro Bastidas commented to Alma Latina that afternoon, “We want to show that Latinos are not just about vallenato and Latin rhythms. We have very talented musicians in our community”. His own story is the story of many Hispanic musicians in Canada— a great majority of them getting pigeon-holed in popular and commercial styles of music Hispanics are mainly known for. Maestro Bastidas “started his musical studies in Colombia. He then moved to Canada to continue at the University of Ottawa, where he completed a Bachelor in Music and a Masters of Music in performance.  He also holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia.” He has performed extensively as a bassoonist in Canada and the United States, is an active freelance conductor with community orchestras and ensembles in Latin America, USA and Canada and added to his current role as the Music Director of the Ontario Pops Orchestra in Toronto he is also the director of the Durham Chamber Orchestra in Whitby, Ontario.

The last performance of the Ontario Pops Orchestra for the 2017-2018 season will take place at “Doors Open Toronto”, Classical 96.3 FM, this Saturday, May 26, starting at 2:00 pm. Don’t miss it!

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