Last updateFri, 05 Feb 2016 2pm

Northern Lights Festival to showcase violin virtuoso

Northern Lights, once thought only a visual spectacle, has become, for our lower latitudes, an enchanting sonorous one in the form of the Northern Lights Festival de Febrero.

Timed each year as an advent to a glorious spring, this year it will feature a performance of Beethoven’s enchanting Spring Sonata, as well as the magnificent Italian masterpiece, The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, and the equally brilliant Argentinian masterpiece Los Cuatro Estaciones by Astor Piazzolla.

One of the highlights this year will be the return of Tracy Silverman, the world’s foremost electric violin master. 

Originally from New York and now living in Nashville, Tennessee, Silverman has turned violin virtuosity into tech magic. His instrument is an electrified and amplified six-string violin, played similarly to the acoustical violin with a traditional bow, but offering a trove of new effects and tonal layers. 

“It’s like one man producing an ensemble of string styles and melodic variations from one instrument, a new palette of sounds that just weren’t possible on the acoustic violin,” Silverman explains. “It allows for more versatility in both the performance as well as the composition to permit me to better accommodate new music written in the 21st century.” 

Silverman heard early renderings of electric violin music in the 1970s. He became fascinated with the sound and went on to contribute significant improvements to the instrument, its string-playing techniques and to the world’s violin repertoire.

Silverman believes that to ensure the violin doesn’t become old-fashioned and dismissed by modern composers, it is imperative that string playing today delivers musical sensations compatible with rock and contemporary music. In other words, Bach and Paganini, having had their own distinct musical voices and styles, would have understood immediately the need to adapt this venerable instrument to a new musical era.

Lauded by the BBC as “the greatest living exponent of the electric violin,” Silverman has a packed schedule, but once again has made himself available here. 

“Lakeside is a marvelous place,” he says, “and I love the people here. I appreciate having the opportunity to return.” 

What can audiences expect to hear at Silverman’s performance at the Northern Lights Festival? Some of his newer works such as “The Kiss and the Chaos,” recorded two years ago, will be on the program, as well as Stevie Wonder hits, Beatles’ favorites and other music to show off the splendid range of the electric violin. 

“I need to show that the electric violin can compete with America’s king of popular instruments, the electric guitar, by capturing the same groovy, tuneful and energetic sounds of contemporary music.” 

This season’s festival begins on February 20 for package holders and closes with a final salute from up-and-coming stars on March 5. The program is packed with a splendid array of “something for every musical longing and taste,” says festival director and founder Chris Wilshere, who acknowledges the vital financial support that Cultura Jalisco has provided this year.

The Festival Series comprises six concerts which will be held at the Auditorio de la Floresta: Swing and Strings with Richard Underhill and friends. The Gryphon Trio, Tracy Silverman with Festival Friends, Gala Concert with the Festival Orchestra, Patricia O’Callaghan’s and the Gryphon Trio’s Broken Hearts and Madmen and A Performance for all Seasons with world famous violinist Julian Rachlin featuring the Four Seasons by Vivaldi and Piazzolla.

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