A musical journey through the cultural history of Pueblo goes north to Boulder

Juan Espinosa
The El Pueblo Ensemble (left to right) Wayne Wilkinson, Mireya Rinna, Carlos Crull, Felicia Gallegos Pettis, Aavalajn Wiggins, and Dr. Michael Beck.

The Song of Pueblo tells the history of its namesake city and the surrounding region in music and images. It’ll be performed with an orchestra for the first time this weekend at Pueblo’s Memorial Hall. The show will be in Boulder next week.

The multimedia oratorio about southeastern Colorado’s indigenous and immigrant peoples has been performed at schools, museums and other small venues in the Pueblo area. Producer Deborah Espinosa said it was originally written for a small ensemble. 

Juan Espinosa
Song of Pueblo concert at Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center in August 2023.

“We have a symphony here in Pueblo,” she said, “but we never had the resources to have someone do all of the instrumentation for all of those pieces in an orchestra.”

Espinosa said a recent grant that came through a project funded by the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado helped pay for the needed musical adaptations by CU faculty and others. Now this weekend's orchestral performance in Pueblo features the students in the University of Colorado Boulder Chamber Orchestra performing with the Pueblo ensemble. The show will then move north to the UC campus.

Chicano musician, actor and activist Daniel Valdez, perhaps best known for his work on the 1987 film La Bamba and the Broadway show Zoot Suit, composed most of the music and lyrics in 2008 based on research and interviews he conducted in Pueblo and the region. 

Deborah Espinosa
Conductor Renee Gilliland leads CU Chamber Orchestra through a rehearsal for Song of Pueblo concerts.

The story begins in the 1700s with the defeat of Comanche Chief Cuerno Verde by Spanish General Juan Bautista de Anza at the foot of Greenhorn Mountain. Other songs cover life at El Pueblo Trading Post in the 1840s and the Sand Creek Massacre. Moving forward in time, it also highlights the experiences of different ethnic groups working at the steel mill and coal mines in the area. 

A visual backdrop of photographs and historical videos will be projected on a large screen behind the musicians. The multi-media imagery is produced by Espinosa’s husband – longtime journalist, editor and photographer Juan Espinosa.

Juan Espinosa
Deborah Espinosa is the producer of Song of Pueblo.

Deborah Espinosa said she’s excited that the show is going into larger venues and heading north to reach a wider audience. She said she’s told many people at previous performances that she thinks Pueblo is the most historic town in Colorado.

“They should pay attention to that,” she said. “They might have a lot more than we have in general terms, but they'll never have our history.”

She estimates that some 5,000 third graders in Pueblo’s School District 60 have attended the annual performances over the years and she hopes to expand the reach into other schools around the state.

Valdez will be at the upcoming performances in Pueblo and Boulder.

The concerts will be conducted by Renee Gilliland and feature vocalists, Felicia Gallegos Pettis, Carlos Crull, and Mireya Rinna, guitarist Wayne Wilkinson, percussionist Aavalajn Wiggins, and Michael Beck on keyboard. Arranging and orchestral writing was done by composer and the show's music supervisor Max Wolpert and his assistant Ilan Blanck with additional lyrics by Frank J. Hayes.

See Song of Pueblo in Pueblo on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m.
Free, tickets required

See Song of Pueblo in Boulder on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Livestream here

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