Aug. 27

Back from French festival, Mariachi band plays at ASA

Fresh from an appearance representing the Tucson music scene at Festival Les Escales in St. Navaire, France, Mariachi Luz de Luna will perform at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Arizona Senior Academy.

Director Ruben Moreno founded the band in 1995 as a spinoff of a youth group called “Los Changuitos Feos” (“The Ugly Little Monkeys”), which was started in the 1960s as a breeding ground for authentic mariachi musicianship in Tucson.

Moreno has been active in cultivating the mariachi movement in the United States and internationally, and has been instrumental in educating younger generations about the tradition of mariachi music. A graduate of the University of Arizona, he co-founded the university’s Mariachi Arizona, which was the first group from the UA School of Music to perform at the prestigious Music Educators National Conference in 1992.

Mariachi Luz de Luna has established a reputation for quality mariachi music in Tucson. In addition to performing at public and private events, the group performs with the Tucson-based indie rock group Calexico, whose influences include mariachi and conjunto music as well as traditional jazz.

Mariachi Luz de Luna was one of six musical acts from Tucson to be invited to this year’s Festival Les Escales, which featured world music from across the globe but with a special focus on music from Tucson.

In discussing the history of mariachi traditions, Moreno explained that while the music originated with the Mexican peasant workers who wore simple white garments, when their music began to be featured in movies in the mid-20th century, musicians decided to adopt the colorful costumes of the elegant charro horsemen. Eventually the charro costume became standard.

The core of the mariachi sound is in the stringed instruments, Moreno said. The characteristic mariachi guitars that form the rhythm section are the small vihuela and the large bass guitar or guitarron. The string section is expanded by violins and sometimes a harp. One or more trumpets add special color.

Leslie Nitzberg

Aug. 28

The voyage of Columbus: in the context of his times

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Yes, we all know that line, but have you ever wondered why it was 1492 and not 1491 – or 1493, for that matter?

Michael Chriss, a retired astronomer and college professor, has wondered about such questions for many years. He has taught courses about astronomy and culture as he has explored such fascinating topics.

Chriss will present a talk at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arizona Senior Academy. In his lecture, “New Horizons: The Voyage of Columbus,” he’ll discuss the tumultuous times of Christopher Columbus, full of changes in politics, religion, astronomy and art. The Renaissance was in full flower, and that famous voyage of the Italian navigator was an integral part of the times.

The race was on to reach the spices and silks of the orient, and while the Portuguese were intent to do this by going around Africa, Columbus was convinced that sailing to the west would bring success. That is, if the earth was really round as many thought.

An Academy Village resident and member of the Arizona Senior Academy, Chriss has spent a lifetime in teaching. Before retirement, he was an adjunct professor of astronomy at San Francisco State University and professor of astronomy and humanities at the College of San Mateo. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in astronomy from the University of Arizona and did graduate studies in the history of art and science at UC Berkeley, Stanford and Oxford.

Mike Maharry