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Strumming is music to his ears Richard Pena | Fri, May 21 2010 08:51 AM

We have followed the fortunes-and I do mean fortunes-of the career of Dr. Terry Russell and the vocal music program at Southwestern College for about 15 years.

Every time I enter Mayan Hall for one of those performances I know I am in for a special treat. This past Sunday was no exception.

The program at this offering was billed as Southwestern College's 2010 Annual Spring Orchestra Concert. It was just that. The choral ensemble was accompanied by the institution's Chamber Orchestra, which is led by another college staff member, Dr. Vadim Bezkrovnij.

The choral offering was one of the finest that I have heard from this choir. For one thing, the choir numbers more members during this season. The other evening there were about 75 voices that ran the gamut from sopranos, altos, tenors to baritones with many solos taking center stage. The vocal selection was the Misa Azteca, an original work composed by Joseph Julian Gonzalez, a California musician and composer.

Misa Azteca is based on the ordinary of the Roman Catholic High Mass. It is sung in Latin, Spanish and a native South American tongue, Nahuatie.

The Misa Azteca, with its liberal sprinkling of Latin lyrics, examples being the Agnus Dei, the Kyrie and others lent itself to expertly showcase the voices of some of the showstopping solos. Dr. Giselle Rios and Michelle Courchaine were two sopranos who inserted their offerings.

The sole male vocalist was tenor Joseph Molina, a long time member of the Southwestern College Choir, and known in other musical circles citywide. We have followed Molina's career for some years and we applaud the rich tenor strains that he brings to us. Molina was the featured soloist in the first Southbay Benefit Concert that was held 14 years ago. His musical accomplishments in the interim are too numerous to mention in this space.

The bulk of the success of the choral music program at Southwestern College must, of course, go to the director, Terry Russell.

She is the musical genius who must make the selections, the schedules, the time-consuming rehearsals and then the offering of the finished product to us, the music goers. Over the years the choral group, through her efforts, has had many invitations and traveled to far away places to perform. Some of these places include the revered Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and other European venues.

They have also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City and have spanned the Pacific to showcase their talents in Australia.

The choral group will open their fall season with a reprise of Misa Azteca both locally and out of town, an October performance in Escondido being one of them. We have, from time to time, extolled the professionalism of the Southwestern College music program and have urged a greater following. For those who love music, and who love to be entertained by music, are missing an opportunity if they do not include the offerings at Mayan Hall. We will attempt to keep the reading public apprised of their events starting in the fall.

We have one other musical note to mention, one that I thought was rather meaningful.

I dropped into Murrieta's, on Bonita Road the other evening to pick up my evening meal. While I was waiting in the lobby I noticed a guitar player in the dining room. I asked the maitre'd, Maria Rizo, about him. She told me that he was Carlos Valdez, a troubadour, who sings in the restaurant on weekends. She and the receptionist, Rachel Martinez, asked me about favorite songs. I told them a story about my wife, Zula, who when confronted with such questions, always replied "Spanish Eyes." Maria, in the meantime had disappeared, but soon returned with Carlos, guitar and all, in tow.

With little ado he lit into a rendition of "Spanish Eyes" that left us speechless and spellbound. Carlos has a rich baritone and an expert strumming of his guitar that is unequaled. For the music lover, while you are waiting for the fall season to begin at Southwestern you might drop in at Murietta's on a weekend and listen to Carlos. He will surprise, and entertain you for sure.

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