Globe-trotting Mariachi brings it all back home

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Mariachi Garibaldi performers warm the crowd at the annual Mariachi Garibaldi & Friends concert at Mayan Hall.

SWC’s Mariachi Garibaldi enjoys a stellar reputation and has traveled internationally.

Its performance at the annual Mariachi Garibaldi & Friends concert made it clear their renown is well deserved.

From its opening number, a stirring instrumental, “El Viajero,” Mariachi Garibaldi demonstrated strength and artistry in every section. Layered above the relentless rhythms of the vihuela, guittaron and guitar, the violins set the mood and the brass the melody. Together they carried away an electrified audience.

Mariachi Garibaldi features a deep stable of musical talent, with many of its musicians taking a turn on lead vocals during solos, duets and the occasional trio. Nevin surveyed his ensemble during every song, seemingly choosing vocalists at random. All were up to the task. They would approach the microphone instrument in hand and pick up the verse where the previous vocalist left off. Like American Jazz, this performance technique kept the show unpredictable and fresh.

Mariachi Garibaldi’s friends also had chops. Four impressive local mariachis performed, two from Southwestern College, Chula Vista High School’s Mariachi Chula Vista and Mariachi Estado de Oro from San Ysidro’s Southwest High School.

The opening act was another iteration of Mariachi Garibaldi, but director Dr. Jeff Nevin took liberty with the members and integrated players from the elite touring group. It was quick to connect with the audience, with every singer receiving hearty rounds of applause with each number.

Mariachi Chula Vista opened its set with a choral piece, allowing singers to warm their vocal cords collectively before their solos. A slightly out-of-tune string section was a noticeable distraction from an otherwise outstanding performance. Their featured singers demonstrated serious talent.

Mariachi Estado de Oro confidently took the stage in traditional costumes and sombreros. The group was tight, upbeat and fun. Their musicianship belied their amateur status and, at times, threatened to upstage their more established hosts.

Guitarist Ruth Gonzalez, a junior, stunned the audience with the timbre and intensity of her voice. She sang “Farsante,” and demonstrated a command and confidence that were at once delicate and powerful.

For its final number sophomore Miguel Corral stepped out from behind his guitar for a suave rendition, in English, of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” The young crooner channeled Old Blue Eyes, flirting with the audience and reveling in his center stage turn with style.

For the last song of the evening, Nevin invited the high school musicians to join Mariachi Garibaldi on stage. Younger students stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the world champions, joining in a rousing rendition of “Viva Veracúz II.”
When the final stanza ended, the crowd erupted in applause and rose in a standing ovation as players took a final bow.

Mariachi Garibaldi’s international reputation as America’s best collegiate mariachi is well deserved. Nevin’s effort to promote high school mariachi is savvy. By developing the next generation of players, it is difficult to imagine SWC’s prowess diluting anytime soon.

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