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    DIRECTOR’S NOTES: Festival Summary 2019
    What a wonderful journey it has been! On February 6, we completed the 24th and final event of the 2019 Tucson Desert Song Festival.
    Our Latin theme served us well—it was flexible enough to allow for a variety of music and artists, but focused enough to draw attention from the Star and other important publications.
    • 24 events over 21 days;
    • 5 Sold out events, with many others near capacity;
    • 4 master classes with 4 true masters of their craft;
    • 2 new partners: the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, and AZOpera League of Tucson;
    • 10 articles in the Arizona Daily Star– more and with placement better than any major
    Tucson arts organization has had in years!
    • Bobby McFerrin—especially the moment when our Artist in Residence Arturo Chacón- Cruz’s gorgeous tenor voice rang through the audience singalong and stopped the show;
    • Reception at the Mexican Consulate—a true moment celebrating the cultural bridges being built by TDSF;
    • Arturo’s residency, with inspirational visits to Tucson schools;
    • Premier of Scenes from Llantos 1492, the first-ever Flamenco Opera;
    • Ballet Tucson and Tucson Guitar Society collaboration Viva Piazzolla!—a great example of the synergy our festival generates!
    • TDSF’s website now has a fully Spanish side, making our festival a leader among arts organizations.

    • A new, focused category for supporting TDSF: Jim and Fran Allen stepped up to support TDSF’s relationship with Ballet Tucson for the next three years, helping us to create a new category of sponsorship: The TDSF Partnership Sponsors. We hope to expand this category for future festivals;
    • The TDSF Wes Green Composer Project, with works from Richard Danielpour (2020) and Jake Heggie (2021);
    • Expanding outreach into the community—the Artist in Residence program visiting schools, and Julia Pernet’s new production “Platero y Yo” for youngsters, debuting February 6 at Pueblo High School and booking now into the future;
    • 2020 will feature American voices and music, and some exciting stars! Dates are expected to be January 15 through February 6.

    Special thanks to Emily Hansen, for her remarkable work on one of the finest marketing and PR plans ever; Andrea Crane, for pulling together the Consulate reception while juggling checks and finances; Susan Aceto for her work on the Preview Concerts and education; Julia Pernet for her leadership and work on cutting-edge projects; and Kathy Acosta Zovala for an incredible job keeping things running.
    We also thank newer donors Dietmar and Elizabeth Gonzales Gann for a leadership gift for the 2019 Latin festival; Jill and Herschel Rosensweig for their Artist in Residence sponsorship; Wesley Green and Jim and Fran Allen for forward-looking gifts.
    To all board members, we thank you for your support and devotion to TDSF. The Festival exists thanks to your vision and generosity.
    A special thanks to Dorothy Vanek for her long term support of TDSF!
    And lastly, a special thanks to Jeannette Segel for her generous support and tireless work for TDSF.
    I am proud and grateful to have the opportunity to be associated with this outstanding organization. Stay tuned for exciting details for 2020!
    George Hanson Festival Director

  2. Update 3: Final Stretch!

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    We are in the final stretch! With 16 of 24 events completed, the 2019 Tucson Desert Song Festival has been quite a ride. Monday evening saw four illustrious panel guests—TSO Music Director Jose Luis Gomez, guitarist Adam del Monte, composer Dan Asia and stage director Daniel Helfgot—explore the nuances of Latin styles, while flamenco vocalist José Cortés and Marana High School Choir under Sarah Ross knocked the crowd back in their seats with compelling performances.

    Wednesday is the Tucson Guitar Society’s production of scenes from Adam del Monte’s new opera in the flamenco style: Llantos 1492, telling the story of the Jewish experience in the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

    Thursday we will bring Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and “Te amo, Argentina!” The weekend is all about AZOpera’s production of La Traviata and Ballet Tucson/Tucson Guitar Society’s “Viva Piazzolla!”

    Opera great Ana Maria Martinez brings the festival to a close on Tuesday, February 5 courtesy UAPresents; she will present a masterclass the next morning, Wednesday, February 6.

    In the meantime, enjoy this TUSD-produced video of our Artist in Residence, tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, as he brings an inspirational message and his music to youngsters at Manzo Elementary in Tucson:

    See you at the concerts!

    George Hanson
    Director, TDSF

  3. Festival Update January 24

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    Exciting Festival so far—updates

    True Concord Voices and Orchestra, under Eric Holtan, presented phenomenal concerts with soprano Corinne Winters and guitarist Adam del Monte; for her recital, Corinne brought her husband, tenor Adam Smith, onstage for several stunning love duets for the nearly-sold-out house.

    Our Artist in Residence, Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, has been terrific! I hope you caught him on Channel Four News Tuesday evening, and saw his front-of-section above-the-fold photo in the Arizona Daily Star Wednesday—and it’s no wonder he has generated terrific coverage.

    Arturo and I have visited three schools since his arrival over the weekend: Manzo Elementary, San Miguel High School and Fruchthendler Elementary, where Arturo addressed the first grade “opera class” students and listened to some of their outstanding compositions. He serenaded each school with his rendition of “O sole mio,” and inspired them with tales of growing up in Obregón and Hermosillo, Mexico.

    Arturo presents a masterclass Thursday, January 24, at 3pm at Holsclaw Hall at the UA Fred Fox School of Music; then straight to the Mexican Consulate for a reception honoring him and donors to TDSF. His Friday evening recital is SOLD OUT.

    There are two upcoming events I want to highlight:

    Monday, January 28, 7pm at the Tucson Jewish Community Center:

    Panel discussion: “What is Latin Style? Why is it so powerful?”
    Performances by Adam del Monte, guitar, and José Cortés, one of the world’s most outstanding flamenco vocalists, as well as Sarah Ross and her Marana High School Chorus; panelists include Tucson Symphony Music Director Jose Luis Gomez.

    For tickets, call the JCC at 520-299-3000

    Wednesday, January 30, 7:30pm, Crowder Hall at UA Fred Fox School of Music:

    Llantos 1492. The first-ever opera fully in flamenco style, set in the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Composer Adam del Monte and a cast of musicians and singers will fill the stage; subtitles in English. This is a premier of scenes from the opera.

    Tickets: 520-621-1162, or online at our link:

    Both of these events are “can’t miss!”

    This weekend, catch the Arizona Early Music Society presentation of Spanish baroque music at 3pm Sunday, January 27, Grace St. Pauls Episcopal Church; details at
    Stay tuned for more! Hope to see you there. . . . . . .

    George Hanson

  4. TDSF 2019 Day 1– FUN!

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    Day 1—FUN!

    What a terrific start to our 2019 TDSF Latin Celebration Festival!

    On Wednesday, Kristin Dauphinais treated us to a broad intro to Spanish art song: mezzo soprano Diana Peralta and baritone Octovio Moreno filled Holsclaw hall with beautiful sounds.

    Later the same evening, our collaboration with the Tucson Jazz Festival featured remarkable vocal work from Magos Herrera—breathtaking, floating soprano supported by a phenomenal jazz trio—and later Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. TJF President Elliot Glicksman rightly called our cooperation a “festival of festivals,” fulfilling a dream of our dear friend Yvonne Erwin.

    Thursday evening, we have the TSO and Kristin Chenoweth—Broadway star AND great operatic chops.

    Spectacular coverage this week in the Arizona Daily Star: On Sunday a lengthy article about the cultural bridges TDSF is building through our programming and partnerships across the border; Thursday’s Caliente gave TDSF the full front cover and nearly 5 full pages, with full details of our Festival.


    TDSF Artist in Residence Arturo Chacón-Cruz’s January 25 recital is SOLD OUT! And that’s with just 12 complimentary tickets for our artist’s family.

    On Tuesday, January 22, Arturo and I will visit Manzo Elementary School and San Miguel High School, where he will talk with multilingual students about his modest upbringing in Sonora, Mexico. He will serenade them with his guitar, and talk about growing up in Mariachi culture, then skyrocketing to the top of the operatic world with a debut this year at the Vienna State Opera.

    Our second collaboration with the Tucson Jazz Festival, Bobby McFerrin on Sunday, January 20, is also SOLD OUT.

    Our website,, now has a full Spanish side!!!! Click on the Mexican flag on our home page and look around.

    And we can now confirm the TDSF Wesley Green Composer Project! For 2020 we have secured the work of Richard Danielpour; for 2021 Jake Heggie will compose a set of art songs for TDSF. Much more about this to come soon.

    Please don’t miss these great events—I’ll be updating almost daily as we go. This weekend is soprano Corinne Winters and guitarist Adam del Monte with True Concord Voices and Orchestra—I heard a rehearsal and it will be extraordinary musicmaking.

  5. Artist in Residence 2019: Arturo Chacón-Cruz sings “Nessun dorma”

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    Arturo Chacón-Cruz, protégé of Plácido Domingo, is considered the leading Mexican operatic tenor of his generation. Born and raised in Sonora, Arturo performs regularly at the world’s most important opera houses, including San Francisco, Vienna, Paris and Hamburg.

    During his residency in Tucson, Mr. Chacón-Cruz will visit schools, speak with music students and have a visible and inspiring presence in the community.

    His recital on January 25, 7pm at Holsclaw Hall at UA Fred Fox School of Music, features opera, tango and songs from Mexico. Presented by the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson and Arizona Opera League of Tucson.

    Here recorded live, January 22, 2018 from the FAOT Festival in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, Arturo sings one of opera’s greatest arias, Puccini’s Nessun dorma— I was there, it was electrifying!

  6. Top Ten Reasons you CAN’T miss the Kaddish Symphony!

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    A Personal Message from George Hanson


    10. You just can’t miss this historic first-ever performance by TSO of the profound, probing, questioning and ultimately satisfying work by America’s most influential musician.

    9. TSO’s Kaddish Symphony is the first large ensemble event of the Sixth Annual Tucson Desert Song Festival, celebrating Bernstein’s 100th birthday with a remarkable collaboration involving 30 events and 15 ensembles over 20 days in Tucson—January 16-February 4, 2018.

    8. The composer’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein, will narrate! TDSF’s Artist in Residence presents her own reconstructed version of the narration that contrasts and balances the text of the Kaddish prayer sung by soprano and chorus.

    7. I will join TSO Music Director Jose Luis Gomez onstage for the pre-concert talks, along with Jamie Bernstein, for lively and informative insight– one hour before performance time.

    6. The TSO Chorus will sing the intricate choral writing— under Bruce Chamberlain’s direction, our chorus is among the few choral groups up to the task.

    5. Renowned soprano Kelley Nassief joins TSO, fresh from her recent award-winning recording of Kaddish with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony.

    4. Your TSO/Kaddish ticket stub grants free admission to a unique symposium with Jamie Bernstein, Dan Asia, Matthew Mugmon, Gil Ribak and myself: Leonard Bernstein’s Jewish Heritage. Monday, Jan 22, 7pm, at the Tucson JCC (registration required for limited seating; call 299-3000).

    3. Beethoven’s stirring overture to Fidelio opens the concert—a work that tells a story of struggle and redemption, a perfect pairing to the Kaddish.

    2.TSO’s deep relationship with Gustav Mahler continues: Jose Luis has chosen the Adagio from Symphony No. 10 as an emotional prelude to Kaddish, the work described by New Yorker Magazine as “the work in which Bernstein came closest to his Mahlerian ideal.”

    AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON YOU CANT MISS THESE CONCERTS: To paraphrase Rabbi Hillel the Elder— If not you, WHO?

  7. A Visit with Holocaust Survivors about Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony

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    We spent a wonderful morning with Tucson’s Jewish Family Children’s Services Holocaust Survivor group! Our conversation centered around the religious aspects of Leonard Bernstein’s work, focused on his MASS! (True Concord Voices and Orchestra, January 26 and 28) and his “Kaddish” Symphony (Tucson Symphony January 19 and 21).

    Many in the group shared stories of Bernstein’s impact on their musical experiences. It is an honor to know these wonderful people.


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    George Hanson, Director, Tucson Desert Song Festival

    Let’s get one thing straight: we NEVER called him Lenny!

    For the last seven years of his life, I had the great privilege and honor of working with and for the most important and influential American musician of all time: Leonard Bernstein. From the moment I met him in January of 1982 at Indiana University, I sensed that my career path and even my life course would be changed by this powerful figure of American culture.

    Mr. Bernstein, as we always called him, came to Indiana University that year to finish composing what was to become his final completed work for stage: A Quiet Place. It was a sequel to Trouble in Tahiti (see TSO performances February 2-4), a semi-autobiographical short opera, a seminal work that is essential to understanding the man and the composer.

    LB, as we referred to him amongst ourselves, cut a swath a mile wide through the culture of IU’s enormous School of Music. Wild parties, racy songs improvised on the spot, and great stories were interspersed with moments of inspiration so profound they could change the way a musician approaches the art form forever.

    My first conducting lesson with him was a case in point: with a full orchestra onstage at the IU Musical Arts Center theater, with 1,000 people in attendance, Mr. Bernstein showed up 20 minutes late. He was wearing a fox fur coat, sporting Porsche aviator sunglasses and holding a steel cup of liquid in one hand and a cigarette holder in the other. The “maestro” effect was in full force.

    I had been asked to start the event in his absence, and was busy conducting Brahms’ Second Symphony when he walked in. He watched closely from the back of the stage as I led the orchestra through the first movement. He then approached the podium, eliciting applause from the audience and orchestra.

    He smiled, and announced in the gruffest tones of someone who had been up too late the night before, “Hello, I’m Leonard Bernstein.” After the laughter subsided, he looked at me and said, “Mr. Hanson, yes? You’re very good, by the way.” He asked for my conducting baton and took the podium, saying, “Let me show you a few things about Brahms.”

    Without another word, he began conducting the same music I had finished moments before. But it sounded different—MUCH different. With his gestures, facial expressions and body movements, he transformed the sound of the orchestra. Players and audience were transfixed. He dug into the dark underpinnings of Brahms’ orchestration– “More sound, violas!” he said with his body—while with his hands drawing out and stretching the soaring melodies of the score.

    At the end of the exposition, he let the music quietly dissipate. After many seconds of stunned silence, the audience burst into applause. He stepped off the podium, smiled at me, handed back my baton and said simply, “There. Now YOU do that!”

    I have spent the subsequent 35 years trying to do just that.

    The following summer I worked with Mr. Bernstein at the Hollywood Bowl; the summer after that together at Tanglewood . Those of us fortunate to be around him experienced the depth of his understanding of music and art.

    He explained how, as he was conducting a work by a great composer like Brahms or Wagner, he sensed that he was actually composing the work as he performed it. At Tanglewood one afternoon, six or eight of us sat on the chairs surrounding LB as he began singing the flute solo from the finale of Brahms’ fourth symphony, to demonstrate how he thought it should be played.

    It was so powerful, so profound, each note imbued with meaning as Brahms expressed deep sadness. We were mesmerized. Bernstein was channeling Brahms before our eyes.

    After he finished the two-minute solo, he sank into the sofa, exhausted. We young musicians had just seen how deeply involved in the music we must become.

    Over the course of nearly 8 years, I worked on projects with the maestro, serving as assistant; perhaps the most meaningful was the final performing version and Deutsche Grammophon recording of A Quiet Place at the Vienna State Opera—the very work he was creating when I first met him.

    Throughout this year’s Tucson Desert Song Festival, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, we will be exploring what made Leonard Bernstein so influential, so important to American music. Leonard Bernstein broke down the barriers between jazz, Broadway, popular music and the classical realm. He, along with his dear friend Aaron Copland, defined the sound we now recognize as American classical music. He taught generations of American musicians.

    I hope you enjoy this wonderful journey with us!

    George Hanson