Repertoire Search

Gabriela Lena Frank

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Peregrinos (2009),
G Schirmer Inc
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Programme Note
Gabriela Lena Frank Peregrinos (2009),
Composer note:
Peregrinos (Pilgrims) is inspired by my two-year composer’s residency with the Indianapolis Symphony (2007-2009) in which I was privileged to an inside glimpse of the city’s thriving and quickly-growing Latino community. During this time, the Indianapolis Symphony brilliantly brokered meetings with Latino reverends, local politicians, nurses, young parents, “at-risk” youth, carpenters, ESL teachers, community activists, librarians, salsa musicians, and many others who were stunningly generous in sharing their experiences as immigrants. Many had only recently arrived to the States, and many were undocumented. All impressed me deeply as to their humor, their perseverance, and their humanity in the face of daunting odds including the U.S.’s inconsistent policies regarding immigration. As the daughter of an immigrant from Perú myself, this experience resonated with me deeply.

The inspiration to cast each movement of Peregrinos as a testimonio stems from my friendship with the members of the Latino Youth Collective, a grass-roots organization that mentors young Latinos and inspires them to enroll in college. In addition to acquiring the skills to create film documentaries on a myriad of subjects, participants in the program learn to speak publicly, formally sharing their stories — testimonios — with others.

The five testimonios of Peregrinos encapsulate some basic themes of hope and challenge that emerged during my journey within Latino Indianapolis. They are:

Testimonio I: Arbol de Sueños (Dream Tree): A community art project started by the Indianapolis-based Theater of Inclusion, the Dream Tree is a simply constructed laundry drying rack to which brightly-colored flagging tape is tied and allowed to stream in the wind. On each of the tape ribbons are handwritten messages of hope and aspiration by people from all walks of life. Throughout the many activities of my residency, Dream Trees were slowly added to as people, with shyness or skepticism nicely in check, contributed their personal hopes. I was also struck by the coincidence of a “dream tree” figuring prominently in many Latin American creation myths and, accordingly, there is a hint of Latin American música folklórica in this movement.

Testimonio II: Hero Brothers: While becoming acquainted with the aforementioned Latino Youth Collective, I became friends with KS, an undocumented eleven-year-old originally from Mexico, already attuned to social justice and college-bound. His road is somewhat more difficult than his little brother who was born in the States and who consequently carries enormous guilt on his young shoulders. The bond between the brothers, however, is tight as with the Hero Brothers Hunahpu and Xbalanque of ancient Mayan myths whose adventures feature the two overcoming morally questionable supernatural beings. This movement is flavored with the sound of marimbas, an important instrument of Central America, and is robust, powerful, and optimistic in its spirit.

Testimonio III: Fireflies: The majority of the testimonios shared with me during my time in Indianapolis were about difficult experiences. On one occasion, a young woman described for me her passage across the Mexican border. After a good number of hours in the trunk of a car with two other women, she was let out somewhere in Arizona to stretch her legs. Momentarily blind from the long hours of darkness, she rubbed her eyes to encourage her vision to return, eventually realizing that the sparks flying crazily in front of her in the evening air were actually fireflies dancing across cemetery tombstones. These fireflies would come back to haunt her in ongoing dreams of disorientation and anxiety that she could never shake.

Testimonio IV: Devotional for Sarita Colonia: The belief in a higher protective spirit would also come up many times in people’s stories. During my residency, I learned about Sarita Colonia, a young Peruvian woman from the mountains who migrated to the coast for a better life early in the 20th century. She encountered only more difficulties before eventually dying of sickness, and was later sainted for her work with the poor. She is regarded as an especial protector of immigrants. During the writing of Peregrinos, I made one of my frequent visits to Peru, and encountered Sarita’s image and name on highway billboards and on rearview mirror decorations in taxi cabs.

Testimonio V: Arbol de Sueños: Throughout the residency, the theme of hope and vision persisted in spite of the difficult realities posed for immigrants. This final testimonio is a return to the opening lyrical portrait of a community’s aspirations.

– Gabriela Lena Frank

Frank's five-movement work benefited from smaller-scale forces, as the intimate character of the composition, inspired by personal stories of immigrants to the U.S. from Latin America, was emphasized. As conducted by Kirk Trevor, the spooky events recalled by the "Fireflies" movement were properly restrained and their mind- teasing tension sporadically relaxed and heightened.
Jay Harvey, Indianapolis Star,31/10/2010
Adams was in the audience, as was Frank, whose Peregrinos (Pilgrims), a work in five movements, came next. Composed during Frank's recent residency with the Indianapolis Symphony, and inspired by her interactions with the growing Latino community of Indianapolis, Peregrinos is a smartly understated and appealingly humble piece for large musical forces. Frank, whose mother is from Peru, draws on folkloric sources, melodic and rhythmic, and knows how to extract sounds from the orchestra that make it resound like a strummed guitar. Her pizzicato writing here is superb. But what impressed most was her unique ear for instrumental combinations: clarinet, bowed bass viol and harp, for instance, in the fourth movement, which evokes a patron saint named Sarita Colonia. With lighter-than-air textures, it was beautifully played by the musicians and deftly controlled, once again, by Carneiro.
Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News,16/10/2009
In short, the ISO's commissioning of Gabriela Lena Frank's Peregrinos (Pilgrims) was an occasion for gratitude. Not just because it can speak to people who have never been homeless or undocumented about lives that now mingle here with ours. And not even because Peregrinos is a work of integrity and imagination, able to stand free of the issue of immigration or any stance beyond the universal desire to build a better life. But in this particular program -- crowded with the brashness, sass and sentimentality of Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" -- Peregrinos carried a special warmth, transparency and tenderness. Even the rousing orchestration of "The Promise of Living" from Copland's rustic opera "The Tender Land," which preceded the premiered work, doesn't probe the shadows of life built up from nothing but hope the way Frank's piece does. The program's other three works retain their stature, but their sturdy evocation of America cried out for the haunted visions of Peregrinos. In five movements, Frank's work saturates immigrants' stories in symphonic resources, subtly deployed. Nothing bombastic intrudes; even the muscle-flexing of "Hero Brothers," the second movement, is checked by bold divisions of orchestral labor.
Jay Harvey, Indianapolis Star,28/02/2009
Close X

Newsletter Signup

Enter your email address to keep up to date with the latest news and special offers from Wise Music Classical.
Your data is secure and you can unsubscribe at any time. Read our Privacy Policy

Click here to receive regular news
© Copyright 2020 Wise Music Classical. Part of Wise Music Group.