Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fiestas de Quito

Quito Flag

I was determined to participate in the Fiestas de Quito today. I chose to go the 'Gala de la Musica Quiteña', which was an opportunity to learn about Ecuadorian music. I was worried about getting a ticket, but I arrived at 7 PM, when it was supposed to start, and bought a ticket from a vendor on the street. Before paying, I hesitated, not sure I was buying a real ticket, so the vendor walked with me to the entrance and I tried the ticket before paying for it. Of course, once seated, it took another forty minutes before the event started. The curtains rose to reveal about ten violinists (one happened to be Maya's violin teacher, another the conductor of her orchestra, both play in the philharmonic symphony orchestra), two flutists, a drummer and a banjo player and two keyboards. Six huge candlesticks with dozens of candles framed the musicians. Smoke filled the stage and gradually cleared as the two hosts entered, one a very attractive blonde in a very revealing dress, and the other a middle-aged man in a tuxedo. With three video screens and lights pointing both to the stage and intermittently to the audience, it was evident that the gala was being filmed. The hosts talked alot, but much of their patter was about the music and the composers and their pride in Ecuadorian, in particular Quiteño music.


The most popular style of music is the pasillo, which is played with three guitars and three voices. Four guitar trios came onstage, and each pasillo was played by one of the trios. The audience was familiar with most of the songs and often sang along. The screens at the sides of the stage quite regularly projected the words of the songs as if in a karaoke bar, and everyone appeared to be singing with the musicians. Sometimes the singers on stage would alternate verses with the audience. For several songs almost everyone was out of their seats, singing, clapping and dancing with the music.

The words to the songs are romantic and passionate and and express the joy and pride of being a Quiteño. 'Viva Quito' was a regular refrain. For some songs, dancers dressed in the Spanish style would come onstage, and sometimes run out to the audience and dance with the onlookers. At one point they handed out traditional Quiteño candy made with peanuts and sugar.

In the middle of the performance, six old men were brought on the stage to be lauded and given plaques to commemorate their contributions to Quiteño music. All of them were composers of the pasillos and pasacalles we heard. They were all born between 1915 and 1930. Two were in wheelchairs and one had had a stroke. They were well received with a long drawn out standing ovation.

The audience became more and more excited as the evening progressed, and participated more and more, the conductor encouraging them to sing and dance and clap along with the musicians. Everyone was out of their seats for most of the second half of the show. The enthusiasm was infectious. I found myself clapping along and mouthing the words on the screen, but not quite ready to say the words aloud.

The music was lovely and I had a wonderful time. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Fiestas de Quito.Late in the show, some parts of the crowd started cheering for the just concluded soccer game, when the local 'Liga' team had won the South American championship. The musicians and the audience celebrated the win with many 'Viva Quito' cheers. I had heard a man a few seats behind me listening to the game on his small radio. I wondered why he was at the concert when he was far more interested in soccer. No one seemed to mind the sounds of the game and when I left the theatre, cars were honking and people were screaming in joy and celebration. Avenue de Los Shyris in front of our house was packed with fans, the roads were blocked off. Liga had actually lost the game 3 to 0, but had so many points accumulated, that losing by three points still mean winning the cup. It did not make sense to me.

Chiva For Children


  1. Heh. They won 5-1 when they played here, and lost 0-3 there. They always play a match in each other's territory.

    Total score could be considered 5-4, hence a Liga victory.