EDMOND—The Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano played a lively show on February 4 for 498 concertgoers at Armstrong Auditorium. The two-and-a-half hour program ran longer than most events in the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation concert series, but, judging by the audience reaction, the mariachis could have performed all night.
The performance at Armstrong kicked off the 2016 Anita Martinez Mariachi Festival, which ran from February 4-7 and benefits Oklahoma City Public Schools. With six violins; three trumpets; a guitar; a high-pitched, round-backed guitar called a vihuela; a much larger guitarron; and a Mexican folk harp, Mariachi los Camperos played “traditional yet innovative music specific to the Mexican culture,” according to Music for Life radio host Ryan Malone’s February 1 program. Meanwhile, two ballet folklórico dancers tapped and twirled onstage. During one song, they tied a large red ribbon into a bow using only their feet.
Music director Jesús “Chuy” Guzman and the rest of the mariachis openly invited audience participation through clapping, singing along, whistling and shouting approval. The violinists even played in the aisles twice. At one point, they presented flowers and champagne to a married couple who had traveled from San Antonio, Texas, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary; the couple then danced at the front of the theater as onlookers cheered.
Guzman addressed the audience mostly in Spanish, but nearly half of the listeners understood every word and laughed at his jokes. While the English-speaking concertgoers didn’t understand most of the statements or lyrics, many said afterward that the concert was their favorite Armstrong Auditorium event to date.
Mariachi los Camperos de Nati Cano won the Grammy Award for best regional Mexican album in 2009 and in 2010. Founder Natividad “Nati” Cano, who died in October 2014, became known for graduating mariachi music from the cantina to the concert hall: Mariachi los Camperos has performed in the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and other internationally recognized venues.
The 2015-2016 Armstrong International Cultural Foundation concert series continues on February 14 with its sixth event: the Band of Royal Marines and the Scots Guards.