Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: La Santa Cecilia | KCET
Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: La Santa Cecilia
Songs in the Key of L.A. is a multi-platform collaboration between the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Public Library, and USC professor Josh Kun that brings to life the Library's extraordinary Southern California Sheet Music Collection. Five L.A. artists were invited to pick some sheet music, study it, and then interpret it in any style of their choosing. The finished products are now available for free download from the website of the Los Angeles Public Library, and Artbound produced short documentaries on the process.
The brainchild of ethno-imagineer and socialite Christine Sterling, Olvera Street was both an attempt to save the plaza from encroaching Union Station and Civic Center developers who were ready to clean up the "seedy" and "disease ridden" plaza and all of its "undesirable" racial elements, and re-imagine it as a Mexico that the Los Angeles Times and the Chamber of Commerce were more comfortable with. Sterling herself openly called it "a mixture of romance and capitalism."
Of course, Olvera Street the Hollywood movie set didn't stop it from becoming a valuable hub of Latino life, business, religion, and culture-- from La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles and the many Mexican-run shops and food stalls to the leading Mexican and Mexican-American musicians who frequently performed there (Lalo Guerrero, for example, was also a Café Caliente regular).
The members of the band La Santa Cecilia know this split-screen version of Olvera Street all too well: it's the very foundation of their own musical identity. "My grandfather came and started selling little pottery and then he had the burro where we'd take photos," singer Marisol Hernández told me after the band finished recording their own version of "Chiapanecas." "So it's very much like a tourist place, but it also represents a lot of Mexican culture. It's a place where a lot of Latin people from Latin America still come because it reminds them of home."
Like the song? Here's a free download of La Santa Cecilia performing "Chiapanecas."
Purchase the book, "Songs in the Key of Los Angeles" by Josh Kun.
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Season 9, Episode 4
This look at Los Angeles’ Olvera Street is part-history lesson and part-immersion in stereotype of the birthplace of Los Angeles. Emmy® award-winning journalist, author and musician Rubén Martínez, explores the sometimes-violent, 200-year struggle for the political and symbolic control of the city as told in “Variedades” — an interdisciplinary performance series that brings together music, spoken word, theater, comedy and the visual arts, loosely based on the Mexican vaudeville shows of early-20th century Los Angeles.
Season 10, Episode 5
The charming, unusual and at times polarizing Jeffrey Deitch left Los Angeles in 2013 after a tumultuous run as the director of MOCA ending in his resignation. He makes his return with a new gallery opening with the first LA exhibit of renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. A behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art world through the eyes of a legendary art dealer and curator.
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