photography, San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel’s tree lighting ceremony and holiday lights show kick off with a bang

Tonight was the official tree-lighting ceremony in San Miguel de Allende. As always with any ceremony here, that includes a bodacious fireworks display. The fireworks seemed to go on forever. What a sight!

All the white fairy lights in the park and those covering the seven streets entering into the public square were lit as well. As the Atencion newspaper put it this week: they “seem like a path of stars.”

Rose and I walked into the square (Jardine Principal) just as the countdown began.

What a show!

Scroll through the pictures and be sure to check out the videos at the end. Turn the volume up to 10!

Merry Christmas!

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, San Miguel de Allende

Early on a Friday morning in San Miguel de Allende, the Parroquia is for balletic pigeons

On a crisp Friday morning, bells peel, pigeons swoop and dive and disappear and return to encircle the spires of the Parroquia de Arc Angel Michael with a feathery halo, in San Miguel de Allende.

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photography, San Miguel de Allende

Poinsettias in the parque principal of Parroquia plaza, San Miguel de Allende

The main square in Centro, Jardin Allende, flows red with poinsettias — while in the trees above, white fairy lights twinkle after the sun sets. San Miguel de Allende awaits Christmas with color, beauty, eagerness, and joy.

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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel’s Pro Musica Youth Orchestra is back, with a holiday concert in a new setting

The Pro Musica Youth Orchestra is back after a 20-month hiatus because of the pandemic and the tragic loss of the orchestra’s founder and Pro Musica vice president, Tim Hazel, who passed away on Feb.3 from stomach cancer.

An exciting new youth music director and conductor, Robert Mari, has assumed the podium and the popular orchestra has been in rehearsal for more than a month.

To celebrate the return of the orchestra, Pro Musica has set its first concert for Sunday 12 December 2021 at 3 pm. This will take place outdoors with socially distanced seating in the delightful gardens of the Arts School of the Instituto Allende on Ancha de San Antonio.

The youth orchestra’s previous home, in the Belles Artes complex, has yet to re-open. In the old days, Hazel would conclude each concert with a wry tale of his need to feed his 12 children — or 8 or 6, it varied. A scruffy straw hat with a pink ribbon would be passed among the audience and the money, of course, went to supporting the orchestra which grew in size and capability over the past three years.

Now, Pro Musica is asking for a $300 peso donation from attendees. Tickets can be purchased through the Pro Musica website at  www.promusicasma.org . Proceeds will go to the orchestra members, according to Pro Musica.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity for you to show your support for the orchestra under its new conductor and to see how the young musicians are performing,” says Michael Pearl, president of Pro Musica, in a press release. “I have attended rehearsals of the orchestra and they are sounding excellent.”

The program will include works by Mozart and Haydn.

The centerpiece of the concert will be Mozart’s wonderful Symphony No. 35 in D major, the “Haffner”, written in 1782. And just for fun, ours and theirs, the orchestra will also play Mozart’s K.552, known as “A Musical Joke”. (A loose translation of the German title, “Some Musical Fun.”) The work satirizes other composers’ styles and is “a masterclass in using wrong notes and compositorial comedic devices.”

Pro Musica calls it, “an ideal piece for a youth orchestra.”

From Haydn, the orchestra draws on his Symphony 99 in E-flat major, written in 1793 in Vienna for performance during his second visit to England. It is the seventh of the ultimately twelve “London” symphonies.

This will be followed by the “Toy” symphony. This 18th-century work is variously attributed to Joseph Haydn, Leopold Mozart, Michael Haydn, and Edmund Angerer. As the title suggests, the performance includes various “toy” instruments, such as a toy trumpet, a ratchet, and bird calls. 

The Canadian native Robert Mari conducted the Cowichan Consort Orchestra and Choir starting in 2011 and recently retired. He is no stranger to youth orchestras, having started his own studies at age 3 on the piano. He first performed in public at age 5 and conducted his first symphony at age 13.

He holds masters and doctorate degrees in music and orchestral conducting respectively from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University among other music-related studies. He is a composer, recording artist, conductor, and performer.

You can read the entire program for the Sunday concert here.

(Correction: The post originally said Robert Mari has been with Pro Musica since 2011. He is just beginning a new career with Pro Musica. My apologies for the error.)

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photography, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

In San Miguel de Allende, don we now our holiday apparel — and a fond farewell to Mr. Holiday, Colin Harnett

One thing San Miguel de Allende does well is dress up for the holidays.

Not just San Miguel. Every village, town, and city in the country brings out a million white lights, an enormous community tree, a life-size Nativity scene, and an infectious cheeriness that makes you glad to be living in Mexico.

Which I happen to do.

So here is a small collection of what is ahead in December.

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Movie review: “A Boy Called Christmas” lives up to his name & a holiday film classic is born

The Christmas origin story has taken a real beating on television in recent years.

The film factories don’t follow a script. The have a playbook. There are fixed characters, types. There are predictable situations. There are tried and true bromides. There are fixed plays. And there are utterly predictable endings in which the “true meaning” of Christmas is disgorged just before credits roll.

And the sudden appearance of the much-anticipated snowfall at the end is a complete surprise to everyone but the audience.

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San Miguel de Allende, Writings

A menorah with a message is lit for the first night of Chanukah in Parque Juarez

Rabbi Daniel Huebner of Chabad San Miguel de Allende lights the first candle on the community menorah on Sunday evening in Parque Juarez. A lit candle will be added on each of the following seven nights for the Chanukah celebration.

Happy Chanukah, my friends. Or Hanukkah.

Sunday night was the first night of Chanukah — the Festival of Lights — and the lighting of the first candle of the menorah. The Chanukah celebration is observed for eight nights and days, with a new candle being lit each evening.

I know all this because I was walking Moppit in Parque Juarez when I happened upon members of Chabad San Miguel de Allende lighting the community menorah in the park’s gazebo.

I missed most of the dedication, but I happened upon the gathering just as Rabbi Daniel Huebner was explaining the significance of this year’s menorah, created by artist Meila Penn.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Semper Fi, Dad. Semper, Fi.

Robert J. Hawkins, U.S.M.C. medical corpsman in World War II

The machine-gun fire came out of nowhere, the way it is supposed to in war.

Or so it seemed to the Marines who were caught in an open field next to a presumably abandoned farmhouse. Incorrectly presumed empty, as it turned out.

The carelessness cost the platoon one soldier. He lay on the ground about 10 yards away from the stone wall behind which his comrades took refuge.

He was still alive. They could hear his agonizing cries for help. They could see him, lying there out in the open.

The squad’s 19-year-old medical corpsman had already seen his share of death and savage injuries since their battalion had waded ashore on the island of Saipan. And now, more of the same on the neighboring island of Tinian.

During the initial bloody assault on Saipan, the corpsman was encountering a dead or wounded Marine every 10 yards or so, by his estimate. This made his progress slower than the other Marines. They relentlessly pushed the enemy to the other side of the island and the sea, leaving a trail of dead and wounded for the corpsman to sort out.

He’d already taken grenade fragments in his hand, leg, and shoulder —  for which he’d eventually get the Purple Heart.

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photography, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

An art project grows in San Miguel de Allende

I love this Bug.

It’s like something out of a Disney/Pixar movie where a once-beloved and cuddled family Bug grows old as the family grows up and is eventually abandoned in the Shed of Lost Car Souls where it withers, rusts, and decays for decades until the troubled teenage grandson discovers the car and with loving assistance from grandpa restores the Bug, restores his own self-confidence, and restores grandpa’s long-lost memories as he regales his grandson with tales of family road trips and adventures in this very same car — and in the end, grandpa and grandson trundle down the road in their magnificently restored Bug on the Mexican road trip of their lives.

Or, maybe not.

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photography, San Miguel de Allende

On Dia de Los Muertos, even the dead love a good parade

Traffic finally emptied on the Ancha at 8 p.m. Monday and down the broad street, and out from the Rosewood resort, streamed hundreds of Catrinas, Catrinos, ghouls, skeletons, and even an underworld creature or two.

And they came on fast — as if all the pent-up energy from last year’s cancelled parade was unleashed atop this year’s and resulted in a headlong rush to the finish.

The crowd where Nemiseo Diaz meets the Ancha was so thick and eager that costumed paraders had to run a tight gauntlet, elbowing their way to the merger point.

It wasn’t so much a parade as a fast jog of the living dead in glorious technicolour and fabulous costumes. They marched, they merged, they posed for pictures, they trundled up Zacaterous, turned onto Canal and cascaded into the Plaza Principal where the crush of Catrinas and onlookers must have been something else.

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