Lorena Guillén is a musicologist, has been a professor at UNCG’s School of Music, Theater and Dance on and off since 2007 and has an active performing career. She teaches music history and survey world music classes. As an active performer she is involved with classical music, new compositional pieces and traditional music from her home country, Argentina.
Dr. Guillén slowly became involved with the arts as a teenager as she joined professional singing groups in Argentina and later gained her degree in vocal performance. She moved to the United States and completed her master’s in vocal performance as well before getting her doctorate in musicology.
Though she originally became involved in tango when living in Argentina, later when she lived in New York City she resided close to a tango scene where she became involved with recordings and concerts.
When most people think of tango, they think of the Latin dance involving two partners, but Dr. Guillén participates in another, similar tango, which is a type of song. It, too, developed in Argentina as a popular song in Buenos Aires during its creation at the beginning of the 20th century. It developed in many styles as it adapted to different time periods as a type of song with a typical orchestra or with violin, piano and bandoneon [type of accordion] with a lead singer.
The United States was introduced to the singing style of tango through the dance, as it was a very popular, outrageous and sensual style of dance at the time. After being introduced to tango in the early 1900s, the United States disconnected from the progress and evolution of the style of tango until the 1970s, when popular tango performers left Argentina to perform in other parts of the world, working their way from Europe to America.
Traditionally, the lyrics of the tango are in Spanish, but when performing Dr. Guillén makes sure to explain and introduce to the audience the content of the lyrics so that they can resonate with the message while listening to her pieces.
For the past two years, Dr. Guillén has been working to establish a permanent ensemble, which includes a pianist, flutist, guitarist, bassist, electric bassist, percussionist and singer.
She has recently been working on a piece called “The Other Side of my Heart,” which she conceived two years ago.
“I had this idea of engaging in interviews with Latino immigrant women and I recorded conversations of them speaking about their journey coming to the United States,” Dr. Guillén said.
With that material, she created five songs and using their exact words, transformed their direct quotes from their conversations into lyrics in the song. Her ensemble premiered this piece a year and a half ago and continues to perform it.
The Weatherspoon Art Museum is holding an exhibition titled “Pan American Modernism: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America and the United States,” and Dr. Guillén and her tango ensemble will perform in conjunction with it on Feb. 11.
At the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the ensemble will perform as a trio to present pieces that are original for this production as well as arrangements specifically written for their ensemble composed by Alejandro Rutty, who is the pianist in the ensemble, as well as a composer. They will be playing traditional tango repertoire and more contemporary styles as well. During their performance, Dr. Guillén’s ensemble will be performing with only piano, flute and a lead singer instead of their usual sextet.
The Lorena Guillén Tango Ensemble was first engaged in this show over a year ago when the curators of the exhibition contacted them.
“They thought that the type of music that we do would really enhance and connect very well with the exhibition,” Dr. Guillén explained.
Because her group regularly performs, many of the pieces they showcase are already in practice, so their performances and rehearsals are continuous throughout the year.
Dr. Guillén’s main goal with this performance and her ensemble is to keep up this type of style of music as a vital, vibrant and ever-evolving music. They will be introducing new tango material and compositions for their ensemble instrumentation.
“Something I’m really glad my generation got to do was experience tango — the beginning, decline and its revival,” she said. “It’s crucial that new musicians learn the craft.”
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized, Visual & Performance
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