Yesterday night I went to a concert in the main church of Salamina, amidst the mountains in the coffee-growing region of Caldas in central Colombia. It was a banda sinfónica juvenil, bringing together the best players from all the local wind bands (there are 44 of them from every village in the region). The quality of the playing was amazing. 80 kids aged 14 to 18 played a mixed repertoire of classical music arrangements and Colombian folk music, with unerring precision, great intonation and an infectious sense of rhythm.
The most interesting pieces in the programme were by Victoriano Valencia, considered the best Colombian composer of music for banda sinfónica. Victoriano’s arrangements thread a fine line between traditional roots and innovation – especially formal and harmonic – without falling in the easy trap of emulating the jazz-derived idiom and sounds of North American big bands. I found his music highly original and very well scored.