SASO Makes Fifth Annual Appearance at Mexican Independence Day Celebration

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and winners of the 3rd Annual Linus Lerner International Voice Competition will present a free public concert in celebration of Mexican Independence Day on September 15th at 8 pm at the Fox Theatre. The program features talented guest artists from Mexico as well as music by Mexican composers.

The Consulate of Mexico in Tucson, in collaboration with the Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Tucson, SASO and the Fox Theatre Tucson, presents this commemoration of the 207th anniversary of Mexican Independence. Free tickets will be distributed by the Mexican Consulate, 3915 E Broadway. For information please call the consulate at 882-5595, ext. 404.

The September 15 concert will feature soprano Liliana del Conde, a rising star in Mexico and general director of the Opera Festival of San Luis, which was held this summer in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, in conjunction with the third annual Linus Lerner International Voice Competition. Other guest soloists include prize winners of the competition: sopranos Sofia Sánchez, Kaitlin Bertenshaw, and Tania Solis, mezzo soprano Estefania Cano, tenor Juanra Urrusti, and baritone Leoncio Luna. They also performed with SASO in the Opera Festival of San Luis earlier this summer.

The concert program includes pieces by celebrated contemporary Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, well-known opera arias and popular songs, and a special appearance by Mariachi Rayos del Sol.

The concert program includes:

  • Conga del Fuego Nuevo and Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez
  • Sobre las Olas by Juventino Rosas
  • “Mein Herr Marquis” from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus
  • “Una furtiva lagrima” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore
  • “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” and “Votre toast” from Bizet’s Carmen
  • “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca
  • Popular songs including Besame mucho, Así, Despedida, Júrame, and
  • Marcha Zacatecas with Mariachi Rayos del Sol

Lerner is an internationally recognized vocal coach and conductor. He has recognized Mexico as a source of some of the best emerging opera singers in the world, and has organized a series of opera festivals in Mexico to showcase and develop their talent. SASO musicians have performed with him at opera festivals since 2016, as well as at opera festivals in Oaxaca from 2013 to 2015.

This is SASO’s fifth annual Mexican Independence Day celebration concert. Ricardo Piñeda, Consul of Mexico in Tucson, has said, “We want to share with the public our rich historical and cultural legacy and our different traditions. This event seeks to bring our communities together in remembrance of those who have forged the history of Mexico.”

On the eve of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called upon the residents of the town of Dolores, Hidalgo to rise up against the government of New Spain. This call to arms began an 11-year struggle that culminated with the Cordoba Treaties and the birth of a new nation.

Fox Theatre Tucson – which seats 1,200 – is in downtown Tucson at 17 W. Congress St. Doors will open at 7 p.m.

Founded in 1979, SASO presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. The orchestra is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music – locally and internationally. For more information call 308-6226 or visit

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SASO’s Story

Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.