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UH Composer Releases Works Inspired by Shakespearian Actor

Alejandro Basulto reimagines Will Kemp dancing through Latin America for commissioned recording.

To celebrate its landmark 75th anniversary, The Anglo Mexican Foundation launched a special project and partnered with rising Mexican composers and the new British chamber orchestra, the Shakespeare Sinfonia, to create new musical recordings.

Honored to be invited to participate, Alejandro Basulto — an international student with a background in composing for film — was excited by the chance to work on such an interdisciplinary project.

“I consider myself a storyteller whose mission is to write music that is exciting, engaging and relevant for concertgoers and musicians alike,” he says. 

So he turned his sights to Will Kemp, a comic actor and dancer in the Shakespearian player’s company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Kemp caused a stir when, after parting ways with the company, decided to dance his way from London to Norway, celebrating in each town he stopped in along the way. His adventures were recounted in his book, “Nine Days Wonder.” 

“I decided to write a piece that is a variation of a theme on Kemp’s ‘Jig,’” explains Basulto. “Every variation is inspired by a day that he was dancing — there are nine variations — but the twist is that I imagined him dancing through Latin America, so instead of English dances, I have Latin American dances.”

The piece was received so well at its premiere, performed by the Orchestra of the Swan under the direction of David Curtis, that The Anglo Mexican Foundation commissioned a second piece by Basulto, entitled “Pequeña Serenata Ranchera.” This piece was inspired by the various meaning that the term serenata, which is the Spanish word for “serenade,” has had throughout the history of music.

Both works were recorded last year by the Shakespeare Sinfonia in London and Basulto had the chance to be on hand during the recording process, working closely with the musicians in the studio.

“It was one of the most gratifying experiences, for me,” he says. “Being a composer can be a lonely job, because most of the time you’re by yourself, writing music at your desk. One of the things that has helped me shape my career is looking for collaboration. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited by this project. I got to work with first-class musicians and got to discuss my music in such depth during the process.”

The recording was released in March, 2019 on the Toccatta Classics label.