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Crossing Choral Borders: Student Ahmed Anzaldúa's Border CrosSing

November 21, 2017

Conductor and pianist Ahmed Anzaldúa (DMA, choral conducting, student of Kathy Saltzman Romey and Matthew Mehaffey) is shaking up the land of 10,000 choirs. 

As a choral student in his first year of study at the University of Minnesota, Anzaldúa was impressed with the enormous wealth of high-quality choral activity in the Twin Cities. What was missing for Anzaldúa was programming that spoke to him as a Mexican Egyptian. 

To fill this void, Anzaldúa founded Border CrosSing, a new organization led by a team of accomplished musicians and arts leaders in the Twin Cities. Border CrosSing’s mission is to integrate historically-segregated audiences and musicians through the performance of choral music. 

Anzaldúa says, “Border CrosSing envisions a landscape where repertoire, singers, and audiences more closely reflect the racial and cultural composition of the Twin Cities.”

Anzaldúa recognized that the programming of Border CrosSing events is essential to finding the right stories to spark audience interest. To tell these stories, Border CrosSing is bringing Puentes (Bridges), a five-concert series, to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul, MN this fall 2017 and spring 2018 concert season. 

Puentes, presented with the support of the Minnesota Chorale and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, brings together music from different periods, places, and styles that tell stories related to the Latinx experience. The first event of the series, Latin America: A Miracle of Faith, explores the complexity of religious faith in Latin America.
Song for the Dead and the Living in October, expands the understanding of Dia de Muertos, examining the historical basis of this holiday and parallels between Latin American and European perspectives on death, grieving, and nostalgia. 

The third concert, El Mesías, a collaboration with the Minnesota Chorale, brings together a bilingual version of Handel’s Messiah with the music of composers Ignacio de Jerusalem and Manuel de Sumaya performed in the cathedrals of Mexico during the same period. Although frequently presented in the Twin Cities, there is an absence of Messiah performances at Latinx community centers and churches. This program demonstrates that classical choral music standards are relevant to all audiences. El Mesías was recently selected by the Knight Foundation as one of the winners in the 2017 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge.

Anzaldúa anticipates that this bilingual presentation of Handel’s Messiah will open up your ears and mind to this well-known and performed work. He says, “If you perform or even witness Messiah in another language, you hear things you haven’t heard before. You get a different point of view.” 

Puentes brings San Patricio on Saint Patrick’s Day, showcasing little-known connections between Ireland and Latin America. The program features the story of the Batallón de San Patricio, a group of Irish deserters who fought for the Mexican side in the Mexican-American War, and contrasting miracles and legends of Saint Patrick with similar stories from Latin American folklore.

The final installment of Puentes is Crossing Borders, an eclectic program of song, as well as the poetry of love and nature by Latin American authors, including Neruda, Benedetti, and Paz. The program explores how immigration can change music, stories, and culture over time.

Puentes promises to deliver programs that expose audiences to stories and musical repertoire beyond the traditionally programmed classical music in the Twin Cities. When asked why Anzaldúa is going through the work of creating a new series on top of his many duties as a choral conducting student and student conductor at the School of Music, he lights up and shares, “when the audience is diverse, you create more interesting art.” 

Upcoming Concerts 

El Mesías
Friday, December 15, 2017

San Patricio
Saturday, March 17, 2018

Crossing Borders
Saturday, May 5, 2018 

Tickets and more information can be found at All concerts take place at 8 pm at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 401 Concord St., St. Paul, MN