KLRN, the public television station for South Texas, has been nominated for a Lone Star Chapter Regional Emmy for Rhapsody on the Rio Grande, a documentary produced in Laredo and about Laredo.
The production, which was in partnership with Texas A&M International University (TAMIU), was generously funded by the City of Laredo.
Numerous Laredoans participated in the film, which was coordinated through Rosanne Palacios, vice-president of TAMIU’s office of institutional development. Austin filmmaker Luke Dillard directed the film. María Eugenia Guerra wrote the documentary’s narrative.
The heart of the documentary is an original composition, Rhapsody on the Río Grande, written for the organ by TAMIU music instructor Dr. Colin Campbell.
Using 17 cameras and 55 microphones, KLRN taped the first and only live performance of the Rhapsody on April 19, 2016 in an un-rehearsed debut with the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra — directed by Maestro Brendan Townsend — and the famed Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán of Guadalajara. That performance is featured throughout the documentary, as are Laredoans whose insightful observations evidence the dynamic confluence of culture, history, and language on the border.
Among the interviewees were Campbell, Townsend, and mariachi director Fernando Martinez as well as attorney and slam poet Armando X. López, Americana musician Bo de Peña, retired music educator Hortense Offerle, writer and historian Dr. Jerry Thompson, conductor and music educator Elmo Lopez Sr., filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejón, architect Viviana Frank Bautista, developer Cliffe Killam, and bankers Dennis Nixon and Renato Ramirez.
Of his composition and the live April 30, 2016 performance on the Sharkey-Corrigan organ in the Fine and Performing Arts Theater, Dr. Campbell recalled, “Sitting at the organ console, feeling the suspense and expectations of everyone present, it was truly a sublime, transcendental, and spiritual experience. The music that I envisioned was much more ‘filling’ on an emotional level than I ever imagined it to be. I was so overcome with emotions, together with the usual focus of being part of the orchestra as a whole, but then knowing — and experiencing — that it was my music that was being performed. It was simply out of this world and beyond the bounds of emotions and expressions.”
Director Dillard said that the single most important message he had wanted for the documentary to convey was that music is a universal language that brings people together. “I think the film was successful in accomplishing that in a very unique and localized way.”
He added, “This was a very entertaining and engaging project to work on from beginning to end. What interested me most was learning about the fluidity of border culture in Laredo. Also, having a musical performance that essentially acts as a main character in the film is a fascinating element to have. It made working on the film a lot of fun.”
TAMIU President Dr. Pablo Arenaz, commenting on the Emmy nomination, said, “We are deeply gratified by this nomination. It truly is an affirmation of the importance of community and the multicultural roots that bind us all together. The universality brought to the screen was just as inspirational as the alliance of artists, musicians, and storytellers that joined with us, the City of Laredo, and KLRN to make this a historic reality.”
Arthur Emerson, KLRN President and CEO, said, “This film was truly a community effort as it involved many people and an extraordinary amount of planning. The KLRN production team went above and beyond to ensure that it was flawless and this nomination makes us proud of what we have created. This documentary covers the music, history and culture of the Rio Grande, and it thrills us all to be able to share this story with our viewers, locally and nationally throughout the PBS system.”
Rhapsody on the Rio has recently been added to the national PBS Online Network for viewing.
Emmy winners will be announced Saturday, November 11 in San Antonio.
DVD copies of Rhapsodia del Río and its CD soundtrack can be purchased through TAMIU in support of student scholarships in the Fine and Performing Arts. CDs are $15; DVDs are $25 and a combination of both is $35. Online purchase is possible at http://bit.ly/2sK7hXy or in person at the University’s Office for Institutional Advancement, located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, suite 262. Call 326-2178 for further information.