OGDEN — Alfonso Tenreiro has watched from afar as his native Venezuela has descended into political chaos, as unrest has become the norm.
President Nicolás Maduro faces an intense challenge for his post from U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, which gives him a measure of consolation. But intense protests and demonstrations are a regular thing, creating international headlines. Blackouts brought on by decaying infrastructure make it tough for many.
“There is a hope, even though there is a lot of pain going on right now,” said Tenreiro, a naturalized U.S. citizen who now lives in Ogden with his family, including his two parents, also from Venezuela.
There’s little he can do here to concretely bring about change in the South American country. But the situation weighs on him, and in response, he’s penned a concerto called “The Prayer,” inspired by events in Venezuela and to be performed in April as part of the inaugural Ogden Bach Festival. If nothing else, the process salves his psyche and he hopes the music raises awareness here about what’s happening there.
“It turned out to be a prayer, a prayer for our country,” said Tenreiro, a classical composer who serves as music director at St. Joseph Catholic High School and Elementary School. The music, for organ, orchestra and choir, reflects both the anguish at the unrest enveloping the nation, he said, and hope that things will improve.
He uses words like “dark,” “sweet” and “melodic” to describe the music and says it features oboe solos and choral elements. “It’s just very heartfelt,” Tenreiro said, and contains “an air of nostalgia.”
Gabriel Gordon, musical director for the Ogden Bach Festival, said he’s not surprised at the inspiration for Tenreiro’s piece, to be featured in an April 12 festival performance starting at 7 p.m. at the Ogden Tabernacle, 2145 Washington Blvd. in Ogden. The festival goes from April 8-12 and is sponsored by Onstage Ogden, the NEXT Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra Ogden and Weber State University Choral Department.
“What he’s conveyed to me is this has been very, very much on his mind,” Gordon said. When an artist is weighed down by a strong sentiment, “there’s sometimes no choice, you have to get it out.”
‘WE FEEL REAL HOPE’
Tenreiro is a fierce critic of Maduro, whose authoritarian regime has been characterized by hyperinflation, food shortages, street crime and political turmoil. Guaidó claims the presidency, charging that the 2018 vote leading to Maduro’s second term was fraudulent, and the turn of events has drawn global attention, with the U.S. government, among others, throwing its support behind Guaidó.
“For the first time we feel real hope that things are going to get better. And the hope is centered in President Guaidó,” said Tenreiro, who first came to the United States in 1981 when he was 16 to study and stayed.
Tenreiro’s mother, Isabel Tenreiro, who came to the United States in 2014, seeking refuge from the chaos of Venezuela, said raising awareness is one thing expats here can do, via rallies and music like her son’s. As opposition messages in Venezuela get stifled by official government media, she does her part by conveying news to friends and relatives still in the country.
“I can tell you that perhaps I am more informed here in Ogden on what is going on than what some people in some areas over there are,” she said in an email. With regular blackouts and sketchy Internet service at times, she said, “I keep sending important messages that I receive from any place in the world or even from some people in Venezuela.”
This isn’t the first time that Alfonso Tenreiro has tapped his strong sentiments about Venezuela in writing music. He previously wrote a violin solo, meant as a requiem for Venezuela, and said the sentiments flow naturally.
The turmoil there “changed, literally, my style, my approach to music,” he said. “The harmony and the beauty of the music that comes, I’m thinking of the people of Venezuela.”