Kathleen and Vern Carlson, a charming couple who came to Lake Chapala several years ago from the Chicago area, hosted a tamale fundraiser earlier this week to support Las Cantantes Del Lago, the extraordinary choir based here in Lakeside (the term that refers to all the towns on this side of Lake Chapala). The group departs Monday for a tour of Cuba and will be the very first international choral group to perform at Havana’s prestigious Gran Teatro de La Habana. It’s a stunning achievement for the highly regarded local performers, comprised of singers from Canada, U.S. and Mexico, all led by musical director and conductor, Timothy G. Ruff Welch.
The evening was limited to 50 donors and guests who became ever-more-convivial as the margaritas flowed. The host, originally from the agricultural heartland of California’s Central Valley, is an avid gardener and landscaped the grounds of their gorgeous hacienda in the Racquet Club area of San Juan de Cosala west of Ajijic.
In addition to the hosted margarita bar staffed b a group of congenial volunteer bartenders, there was a selection of salsas, unique to each of the Mexican member families who provided them. They were memorable individually, but combined made for an impressive afterglow from the fresh spices and peppers therein!
I hitched a ride to the party with new friend, the charming Pam Adams who moved here from South Carolina and her friend Jim, a sound producer in film and television from California, living here now.
Guests had a great time, as tequila tends to ensure. Here’s the incredibly gracious hostess Kathleen, with La Cantantes director, Tim Welch.
Other guests included a couple from Gig Harbour and another from Ellensburg, both in my home state of Washington, as well as both seasonal and full-time residents of the Chapala/Lakeside communities.
Prior to serving the tamales (unbelievably delicious with several choices of ingredients, some with meat and a delicious vegetarian option), singer and chef, Amaranta Santos, gave the group a brief history of the tamale and the significance of corn in Incan, Mayan and Mexican culture, going back a millennium.
Ever the entertainer, the choral maestro himself hammed it up sampling what was mutually agreed to be the most flavorful and delicious refried bean dish any of us had ever eaten.
Finally, dessert was passed pre-plated to guests throughout the garden and bar terrace. Capirotada, a full-flavored and incredibly rich, thick-textured Mexican bread pudding, was big a hit, as promised. Here’s a link to some background, as well as some of the ingredients that make it so totally edible at the post-margarita, salsa and tamale time of evening. Facts – Mexican Bread Pudding
Following dinner, we enjoyed what had been described by the organization’s event release as, “the ‘kids’ singing and playing a mini concert just for you. This is joy, an abundance of charm and talent, and sharing of the love of music and of the country we all now share. This is the magical part of the evening.” There were performances by a pianist, a violinist, and several solos and duet vocals showing off the group’s talented membership and that of this extraordinary community.
Finally, an auction of a dinner for ten, with a choice of an Asian Barbeque Dinner or Chinese Dinner Banquet, at the spectacular home of board member Linda Buckthorp, took place. Linda is a noted chef who will personally prepare the meal, with entertainment by none other than Tim Welch himself. After a few margarita-infused interdonor (sic) negotiations, the package was finally won by a group of 12 (adding two more was part of the deal) attendees, with the event itself TBD in the coming months.
The Lake Chapala community could not be more proud of Los Cantantes del Lago and their immeasurable contribution to the musical fabric of this area. If you love choral music as much as I do, you’ll enjoy the audio clip that will play upon opening their website here: Facts – Los Cantantes del Lago.
One of my lasting memories of the evening was this very proper lady who sat next to me during the show. She was dressed in casual cocktail attire, well made up and bejeweled…basically a classy gal! It was only when I looked down that I noticed she was bare-footed and sporting a mighty colorful pedicure. She laughed and posed agreeably when I rather brazenly asked if I could capture the moment on film, as I thought her free expression reflected the spirit of the whole evening – and indeed, this whole area.
There’s an abundance of generosity of spirit, colorful personalities (and nails), festive celebrations for almost any occasion, music of every genre, legit theater, spectacular food choices and a mix of cultures that is unlike anything I’ve known. Like the omnipresent tequila, born in this area of Mexico, it’s fun and a intoxicating. A guest at the party told me of an axiom widely used here and experienced frequently by tourists and lifetime residents alike, “Everything is possible in Mexico”. I think I’m starting to believe it.
Now, what color would you call her toenails? My guess would be Chartreuse, but let me know if you feel otherwise…..