Elko, NV – In Mexico and communities across the United States, musicians are composing and performing corridos (a form of ballad) to commemorate important community stories and to express their everyday experiences. These musicians and their songs will be given a platform on Saturday, August 25, in Woodburn, Oregon, at the Gran Concurso de Corridos, a contest produced by the Western Folklife Center, and hosted by the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation at the Cipriano Ferrel Eduation Center, 1274 Fifth Street in Woodburn. Anyone with a corrido to share is invited to participate; individuals as well as musical groups are welcome. Cash prizes will be awarded to participants in various categories including best original composition and best performance of a traditional corrido. The Grand Prize is $300; four additional prizes of $200 will also be awarded. Gran Concurso de Corridos is free and open to the public.
“Corridos document contemporary Mexican life and provide a vehicle for people to tell stories that are meaningful to them,” says Meg Glaser, Western Folklife Center artistic director. “Corridos can be timeless. Older corridos about famous horseraces, heroes, and the Mexican revolution have become history lessons and are still being performed alongside corridos about more contemporary issues and events. Corridos are often used as newspapers in communities in Mexico, and increasingly, in the US.”
This summer, the Western Folklife Center is traveling across the western U.S. to document and interview corrido musicians. By highlighting the importance and relevance of corridos in the West, the Folklife Center hopes to educate the public about this tradition and the stories they reveal, and to encourage their composition and performance. A corrido contest held in Nampa, Idaho in July showcased more than a dozen corrido musicians and their work.
“We’re excited about hosting this event in Woodburn,” says Laura Isiordia, Community Leadership Director for the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation. “This part of Oregon is known for its large Latino population. We hope this event will offer an opportunity for people from this area to share their talents and ideas and celebrate our heritage.”
Contestants are limited to one corrido performance each. They are requested to bring a written copy of their corrido lyrics, and should plan on arriving at 3:00 pm to register in-person for the competition; performances begin at 4:00 pm. Contestants will be charged a $10 entry fee payable in cash at the time of registration. The Western Folklife Center will make high-quality recordings of the corrido contest and will offer a free CD recording of each contestant’s song as a gift to the contestant. Selected songs may be included on a CD that will be released later this fall on the Folklife Center’s Deep West Records label. In addition to the cash prizes, winners of the Gran Concurso de Corridos will be invited to showcase their songs at a festival celebrating KPCN-LP Radio Movimento’s first anniversary on the air. The event is sponsored by Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), and will be held at 300 Young St. in Woodburn on August 26. Radio Movimento is a Woodburn-based, non-profit radio station that airs music and local news and educates the public about community issues. For more information about the Gran Concurso de Corridos, or to express interest in participating, please call local coordinator Juan Argumedo at 503-884-7481.
In conjunction with the corrido contest, the Western Folklife Center and the Woodburn School District will also produce a corrido composition workshop for high school students and adults. Students will learn about the historical roots, themes and structure of this traditional song form through listening to and studying popular corridos, and writing their own corridos to commemorate a personal or community story. The workshop will focus primarily on corrido writing, but participants will also work with local and visiting musicians to put their corridos to music. No previous musical experience is necessary. The four-day workshop will take place August 20 ‑ 23, 2007, from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Woodburn High School. To register for the workshop, contact local coordinator Juan Argumedo at 503-884-7481. There is a $10 registration fee per participant.
In addition to documenting the corrido tradition in the West, the Western Folklife Center is also interviewing Mexicans from rural ranch backgrounds living in the western U.S. Those who would like to be interviewed for this project should contact Juan Díes at 773-354-7663.
These programs are made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, with support from Farmworker Housing Development Corporation and Cipriano Ferrel Education Center, Woodburn School District, Oregon Historical Society Folklife Program, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), Radio Bilingüe, Radio Movimento “La Voz del Pueblo” 96.3 FM, Culture, Language, and Art in the Valuing of Our Students, Tutors-to-You, Luise’s Taqueria, Lupita’s Family Mexican Restaurant, Chavez Taxi, Inc., Miranda’s Bakery, Pacific Auto Sales, Angela Miranda - Coldwell Banker Real Estate, and many other community partners in Woodburn, OR.
Producer of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering for 23 years, the mission of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.
Photos available on request.