Utah Symphony Celebrates Día de Muertos with ‘Coco’


(Photo by Kathleen Sykes | Courtesy of Utah Symphony)

By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor

With Halloween now over, the spooky decorations and costumes are being tucked away across many households. But when Halloween ends, another celebration begins — Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead — a major holiday in Mexican culture. The Utah Symphony participated in this year’s celebrations of the tradition by featuring Disney and Pixar’s “Coco” as their next installment of their Films in Concert series on Nov. 1-2 at Abravanel Hall.

“Coco” has garnered more accolades in the two years since its release than one can list in an article, although each one is well deserved. The Utah Symphony, led by associate conductor Conner Gray Covington, adapted the film’s world-renowned score by Michael Giacchino beautifully. For those who aren’t familiar with “Coco,” audiences join 12 year old Miguel Rivera as he travels accidentally to the Land of the Dead on a quest to pursue his one true dream — to become a musician. The choice arrives at the perfect time in the Utah Symphony’s series, and the incredible soundtrack of the film came to life in Abravanel Hall.

Utah Symphony’s Ofrenda (Photo by Palak Jayswal | Daily Utah Chronicle)

The magic of “Coco” and the rich cultural traditions it’s based upon didn’t just occur inside the hall itself. Outside the venue, Rio Sonora food truck offered authentic Mexican flavors to visitors. However, the line was so long that there simply wasn’t enough time for patrons to eat and get into the show on time. Inside, the Día de Muertos celebrations continued. The Utah Symphony had set up its own ofrenda — an altar traditionally set up for the holiday with photos, flowers, candles and more — to honor deceased composers. The lobby was buzzing with a performance from Esperanza Elementary, where the Mariachi Las Aguilas performed “Llorona,” adorned in painted faces and costumes. The students weren’t the only ones dressed up, though. Many visitors also dressed up in face paint and costumes. Overall, the atmosphere within was welcoming and friendly, just like “Coco.”

I’ve previously written about the Film in Concert series when the Utah Symphony put on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” back in August. My experience with the performance of “Coco” was not only better — it also renewed my commitment to looking at classically performed music in a new way. Often times, it’s easy to overlook and even forget what music and scores add to a production — especially when there is so much happening on screen. But with a film like “Coco,” where music is one half of the heart of the film (the other half is family), audience members really benefit from taking a moment to simply focus on the music and what it communicates. Overall, the musicians of the Utah Symphony were poised, on cue and as talented as ever. While there were one or two instances where the music was too loud, blocking the audio of the film itself, no real harm came from it. 

With this series, the Utah Symphony continues to steal hearts and open the dialogue on how to reinvent attending the symphony. The films they choose to show make for excellent performances, but the musicians who bring these scores to life are truly what make this experience so special. Once again, the Utah Symphony has created magic for Utahns. 

You can find the rest of the Film in Concert series schedule here. Student discounts are available for tickets.


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