The Lake Chapala Auditorium celebrates its 40th anniversary this month (or does it?)
In this brief departure from our on-going series about artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala we introduce a family that had a special musical connection to the Lake Chapala Auditorium (Auditorio de la Ribera) in La Floresta, Ajijic, which had its first gala concert scheduled for forty years ago this month.
The Lake Chapala Auditorium Building Committee was established in May 1974. Various music and theater groups existed at Lake Chapala and they were always struggling to find suitable venues for productions, so the decision to aim for a purpose-built auditorium can not have been a hard one to make.
The foreign community at Lakeside joined forces with Mexican community leaders to gain the financial support of the state government and raise funds for the project.
Among those serving on the initial building committee, according to the Guadalajara Reporter of 18 May 1974, were Enid McDonald (the Canadian flying pioneer who spearheaded the local fund raising campaign), Hector Marquez, Manuel Pantoja, Josephine Warren (mother of Chris Luhnow who founded the long-running Traveler’s Guide to Mexico) and Dr William Winnie. The construction of the 500-seat auditorium was managed by the state Public Works department.
After the committee had seen the initial plans, it suggested modifying them slightly to expand the proposed foyer to make it suitable for displaying art exhibits. Final plans were approved by the state government in September 1974 and construction started almost immediately. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on 24 September 1974, with building works expected to last eight months.
For a variety of reasons, it actually took somewhat longer and the formal opening of the auditorium was held on 25 September 1976. The final costs, according to an article by Joan Frost in the Guadalajara Reporter, came in at $328,000 (dollars). The state of Jalisco gave $250,000, with additional funding split between the municipality of Chapala, which donated the land and $8,000, and local fund raising which contributed $40,000, including the cost of installing air-conditioning.
According to the Lake Chapala Review (July 2011), the auditorium was formally opened on 25 September 1976 with a piano concert by Manuel Delaflor from Mexico City. Delaflor had just played at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Delaflor is one of Mexico’s most accomplished pianists. He studied music in Mexico City with Antonio Gomezanda and Juan Valle. Delaflor won first prize in the Bernard Flavigny Piano Contest, was a semifinalist in the Van Cliburn, and a finalist in the piano section of the Montreal International Musical Competition, Canada. He has been a soloist with orchestras in Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Russia and Romania. In addition to performing across Mexico, Delaflor has given solo recitals in the U.S., Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Germany, Austria, Italy, Romania, Poland and the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union.
However, Dale Palfrey, writing in the Guadalajara Reporter (22 September 2016), reports that this piano concert was cancelled at the last minute when it was discovered that the smooth walls of the new auditorium “made for abysmal acoustics. A garden party was held in its place. It took another year and a half to correct the sound problem and other flaws.” Palfrey goes on to say that the genuine inaugural concert was finally held on 15 March 1978, and featured soprano Lucille Sabella with the Guadalajara Symphony Orchestra and the Jalisco Philharmonic Chorus.
Delaflor’s impressive ability is highlighted in this 8-minute YouTube video:
This brings us neatly back to the musical family that had a special connection with the auditorium. The Baldwin grand piano that was to have been played by Manuel Delaflor at Auditorio de la Ribera had been donated to the auditorium the year before by Hilary Campbell, in memory of her sister Elsa.
Hilary Campbell, together with her two sisters, Elsa and Amy, and brother Alan, had lived in Chapala from the early 1950s. We take a longer look at this family’s own story in our next post.
Those early supporters, together with many others who have contributed to the facility’s maintenance and renovations over the years, can be justly proud of their efforts. The Lake Chapala Auditorium is either already 40 years old or soon will be, an enduring tribute to a fine spirit of co-operation between local residents, foreign visitors and municipal and state officials.
Want to help?
If you would like to contribute to the on-going campaign by registered non-profit Pro Auditorio (whose only purpose is to raise funds to improve the Ajijic Auditorium) please visit their Indiegogo page.
This second YouTube video featuring Manuel Delaflor playing in the Music Festival in Zitácuaro, Michoacán, in 2012. Enjoy!
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Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
Another great story Tony. I had no idea the auditorium had just been inaugurated the month before we arrived. I really think all your work should be translated into Spanish.
Just curious,have you ever gotten together with Prof. Manuel Flores?. He is known as the historian of Jocotepec and you probably met when you were living here.
≈ Have you read my article about Don Simon, who began bus service in Joco (the blue buses still belong to his family) I interviewed him when he was 100 and 102. The originator of the Joco saying “It’s better to arrive late at the bus station than early to the graveyard.”
Thanks for the kind words. My attempt to offer a Spanish translation (of my first book, Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury) did not go well. Even though the book was in stores like the Gonville chain, as well as local outlets, it never sold well. If anyone wants to finance and arrange translating other material for either the web or a book, then I’d like to hear from them!
I honestly don’t recall meeting Prof. Manuel Flores. I will have to do that next time. I have read, and very much like, your article about Don Simon, and wish more people everywhere (not just in Jocotepec) agreed with him!