The San Francisco Symphony presents its 15th annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration at Davies Symphony Hall, featuring a concert program of traditional and contemporary Latin American music, preceded by a festive array of family-friendly activities, and followed by the ¡Fiesta! Día de los Muertos fundraiser, on Saturday, November 5. Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts the San Francisco Symphony in the concert program, which includes Arturo Márquez’ Concierto de Otoño, featuring trumpet soloist Pacho Flores, as well as music by Evencio Castellanos Yumar, José Pablo Moncayo García, Gabriela Ortiz, and Silvestre Revueltas. The concert opens with an Aztec neon serpent procession featuring Casa Círculo Cultural and Canción de Obsidiana. Every year leading up to the Symphony’s Day of the Dead celebration, the lobbies of Davies Symphony Hall are transformed with immersive art installations and altars built by local artists to honor the living and the deceased. Guests are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the art installations, family activities, sugar skulls, and live music, and everyone is invited to contribute to the interactive altars.
Curated by longtime SF Symphony collaborator Martha Rodríguez-Salazar, this year’s Día de los Muertos celebration honors the ancestral and sacred rites and beliefs of several Indigenous cultures of the Americas that hold the belief that death and life are not two independent and isolated states but a natural part of the cycle of life.
The event features music, art installations, and ofrendas from both ancient and contemporary communities, including the Náhuatl from central Mexico, the Wixárikas (or Huicholes) from the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Mayas from the Yucatán peninsula, and a special homage to Native American people of the Bay Area.
When the Spaniards came to the Americas, one of the most important celebrations for the Aztecs was called Xocotl Huetzi, which translates as “the great feast of the gods,” marking the completion of the annual cycle of cultivation of maize. It was celebrated around the same time as the Christian feast days of All Saints and All Souls, on November 1 and 2. In an attempt to win the spirit of the Indigenous people, the Spaniards put All Saints Day on a par with the Day of the Dead, even though the two celebrations have completely different origins.
The Day of the Dead stands today as an example of the cultural fusion that took place following the conquest of the Americas, and the resilience of Indigenous people to retain and adapt their sacred beliefs amidst a new Western presence
Martha Rodríguez-Salazar comments “We hope that this event inspires a deep appreciation of what life can offer us through music, art, and community.”
Día de los Muertos Concert is presented in partnership with the San Francisco Arts Commission. ¡Fiesta! Día de los Muertos presenting sponsors: Alexander’s Steakhouse Group, Pamela Rummage Culp, and Sharon & David Seto.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY LOBBY ACTIVITIES
Beginning at 12:45pm on November 5, guests can enjoy art and activities in the colorfully decorated Davies Symphony Hall lobbies. Attendees will be greeted by and have an opportunity to take photos with catrines and catrinas, the iconic image of Día de los Muertos celebrations, presented by Casa Círculo Cultural of Redwood City. In Lak’ech Danza Azteca, a traditional Aztec dance group based in Oakland, will perform outside of Davies Symphony Hall on Grove Street. Bay Area artist Irma Ortiz will demonstrate her process of creating decorated sugar skulls in an interactive exhibit and will have sugar skull decorating activities for children.
The Mexican Museum will have two activities for the whole family—Ojos de Dios and skull mask making—and there will be a Huichol skull coloring activity for families, with artwork created by artist Adrián Arias. Bilingual docents stationed at each altar and installation will help guide and immerse the audience in the holiday’s rich cultural traditions.
¡FIESTA! DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS RECEPTION & DINNER
The ¡Fiesta! Día de los Muertos fundraising event, held by the SF Symphony’s San Francisco League and chaired by Sharon Seto, follows the concert with continued celebrations at the iconic Don Ramon’s restaurant. Ticket packages include premium seating at the concert followed by margarita reception, seated dinner, and online auction. Presenting sponsors of ¡Fiesta! Día de los Muertos are Alexander’s Steakhouse Group, Pamela Rummage Culp, and Sharon & David Seto. Performing at the reception will be the Community Music Center Mariachi, featuring members of CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program and the SFUSD Mariachi Program. CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program is a tuition-free program offering a comprehensive music education with a focus on Latin music and primarily serving Latino youth from the Mission District.
Packages start at $350 and can be purchased online here or by phone at 415-503-5351.
Proceeds from the event support the San Francisco Symphony and its artistic, community, and education programs.