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West Coast Folk Band Plays Joyful Gig At SHS



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On January 4, Sandy Hook Elementary School bloomed with joyful music as students attended a very special, interactive concert all the way from San Francisco.

Cascada de Flores, composed of Jorge Liceaga and Arwen Lawrence, traveled to Newtown once more to reunite with band member Cynthia Holberg and perform their newest show. When it was announced that Holberg would also be joining the stage, cheers erupted from the young SHS audience.

Holberg, an SHS music educator, was a member of Cascada de Flores from 2006-2009 during her masters program at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. In class, Lawrence and Holberg realized their voices blended well, and Holberg was asked to join the existing band as a singer and percussionist.

Holberg toured with Cascada de Flores and was featured on two studio albums during her time in Oakland. After completing her program, the Stamford native moved back to Connecticut. Cascada followed to play at Holberg’s wedding in November 2010, and visited Hawley School to perform the show “El Abuelo,” where Holberg had started to teach.

The group has since reunited in Connecticut for a performance at the 2014 Newtown Arts Festival and in 2019 to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month at Head O’ Meadow Elementary School. During the pandemic, Liceaga and Lawrence paid a virtual visit to SHS in 2021 for Cinco de Mayo.

Now at SHS in person, the three Flores launched into an engaging musical adventure titled “The Treasure of Aquiles,” with original songs by Liceaga and narration by Lawrence. This piece is a new folkloric gem honoring traditional Mexican music, dance, and storytelling elements to promote learning while having fun.

The story, in English, Spanish, and the indigenous language of Nàhuatl, follows Aquiles, a little boy on a quest sparked by boredom. As Lawrence narrated, “Aquiles ran out of ideas, and there was nothing left to do than to go and find some new ones.”

In pursuit of these new ideas, Aquiles observed animals and learned to make music to express himself and celebrate treasures of his culture.

Eager students were invited onstage to dance along, or listen closely to echo the band in percussive rhythms or melodic sounds. An upright bass, a tiny guitar called a jarana mosquito, a large “huapanguero” guitar, clapping hands, tapping “zapateado” (footwork), and vocals were some of the instruments that helped to tell Aquiles’ tale.

With continuous prompts for audience participation and integrated Spanish vocabulary lessons, “The Treasure of Aquiles” evoked creativity, wonder, and multicultural appreciation for SHS students.

Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at noelle@thebee.com.

Arwen Lawrence, left, begins to strum and Cynthia Holberg, right, stands with guiro at the ready as Jorge Liceaga, centerstage, segues into musical interlude before a rapt SHS audience. —Bee Photo, Veillette
In a bright green skirt, Arwen Lawrence of Cascada del Flores demonstrates her “zapateado” (footwork) to SHS students. She is accompanied by her singing bandmates Jorge Liceaga playing the guitarlike jarana mosquito, and SHS music educator Cynthia Holberg, who brushes along with a guiro. —Bee Photo, Veillette
Arwen Lawrence asks SHS for foods that start with a “ch” sound. Excited SHS students raise their hands high for a chance to say their favorites: “Cheeseburger!” “Churro!” —Bee Photo, Veillette.
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