Each song sets the stories of these women against a vibrant musical backdrop, written and composed by Guillén and UNCG associate professor of music composition Alejandro Rutty, and performed by the Lorena Guillén Tango Ensemble. Guillén and Rutty masterfully blend Guillén’s celebrated soprano with interview excerpts and a variety of Latin American styles to create a haunting and heartfelt interpretation of her subjects’ experiences.
“I really wanted to give artistic voice to these women,” Guillén says. “Music can carry messages and really bring to people issues that otherwise they may only be reading about through newspapers. Music opens other channels of reception. The hope of the piece is that people will receive this, absorb it, and open new dialogues on this important issue.”
Using music to open dialogues is a recurring theme in Guillén’s career. In a project for the Triangle Jewish Chorale, Guillén and Rutty developed “Down Home: The Cantata Project,” which gave voice to Jewish immigrants and residents of North Carolina through the use of archival and new interviews woven together into a choral-orchestral-audio collage.
With grants from ArtsGreensboro, New Music USA, and UNCG’s own College of Visual and Performing Arts, Guillén and Rutty released “The Other Side of My Heart” last year. Since debuting the album with a performance at UNCG, Guillén has performed the music all over North Carolina and as far away as Los Angeles.
“I feel that these women come alive in front of the audience every time we play the music,” Guillén says. “I am tremendously grateful to these six women who found value in sharing their stories. This was part of my promise to them from the very beginning: to bring this piece everywhere possible.”