On Wednesday, Dec 5th, the Walt Disney Hall became witness to more than just a tribute to the late Chavela Vargas; it validated the spirit and sentiment of the late singer through three of the most beautiful voices of Latin America. Ely Guerra, Tania Libertad and Eugenia Leon took charge of the celebration by performing some of Chavela’s most popular and favorite songs.
The evening began with a video filmed at Chavela’s home in February of 2012, just six months before she passed away from heart and respiratory problems. Although looking physically frail at 93 years old and sitting on a wheel chair with a cigarette at hand, Chavela showed that spunk that was so characteristic of her as she spoke of some of her old friends like Jose Alfredo Jimenez and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. As she spoke, there was a different tone in her voice; perhaps it was the tone of someone that knew that a reunion with her old friends was not that far away.
The musical part of the evening began with an acoustic set by Spanish rock goddess, Ely Guerra. Accompanied only by her acoustic guitar and her melodic voice, Ely gave superb performances of her own compositions. To end her set, she put her guitar down and gave an a capella performance of “Quiereme Mucho”. After the first few words, she left the microphone on the stand and armed only with the strength of her voice filled the hall with a skin-curling rendition of the classic.
Tania Libertad joined the festivities with renditions of Latin American classics such as “Gracias A La Vida”, “Cancion De Las Simples Cosas” and “En Un Rincon Del Alma”. But without a doubt, the best moments of her performance were when she sang “Un Mundo Raro” and “Ella” from Jose Alfredo Jimenez, which were standards in Chavela’s live repertoire.
Following Libertad was Eugenia Leon, who hit the stage with such energy and charisma that it didn’t take long for the audience to begin singing along to “Piensa En Mi” from Agustin Lara, and “Amar Y Vivir’, “Toda Una Vida” and “Vamonos”. One of the most emotional moments of the evening was her rendition of “Cruz De Olvido”. As sung by Leon, the emotion of that song was evident in the faces of the audience. Some people sat holding back tears while others sang at the top of their lungs with tears rolling down their cheeks.
Ely Guerra and Tania Libertad joined Eugenia onstage to end the evening. Then, and in unity with the audience, they made the venue echo with “El Ultimo Trago”, “Volver Volver”, and a very emotional “La Llorona”.
Throughout the evening and on the screen above the stage, was a picture of a younger Chavela Vargas smiling.