What could two small fishing villages, one in Scotland and one in Mexico, possibly have in common?
Well, besides an entrancing, almost-magical ambiance and a bevy of quirky characters among the populace, both places are filled with the sound of rollicking music.Ferness, Scotland is the fictional setting for Lakeside Little Theatre’s Season 49 opening show, ‘Local Hero’, a world-premiere stage adaptation of the 1983 mini-classic film by Scotsman Bill Forsyth. Director Neal Checkoway, who penned the adaptation with Forsyth’s blessing, has convinced two young talents from Ajijic’s most prolific musical family to help him fill the stage with traditional Scottish ceilidh music.
“A ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee) is a traditional Scottish social gathering, usually involving folk music and dancing,” Checkoway explains. “As you might imagine, they tend to be rather boisterous, alcohol-fueled celebrations with traditional song and dance, often accompanied by violin/fiddle and accordion. That certainly sounded to me like a Scottish version of a Mexican fiesta.”
The ceilidh is an important scene in the play, which is a modern fable about what happens when a U.S. oil company decides to buy an entire Scottish town to make way for a big refinery. And Checkoway wanted to bring vitality to the sequence by using live music on stage during performances.
“I knew there were a lot of good local Mexican musicians who could probably pull it off,” says Checkoway, “but after hearing the musical accompaniment at the Los Cantantes ‘Americana’ concert earlier this year, my mind was set: I definitely wanted to recruit Juan Pablo Medeles to play violin in the show.”
Medeles — better known as Juanpi among his friends and relatives — is the 16 year old son of local vet Jesus Medeles Romero, as is his elder brother Chuni (Jesus junior, age 29,) who will play accompaniment on accordion and keyboard.
The Medeles brothers are members of a musical dynasty. Their late grandfather, known in his days as Ajijic’s sole experienced piano-tuner, instilled a deep love and appreciation for music among his brood of twelve, all of whom grew up learning to sing and play musical instruments. They all continued refining and mastering their musical skills even as they pursued studies for professional careers in diverse fields such as architecture, medicine and education. They eventually passed down their passion for music to their own offspring.
Although Juanpi and Chuni picked up a lot from their dad, a great guitarist in his own right, their serious musical bent came from their late uncle Victor Manuel, a distinguished composer, orchestra conductor and founder of lakeside’s Centro de Estudios Musicales (CREM).
The Medeles boys, along with two sisters, brother Daniel and most of their numerous cousins first came under their uncle’s tutelage as toddlers, when they were taught to sing together in the family chorus.
Even at his tender age, Juanpi shows full potential to become a violin virtuoso and has high hopes of earning a scholarship to study at the Yehudi Menuhin Music School in Switzerland. Chuni, one of Ajijic’s busiest cultural activists, is showing his mettle in his first experience at playing accordion for “Local Hero.”
Chuni and Juanpi are excited at picking up a bit of acting experience with their appearance in “Local Hero.” And Checkoway is delighted with the progress they are showing under his direction. He believes that putting live musicians on stage will add a special dimension to the show, as well as setting a new precedent in LLT’s long and distinguished history.
The play will open Friday, October 4, 7:30 p.m., continuing for a nine-day run, excluding Monday night when the theater remains dark. Sunday performances are matinee shows, with the curtain rising at 3 p.m.