José Hernández Mariachi Sol de México

Written by Elaina Stuppler

“A Very Merry Mariachi Christmas”

Image courtesy of Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández

At the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on December 20th

Mariachi Music began in the 19th century in Jalisco, México. Instruments that make up a mariachi band are violins, trumpets, a guitarron (which is a very large 6 string fretless guitar), vihuela (similar to the guitarron, but smaller in size with 5 strings, round back, and sounds like a tenor guitar), traditional guitar, and vocals. A mariachi band can be as small as 4 people or have dozens of musicians! Typically there are 2-3 trumpets, 6-8 violins, one vihuela, one guitarron, and one guitar. Musicians can take turns singing or being back up vocals.

Mariachi music can be about nature, love, religion, and admiration for their country. The songs have a wide variety of styles such as waltz, polka, minuet, cumbias, huapangos, marches, ballads, rancheras, pasodobles and serenades! The beautiful music is played in joyous celebrations like birthdays, weddings, serenades, holidays, country life, and also sad occasions like funerals and betrayals.

Musicians in mariachi bands wear traditional ranchero suits which are intricately embroidered and are often paired with a sombrero (a wide brimmed hat) and a silk tie. This type of suit originated in the 17th century and was typical attire of a “charro” which is a skilled horseman. 

José Hernández Mariachi Sol de México will be performing “A Very Merry Mariachi Christmas” at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, December 20th. This concert is very special because Maestro Hernández blends Mariachi Music with a tribute to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite as well as performing classical Mariachi Music. 

When I spoke with Maestro Hernández, he said Mariachi Sol de México is known as, “the ensemble that has always pushed the limits of what a mariachi group can play!” Mariachi Sol de México does, “play all the traditional music of México, but we also play some semi-classical and some classical pieces.” 

Maestro Hernández’s favorite song from The Nutcracker is the “Waltz of the Flowers” because “it’s so beautiful and melodic and my father used to love hearing waltzes. Mariachis play a lot of waltzes, especially in the 1950’s.”

He also combines other classical music with mariachi music in his concert such as “La Boda de Luis Alonso” by Geronimo Jimenez:

And “La Rondinella”:

Maestro Hernández comes from a long line of musicians and loves, “the idea of sharing this music because it’s been in my family since 1836. It’s a lot of generations of mariachi musicians in my family.”

In addition to making music, he created the José Hernández Mariachi Nationals and Summer Institute for students. José Hernández said, “I was exposed to a lot of music from Mozart playing in concert bands, playing in the jazz bands, and also marching bands going through the whole public school system. That’s why it’s very important for me to give back also to my community. Especially the kids that don’t have the economic resources to take private lessons. I really try to give them my time.”

Currently, he has three of his six violinists who were part of his foundation currently in his band! One of them was four years old when he started taking music lessons at his foundation. And the other two were eight or nine years old.

Maestro Hernández’s main instrument is the trumpet and describes each instrument as having its own personality. He said, “I think the most important thing in music in general and in Mariachi a lot, is the expression that you give with the instrument is very important. The connection between your heart, your mind, and your technique is very important.”

In addition to playing music, he has a restaurant in Orange County, California called Casa del Sol where Mariachi Music is performed!