Seré Libre, the new album from multi-award-winning Venezuelan-Canadian artist Eliana Cuevas (set for release on ALMA Records on May 12) brings two musical worlds together in highly original fashion. Her eloquent compositions and pure and expressive vocals are enriched by a 27-piece orchestra in a unique meeting of classical and Afro-Venezuelan sounds that is genuinely thrilling.
Seré Libre marks a debut recording with the Angel Falls Orchestra — a new musical entity featuring some of the best and most versatile classical musicians in Canada — arranged, conducted, and produced by Juno Award-winning pianist Jeremy Ledbetter.
This is a work that can appeal equally to both classical and Latin music lovers with open ears receptive to a fresh sound executed with finesse and emotional power.
The seven tracks across Seré Libre showcase the intricate and layered elements of traditional Venezuelan music, often less known or understood in comparison to other Latin genres. “Being able to feature it in an orchestral setting like this was a dream come true,” Eliana says of the album’s impact. The mandate for the song selection was to choose compositions that had a deep personal significance for Eliana. Songs, ranging from covers of Venezuelan traditional, to Eliana’s own work draw inspiration from an array of social, personal and emotive themes: a deep yearning to witness improvement of the economic and political situation in Venezuela, living in the present moment, life after death, loss, love and beyond, all set against the lush widescreen sound of a full orchestra painting a bright and colourful musical canvas.
Slated as the second single is “Llegó,” a breezy and upbeat Latin jazz number featuring an inventive synth solo from Ledbetter.
The cornerstone song of Seré Libre is the title track. Translated as “I Shall Be Free,” it is a nine-minute epic journey that showcases the musical reach of the orchestra and Eliana’s passionate performance. “That is a song I dedicate to Venezuela,” says Cuevas, alluding to the troubled state of her homeland, “but it can also be interpreted as being about finding freedom from whatever is holding you back.”
Seré Libre marks the most ambitious musical project of Eliana’s career to date. Taking many risks and adhering to ever-changing pandemic protocols in the process, courage and perseverance were the ingredients that ensured a collaborative experience for all. The recording was completed without the isolation one experiences in a recording studio – thus, no room for edits or numerous takes. This process marked Eliana’s first time performing with a full orchestra – many of the members she had never met prior.
Eliana and Jeremy worked with the newly-formed Angel Falls Orchestra, named after the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall of the same name located in Auyán-tepui, Canaima National Park, Venezuela. Assembled by contractor Rebekah Wolkstein, the orchestra comprises 27 A-list musicians with the flexibility to work within this unique fusion of classical and Venezuelan sounds. That lineup included Cuevas’ regular bandmates, drummer Mark Kelso, bassist Ross Macintyre, and percussionist Juan Carlos Medrano.
The vibrant, dynamic album was created with a stunning long-form visual performance of the recording alongside the Angel Falls Orchestra, accompanied by a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Seré Libre is the seventh entry in Eliana Cuevas’s eclectic discography, one that has brought her wins at the National Jazz Awards, Toronto Independent Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, and the Independent Music Awards in the US.
Stay tuned for more as the elements of Seré Libre make waves in the months ahead. Eliana’s boldest artistic statement to date, it deserves your close attention.
The first single from Seré Libre is “Como Llora Una Estrella”. It symbolizes a beautiful tribute to Eliana’s grandfather, who adored the poetic song about heartbreak, originally written by Antonio Carrillo. The title translates to ‘the way a star cries’ and is a favourite among many.
“It takes me back home to my childhood and to my family,” Eliana adds. “I had to practice singing this song several times before the recording session because Jeremy’s breathtaking arrangement would bring me to tears every time and I needed to be able to sing it! One of my favourite moments happens in the interlude, it was supposed to be an instrumental section, but I had to sing a beautiful line Jeremy wrote, I just couldn’t resist!”
Thom Varey directed the production at the beautiful Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, with top audio engineers Justin Gray and Patric McGroarty.