Think mariachi music, and you think traditional Mexican tunes. But Juan M. Elias wants the music to make you think pop, classical and big band, too.
As executive director of Los Ninos Production Co., he is involved in putting on the second annual Orange County International Mariachi Festival on Saturday evening. The festival attempts to deliver not only traditional songs for the purists, but also contemporary sounds for the uninitiated.
"We are trying to expand our audience, to reach out to people who haven't been exposed to mariachi music before," Elias said. "We feel we have something for everyone."
At last year's event, mariachi groups performed Disney tunes, including "It's a Small World" and the theme from "Pinocchio," in addition to traditional songs.
At this year's event, which will be at the Anaheim Convention Center and is expected to attract about 7,000, the highlight will be twofold: a performance by Lucero, a popular singer and actress in Mexico, and several production numbers involving all four mariachi groups on the bill, Lucero and a 49-member folk dance troupe.
The troupe, Ballet Folklorico de San Juan, based in Tucson, will kick off the 3 1/2-hour show. The first band to perform will be Placentia-based Mariachi Tlaquepaque. Next up will be the all-female Las Perlitas Tapatias of Guadalajara. South El Monte-based Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, which likes to have fun with big-band numbers during its set, will follow. After the intermission, Mexico City-based Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, which has been performing for almost a century in various incarnations and has been dubbed by those in the know as "the world's greatest mariachi band," will perform solo and then with Lucero.
Los Ninos' selection of Jose Ronstadt, affiliated with Spanish-language television network Telemundo (and cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt), to emcee is also an example of Elias' desire to make the music accessible to newcomers.
"About 25% to 30% of the audience doesn't speak Spanish," so Los Ninos picked Ronstadt, who will emcee in both Spanish and English, "so everybody knows what's going on," he said.
Moreover, the music can transcend age barriers.
"We have parents with their children and grandparents with their grandchildren" attending the festival, Elias said. "Any time you can reach that many age groups, that's beautiful and rewarding."
* What: Orange County International Mariachi Festival.
* When: Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m.
* Where: Anaheim Convention Center, 800 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim.
* Whereabouts: Exit the Santa Ana (5) Freeway at Harbor Boulevard south. Proceed south on Harbor, then take a right onto Katella Avenue. The center is on the left at the first traffic signal.
* Wherewithal: Tickets are $18.50, $28.50, $38.50, $45.50 and $56.50. They can be purchased by phone or at the door.
* Where to call: (800) 882-1177.