Living in an Upended World: A musical message of hope in San Miguel de Allende

Living in an Upended World: A musical message of hope in San Miguel de Allende

By Natalie Taylor


With some lifting of restrictions, the municipality has allowed performances to take place. One such event will feature Cynthia Valenzuela, a talented and internationally recognized Mexican singer, harpist, and luthier. She is one of the few Mexican harpists specializing in playing the Celtic harp; which is characterized by a curved pillar instead of a straight one; and a clear, resonant sound. Her harp studies began as a teenager at the National Conservatory of Music, where she also sang as soprano in the choir. She began composing music and directing, and her accomplishments gained her acceptance at UT in Austin on a full scholarship. Cynthia has won numerous international awards, beginning in 1988, at the age of 24, with the BMI student composer award in New York—an annual award honoring the best international songwriters and publishers. This was followed by three consecutive first prizes at the Grand National Irish Fair. In 1990 she composed and performed the music of an MTV Award-winning short film. Cynthia continued her musical career in the US, then in Mexico, winning additional honors such as first prize for Best Sound and Light Installation in 2006 at the Lüdenscheid Lichtrouten, in Germany. 


Cynthia’s accomplishments are not limited to harp playing; she has been creating harps for over 20 years. In 2005, after studying different harps around the world, such as the “earth harp” which relies on soil to carry the sound, she co-created the unique aqua-harp. The frame is one entire piece, hollow, without any joints; made with a mix of stainless steel (for strength) and aluminum (for lightness). Another unique feature is that it has silver springs (92.5 percent) As the name implies, the aqua harp can be fully submerged and played under water—a distinct medium for the conduction of sound, which can be heard both under water and above.


In 2008 she was the co-creator of a 4 meter-high harp, considered the largest in the world. It was accepted into the Guinness World Book of Records but lacking funds to pay the 1 million peso fee, could not be officially included in the book. 


Cynthia Valenzuela will join other excellent musicians at Alicia Rappoport’s SHIRA Concert in San Miguel de Allende. Cynthia will sing, and play the harp and lute. She says that her inspiration for this concert was “a desire to deliver a message of hope, love, and compassion to all sentient beings.” She also expressed the hope that the spellbinding language of sacred music would bring about a feeling of unity. Meet the artist and listen to unusual ancient instruments in a repertory of haunting Hebrew and Sephardic songs.