Marimba celebration is a highlight of the weekend

This photo comes from 'The Capitals of Spanish America,' an 1888 book by William Eleroy Curtis. It probably is a Costa Rican street scene.

The marimba, that emblematic Costa Rican musical instrument, takes the center stage this weekend as Santa Bárbara de Santa Cruz puts on its first Expoferia in Guanacaste.

This is one of several events planned for the weekend.

The Santa Bárbara festival begins today with demonstrations in the morning of constructing the traditional instrument. Topics include materials, types of wood and methods to keep the instrument in tune.

There is a parade with cimarronas, the Tico-style band, folk dancing and local foods. At 3 p.m. there is the start of a six-hour series of marimba concerts, which gives way at 9 p.m. for a grand ball with, of course, the Marimba Orquesta Maribel de Santa Bárbara.

The event is being sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. Organizers said that 50 percent of the proceeds will go to the Santa Bárbara marimba school to keep the tradition alive.

The marimba, of course, is that double keyboard instrument that grew up in Central America probably with the expertise of African slaves. The instrument has been modernized, and many professionals in orchestras use instruments with man-made materials.

Still, a marimba can be folksy primitive in the style of Colonial instruments. Each key has a resonator affixed below. Traditionally these are of wood, but some native builders use gourds.

The musician usually plays with multiple mallets specially designed for the keys they hit.

Saturday is full of cultural events, another parade. more local food, marimba concerts, a 9 p.m. folkloric concert and music until midnight.

Closeup view of marimba keyboard

Sunday is more of the same, but organizers hope that visitors also will take some tours to other Guanacaste sites, like the nearby La Casona, horse ranches and the town of  Guaitil where traditional ceramics are produced. Organizers also mentioned the Parque Nacional Palo Verde where there will be games for youngsters and a possible tour of the  Río Tempisque. Ox cart rides also are possible.

More information and a map is on a Web page. 

From the Central Valley the town is best reached via the Puente la Amistad

Franz Liszt

For those staying in the Central Valley, the Teatro Nacional and the Librería Francesa  are presenting a tribute concert to Franz Liszt at 5 p.m.  Saturday. Jacques Sagot is the pianist who will play a number of pieces composed by the Hungarian artist. The concert is in the foyer of the theater. Admission is 2,000 colons or about $4. Seniors with a gold card get in for half price. This year is the bicentennial of Liszt’s birth. Although Hungarian, he lived for many years in Paris.

Guanacaste artists

Also in Guanacaste, The Hidden Garden Art Gallery opens a show featuring the work of a number of local artists. Works range from oil on canvas to photos and sculpture. The exhibit opens Saturday at 10 a.m. The gallery is  5 kilometers west of Liberia International Airport.

One-man show: Van Gogh

The Little Theatre Group plans an unusual one-man show starting tonight and running through a Sunday matinee.

“Joseph Kaknes, an accomplished actor, painter and performance artist, is presenting a unique and fascinating spectacle: He impersonates Van Gogh, the brilliant yet unfortunate 19th century painter,” said a Little Theatre announcement.. “Kaknes narrates the life story of the Dutch artist at the same time as he is creating a replica of one of the master’s works.”

The curtain tonight and Saturday is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday the matinee is at 2:30 p.m. The location is Teatro Laurence Olivier next to Sala Garbo on Avenida 8 at Calle 26. The English-speaking theater group maintains a Web site for reservations.

Firefighter olympics

Three teams from the Cuerpo de Bomberos will compete Saturday against at least 18 other teams, mostly from private companies, to see who is the country’s best.

The event is at Pima Cenada in Barreal de Heredia, starting at 8 a.m. Admission is free.

Participants in this, the Torneo de Brigadas 2011, will race against time in a obstacle course with an emphasis on firefighters’ skills and good practices, the bomberos said in an announcement.

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