A Toast to Bolero | Music | Style Weekly

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  • Keshia Eugene
  • The members of Miramar, an acclaimed bolero group from Richmond that has played major concerts around the world. Pictured in the back: Giustino Riccio, Cameron Ralston and Sebastian Cruz. In the front are Reinaldo Alvarez, Marlysse Simmons and Laura Ann Singh.

You won’t find many voices in Richmond more well-loved and well-traveled than those of Laura Ann Singh and Reinaldo Alvarez. The co-lead singers of bolero group Miramar have harmonized at the Kennedy Center in New York City, performed in Europe, South America and Russia, and shared a stage with the Richmond Symphony.

So it’s worth taking notice when Singh says this about an upcoming performance: “There’s so much good energy around it. I feel like it’s going to be a really special night.”

On Feb. 14, Miramar will stage an intentionally timed, classically romantic dinner show in a reinvented setting – Hotel Greene’s Crown Room – accompanied by Richmond-based string quartet Rosette. The $50 price of admission includes “welcome bubbly,” an entree choice, two sides and dessert, as well as the opportunity to hear Singh and Alvarez voice Spanish-language love songs in the bolero style that originated in Cuba around the start of the twentieth century.

Some will be new original tunes; Miramar is in the early stages of recording a stylistically diverse album at Spacebomb Studios that’s tentatively slated for late-2022 release. Others will continue the group’s ongoing mission of shining a light on the work of Puerto Rican composer and singer Sylvia Rexach, who died in 1961. “Even scholars of Latin music don’t really know much about her in the English-speaking world,” Singh says. “In Latino communities, she’s extremely well-known.”

“She died really young,” Singh adds, “[and] she didn’t perform a lot of her own music… Most of it was made famous by other people.”

In 2016, Miramar shared the full-length tribute “Dedication to Sylvia Rexach,” which compiled fresh takes on 10 of Rexach’s compositions. A few days after the Valentine’s Night show, they’ll release another Rexach reimagining – a wrenching lament entitled “Olas y Arenas” about unrequited love, written from the perspective of sand that’s just out of the waves’ reach.

“She does this thing repeatedly where she takes one idea, one image, and she keeps going at it,” Singh says. “It takes skill and craft as a lyricist to do that and not get into corny tropes, especially when you’re talking about love. She’s a master, honestly.”

Like most bands, Miramar hasn’t been as active as it might have been over the last two years, though the exceptions are just that: exceptional. In 2021, the group appeared in an episode of the “Elevator Pitch” video series, which documents performances in the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art’s strikingly stylized elevator. Other recent highlights include a socially distanced concert alongside the Richmond Symphony in late 2020 and a two-week tour through Russia in the earliest days of the pandemic.

“We left [for Russia] like, ‘Have you heard about this weird thing happening in Wuhan?’ And then in the middle of our trip, we were like, ‘Are we allowed to go home?’”

Health concerns notwithstanding, Miramar was right where they wanted to be sonically on that Russian tour. The group was accompanied by local string quartets throughout their trip, reflecting the direction in which their music is headed. At the center is keyboardist and bandleader Marlysse Simmons-Argandoña’s string arrangements.

“Marlysse is [an] amazing arranger for strings,” Singh says. “We’ve worked with strings in New York, we’ve worked with strings all through Russia, and the reason we’ve done those live shows is because of the success that we’ve had with Rosette – because they were willing to explore this territory.”

Look back to Miramar’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which went live in January of 2017, and you’ll find three of the four members of Rosette: violinists Ellen Cockerham Riccio and Treesa Gold, and violist Kimberly Ryan. (Cellist Steph Barrett was unavailable for the taping.) Miramar and Rosette started working together a couple of years before taping at the Tiny Desk, and in Singh’s estimation, the collaboration has changed Miramar’s creative course.

“It feels like you’re in a movie,” she says of playing with the quartet. “Because of knowing Rosette and having these amazing musicians that are willing to work with us – and they’re friends – I think it opened up our concept of what’s actually possible, and what we should be reaching for as far as performance going forward.”

The setting on Feb. 14 will be similarly cinematic. The Crown Room shares ownership and a building with Hotel Greene, the dramatically decorated indoor mini golf course that boasts a lobby bar and restaurant. Singh was working with proprietors Jim Gottier and Andrea Ball before the pandemic hit, singing regularly at Hotel Greene with long-running Richmond-based purveyors of Brazilian music Quatro na Bossa. The Crown Room occupies the space once taken up by Greenleaf’s Pool Room, which closed in March of 2020.

“Jim has an incredible eye for aesthetics, and the space looks incredible,” Singh says. “It’s huge, it’s cavernous, but it feels really intimate.”

Miramar’s Crown Room show will be the final date in a three-stop mini-tour that also includes a stop at the Williamsburg Regional Library (with a pre-concert talk scheduled) and an engagement at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. While Singh says she’s always loved gigging, she finds herself increasingly drawn to events that are distinctive and that reflect a heightened level of intentionality on the audience’s part. In her estimation, listeners are “reaching out more” since the pandemic’s onset.

“People want to feel something other than anxiety about the news and disappointment about things getting shut down,” she says. “There’s something a little bit less casual about it right now that I really like.”

Certainly something worth toasting over a glass of bubbly.

Miramar will perform in collaboration with string quartet Rosette at Hotel Greene’s Crown Room on Feb. 14. Dinner reservations are sold out, but show-only tickets are available via Eventbrite. Doors open at 7 p.m. for walk in show only guests

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