ASPIRA hosts live entertainers for gala

Promise of memorable evening fulfilled
By T Martin

During the VIP Reception prior to ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania’s 12th Annual Benefit Gala, Executive Director Alfredo Calderón promised those in attendance a “memorable evening” as a way to thank all for their support and contributions during the last year.

Orquesta Del Barrio members warm up before playing a few dance numbers at the start of the Aspira general gala..

Celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year, ASPIRA delivered nothing less than the best with superb food and live entertainment from DJ Jose Rodriguez (I play it… like I dance it”); Orquesta Del Barrio, El Grupo Fuego and a long-awaited appearance from El Gran Combo of Puerto Rico.

“We’ve been trying to get El Gran Combo here for years, and finally we were able to get them!” Board of Directors Chair Lydia Hernández-Vélez announced at the Reception.

DJ Jose Rodriguez kept the atmosphere alive during the general gala between Orquesta Del Barrio performances. His upbeat, contemporary music kept attendees on the floor even while the bands were in recess. Despite earlier talk of relaxing his role with the group, Hector Serrano and his talented young dancers wowed attendees with El Gruipo Fuego’s presentation of a short dance number based on a scene from the movie “Mummy.”

Orquesta Del Barrio, a Philadelphia band, was formed in 1997 when Carlos Sanchez and Roberto Bernberg met. Together they established the Orquesta Del Barrio and produced their first recording of “Sonido Del Barrio.” The Band continues to perform and is about to release another CD in April of this year, under the leadership of recording producer Willie Ruiz.

Stealing the spotlight, however, was El Gran Combo, the Puerto Rico band celebrating “40 musical years of expression.” ASPIRA was proud to share the band’s triumphs and to congratulate them for so many successful musical hits. Delighting – and exciting – audiences around the world with traditional salsa rhythms, El Gran Combo remains a popular mainstay of the Latino music culture.

El Grupo Fuego, under the direction of Hector Serrano, performed a scene from the hit video “Mummy.”

The crowd’s reaction during the gala was electrifying, though not surprising for this ever-popular orchestra. Few could dance to any of the band’s music for the press of the crowd that filled the dance floor from the stage to the table area. As the band took requests from the audience, shouts of the group’s hits filled the room, but barely reached the stage for the competition to be heard.

The set of discs “40 Aniversario en Vivo” is a celebration of El Gran Combo’s birthday, a set in which the orchestra revives successful musical hits such as “El Menú” and “Timbalero.” The album earned them a Latin Grammy Award for “Best Salsa Album 2003.”

ASPIRA Director Alfredo Calderón promised a “memorable evening.” DJ Jose Rodriguez, Orquesta Del Barrio, El Grupo Fuego and El Gran Combo delivered nothing less.