nF Presents – Sixto Franco

Sixto Franco


(tap/click each work title to expand program notes)

Sonoran Storm (2018) - Nokothula Ngwenyama

Humidity rises in the desert. That scorch blaster hitting the face feels fuller and expectant upon exit. Haboob dust casuses a metal gate to clang. It’s bulging brown outside. Feet scamper across parched earth as clouds approach. Expanding into the atmosphere, they amass to quench aridity’s obsession. 

Anti-trades carry ocean moisture across Baja California to the Sierra Madres during the monsoons. It drifts north across el Camino del Diablo and swirls above the Mogollon Rim. Cumulus giants, made stronger by el Niño, dwarf the eastern landscape. The sun sets, the ground cools, and the desert braces for thermal dynamism. Tree branches partner with updrafts, while downdrafts pelt the land. Angular veins shoot through darkness.

 Thunder rumbles with an abusive baritone’s vigor while the saguaro leads succulents in thirsty supplication, arms toward the sky.

 Static tendrils demand audience: jagged voltage communicates melody in joyful obeisance. The virga stop teasing as ten miles of heaven drop to the floor (section A). Big weather enjoys a snail-paced game of bumper cars, reforming whilst arboreal cards stand empty. It’s calm. Is it over? Abated leaves bathe in temporary starlight (section B). But summer westerlies do not relent, and another thunderhead descends. The romp resumes, culminating in a celebration of renewal and life (section A3).

Naima (1960) - John Coltrane, arr. Sixto Franco

Naima is a profound, reverential and honest tribute to John Coltrane’s first wife. Naima  is rightfully credited for the support Coltrane needed to overcome Heroine and Alcohol addiction. She is also remembered as the person who helped the Jazz giant find the right steps to launch his career as a leading figure in the Jazz world. She advised John to remain in the Miles Davis quintet pointing out that it would indeed help him gain recognition and status. Naima is a slow ballad that seems to standstill, suspended in mid-air. Written as a love letter, this song was Coltrane’s favorite composition, which he recorded about a dozen times, when he recorded Giant Steps only once.

Argoru IV (1978) - Alvin Singleton

A work from early in his career and during an extremely left-brained-heavy period in contemporary music history, Argoru IV on the page is dense with rhythmic and notational difficulties. Ironically enough, a young Singleton during this same period was also experimenting with improvisation in his scores. A fiendishly difficult work on the written page, to the ear Argoru IV is dramatic and expressively gratifying, especially for the performer.

One is moreover convinced that the bee hive of written difficulties in this work for solo viola is not about showing off its math, but really shows precisely what was heard in the composer’s head. Here notation controls everything, including rates of vibrato and even slight tempo changes. A section of notes approached via multiple grace notes is a choice over simply writing the grace notes out as regular rhythms… a subtle aid to the player’s expression.

One finds many factors in this early work that will appear in the other of his works throughout Singleton’s career. The tantalizing querulous first lick followed by silence is one. The playing with both audience expectations but also those of the musicians are there… for example the first two 8th notes of the piece are to be executed after an 8th note breath rest, not as a down-beated first 2 notes. Long tones (some very long) are typically contrasted with quick short ones. Contrast is the key. It is very deep into the work before pizzicato is called for yet one solitary forte pizz at 7 minutes in the midst of so much arco playing as a powerful effect… much like a single contrasting movement in the midst of Kabuki acting.


Perfect Storm (2010) - Shulamit Ran

(special guest: Emily Madeira, dancer)

“When violist Melia Watras approached me about composing a solo viola piece for her, she presented an idea that added an intriguing extra dimension to this commissioning project. Her hope was to have me create a work that, in some way, alluded to, or made use of, an existing work of my choice from the viola repertoire, enabling both works to be performed side by side.

As I began reviewing, in my head, an imaginary strip of “famous viola licks” (harder to do than with violin or cello…), along with some favorite 19th century music I found myself returning time and again to the central motif, played by viola, from the first song of Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs for singer and instruments.

The Berio motif serves as a focal point that, once established, is used as a “return” moment and the point of departure for extended new elaborations. The architectural sweep of the piece may suggest to some a “ritornello” form. In addition to the lyricism and sweetness of the opening materials – mine and Berio’s – the landscape covered in the piece includes stretches of music that are intense, dance-like, ferocious, and for a while even suggesting, to its composer at least, “fiddle” playing style.

At the end, I believe that the borrowed materials, the “found object”, is thoroughly integrated into my composition, spawning music not readily suggested by the original point of inspiration, yet obviously enabled by that miraculous alchemy that is part of the process of creating music.” – Shulamit Ran

won't swim, can't keep swimming (2022) - Xenia St Charles Iris Llyllyth

Prerecords by Jonathan Hannau, piano, and Juan Horie, cello

won’t swim, can’t keep swimming is about two things: (1) the public scrutiny over trans bodies that has made me too anxious to go swimming in nearly eight years, and (2) the feeling of endless swimming that has accompanied my mental health struggles. The plan and concept for this piece were created during a time when I didn’t think I would make it much longer; the piece was completed during the first time in nearly a decade that I’ve felt mentally stable enough to be a human. Thus, won’t swim, can’t keep swimming turned out to be a much happier piece than I expected. And I’m happy with that. 

Corricorriendo (from 5 Encores) (2014) - Jason Barabba

This set of five encores is a kind and meaningful gift from Los Angeles composer Jason Barabba. A collection of playful short works with playful titles that remind the listener of the jovial character of the Spanish Zarzuelas. In Corricorriendo, Jason delivers a mastery display of counterpoint abilities where each instrument seems to purposefully try to step on each other toes. My gratitude and admiration for Barraba’s creativity and kindness.

About the Artists

Newest member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Sixto Franco is a violist, composer, improviser, teacher and a performing arts enthusiast. He is enjoying an active career in the musical arts, having concertized in Europe, United States, Mexico and Uruguay. Sixto is also the founder of the Quijote Duo, a viola and cello formation that strives to create new spaces that promote creative collaborations.

The creative side of Sixto Franco has led him to venture into composition. He has written music for different mediums such as chamber music, theater and dance. He made his debut on February 2011 premiering his work “Blanco y Negro” in a Cancer Benefit Concert promoted by the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. The “malArte Association” of Valencia, Spain, premiered his piece Five “O’clock Tabu” as the soundtrack for the interdisciplinary work with the same title. His latest commissions include Tulane University’s production of the theater play The Jane Project.

Sixto Franco is passionate about chamber music and has had the honor to perform with Eighth Black Bird Ensemble, International Chamber Artists, Symbiosis Ensemble in L.A., Music of the Americas Project, the Chicago Ensemble, the Chicago Chamber Music Festival, Gesher Music Festival in St. Louis, MO, and the Versipel Ensemble in New Orleans.

Soloist appearances include the Camerata Musicalis, Chamber Orchestra of Salamanca, the Lira Castellonera Symphonic Band, Spain and the Thornton Music School Chamber Orchestra. He is has also served in the Santa Barbara Chamber orchestra, the Barcelona Symphony, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony, and the Chicago Philharmonic, In addition, he has had the honor to perform with artists such as Paquito D ́Rivera, Fareed Haque, Ernie Adams, Robert McDuffy, Mike Mills, Steve Larson and Austin Wintory.

Sixto has also been the curator of the Mu Live concert series at Mu Art Gallery of Chicago, a performance series that strived to highlight local artists by pairing music with sculptures and visual art.

Sixto and his wife Rachel, an amazing lighting designer, enjoy taking their two kids, Odessa and Otis, to music, theater and dance shows all over New Orleans.

My name is Emily. I see myself as a movement investigator. From ages 10 to 21, I practiced various styles of dance including ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, and pointe. My movement practice expanded into flow arts in 2012, which led me to street performing in various cities around the US. I started working for Agenda For Children in 2018 as a Program Manager, advocating for quality early child care on behalf of educators, families, and children in Orleans parish. In 2021, I received my Masters in Social Work from Tulane University. As a result of these studies, I have felt compelled to study fun and play, and the dearth of real fun being experienced by adults in the collective day to day. In 2023 I spent 6 months in Argentina studying the art of clowning. Most recently I am exploring movement with physical structures and various materials, as well as practicing contact improv. As an artist I am playing with bringing my most whole self onto the stage and into my everyday life without shame or shield.


Sixto Franco offers many thanks to nienteForte, Mendel Lee, Marigny Opera House, Emily Madeira and all of you for coming. Special thanks to my father, Sixto Franco for not missing an opportunity to make memorable music together.

nienteForte would like to give heartfelt thanks to our Season 14 donors and sponsors. We would also like to acknowledge the following people and organizations who have offered their time and resources to make this season possible:

  • Michael Batt
  • Kari Bersharse
  • Shivani Bondada
  • Maxwell Dulaney
  • Samantha Eroche
  • Evan Hammond
  • Megan Ihnen
  • Dylan Koester
  • Hayden Outlaw
  • Heather Penton
  • Phillip Schuessler
  • Daniel Sharp
  • Rick Snow
  • Andrew Szypula
  • Alan Theisen


December 9th: Sixto Franco, Emily Madeira and Sixto Franco at Studio St Phillip

January 25th: Longleash (piano trio) at Tulane University

April 6th: Transient Canvas (bass clarinet and marimba) at Tulane University

Join the nF Community with a tax-deductible charitable donation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.