When you're playing four-hand piano — two people sitting on the same bench, 20 fingers flying over one keyboard — you better be certain you've got chemistry with the person sitting right next to you.
That's no problem with Portland's XX Digitus Duo, reports one of its members, Maria Garcia: She's known her duo partner, Momoko Muramatsu, since their days as students at the New England Conservatory of Music.
And since 2014, around the time they both found themselves putting down roots in Portland, they've been performing as the XX Digitus (20 Fingers) Duo. One of the goals of the duo is to put a spotlight on classical music, new and old, from Latin America.
Which is part of the reason why the duo is a good fit for "Noche de Alma Latinoamerica," a Sunday afternoon festival at Oregon State University's LaSells Stewart Center, 875 SW 26th St. The free event, dedicated to bringing together the classical and folk traditions of Latin America, will run from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
For their performance (scheduled for 5 p.m.), Garcia and Muramatsu have prepared a program that sweeps throughout Latin America, including works by Juan Morel Campos, Carlos Guastavino, Suzette Ortiz, Arturo Marquéz, Ernesto Nazareth, Zequinha de Abreu and Astor Piazzolla.
"It's going to be fun and crazy," Garcia said.
"I love chamber music," she said, and forming the duo offered a chance to perform that music, with one big twist: "It is challenging, because unlike other chamber music, you're manipulating the same instrument." And with two players on the same keyboard, there's bound to be close contact, so she joked about asking her partner: "Can you hollow out your belly so I can sneak in" to play some notes?
But she added: "The more we do this, the more we realize that we are actually an asset to each other. We learn from each other. … There's a reason you play with someone, because you can trust them musically."
“Noche de Alma Latinoamericana” includes other events in addition to the piano concert:
• 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Activities for youth and snacks.
• 3:30-4:30 p.m.: A concert by Jose-Luis Orozco, a bilingual educator, children’s author and recording artist from Los Angeles.
• 4:30-6:15 p.m.: Activities for youth and folklore dance by Fiesta Mexican and Alma Latina.
• 5-6:15 p.m.: XX Digitus Duo.
• 6:15-7:30 p.m.: Dinner and folkloric dancing presentation.
The all-Spanish language event is presented by Corvallis-OSU Piano International and the PTA from Garfield School, a dual-language immersion elementary school. Attendees are invited to dress in traditional clothing.