Con Alma is a live performance, album, and digital experience that explores how to find communion in times of isolation. Composed by Paola Prestini and Magos Herrera.
Con Alma is an album and live digital experience of original works by composer Paola Prestini and vocalist and composer Magos Herrera, along with some classics from the Mexican and Jazz songbook, created and recorded remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, that explores the question of how we can find communion in a time of isolation. The album grew out of the personal and collective experience of this moment of deep division - be it spiritual, ideological, political or geographical - and seeks to use music to create a shared sense of the experiences that we are all going through together, alone.
Con Alma was initially released as an acclaimed live-streamed album and digital event across three continents during the Pandemic (the first of its kind), before being performed live at Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 2022. The success of these events culminated in Con Alma being invited to perform live at the United Nations - a performance celebrating collective healing and community among women, and incorporating participant-contributed sounds of resilience, reunion, and isolation in collaboration with Carnegie Hall and Death of Classical.
During the recording process, as well as for the live performances, the public was asked to share their sounds of both isolation and encounter - a story, a sound or a song of their 'sounds of isolation' during the pandemic, and then in turn their 'sounds of encounter or reunion' that symbolized our emergence from the isolation of the pandemic. These participant-contributed sounds were threaded into both the album and the live performances at Bellas Artes and in San Miguel de Allende. This process helped create a world-wide chorus, separated by geography and in different languages but joined by intention and spirit.
“Nature and mysticism inform the creative flow that Herrera and Prestini draw upon; science and spirit fuse together in potent alchemy.
— Steve Smith, Con Alma liner notes
Con Alma is a result of the impulses that arrested the minds and hearts of two extraordinary artists – the gifted singer-songwriter Magos Herrera and the protean composer Paola Prestini, who also happen to be dear friends – at a time when they were prevented from being together with each other, and with the broader community of fellow artists they work with regularly and love. Drawn from and enriched by timeless passions, historic musical practices, and contemporary responses to a world teetering on the brink of drastic transformation, Con Alma is a document absolutely of its moment.
“Con Alma is a sonic painting representing a 15-year friendship through a collaborative process of writing, telling the story of shared ambitions and triumphs, love, trials, hope, and losses. The artists we worked with form our international musical family, and it’s a joy to be able to connect through this album, leaving an artifact of this time, and our response to the pandemic, alone, but together.”
– Paola and Magos
The Con Alma documentary (in progress) is a poetic experience that elevates isolation to bonding and creation. A journey woven from collective memories of confinement, to the final concert, presented through archival material, animation by the visual artist Kevork Mourad and scenes filmed by the directors Marta Ferrer and Pedro González Rubio. It will be ready for distribution in 2024.
See the Con Alma Website for a full list of artist biographies.
Magos Herrera and Paola Prestini - Producers
Alex Venguer - Audio Edit and Mastering Engineer
Oscar Zambrano - Audio Mastering
Jeffrey Zeigler - Label Director
Steve Smith - Liner Notes
Kevork Mourad - Album Cover Art
Zan Emerson - Album Design
Emre Özyetiş - Album illustrations
Alexander Sanger – commissioner
Jill and Bill Steinberg - commissioners
with additional support from The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Morgan Stanley, the Alphadyne Foundation, and Casa Cuervo
Album, Live Concert & Documentary Film
Composed by Paola Prestini & Magos Herrera; Performed by Magos Herrera; Sjaella (vocals); Jeffrey Zeigler (cello); Gonzalo Grau (multi-instrumentalist/arranger); Vinicius Gomez (guitar);The Young People’s Chorus of New York City; Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería and more (see Con Alma website for collaborator bios)
Commissioned by Alexander Sanger, Jill and Bill Steinberg, with additional support from The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Morgan Stanley, the Alphadyne Foundation, and Casa Cuervo
Deeply engaged...a genre-crossing blend of Mexican folk staples, American jazz standards and original musical meditations on isolation.
— Michael Brodeur, Washington Post
Paola Prestini and Mexico-based singer-songwriter Magos Herrera (plus a crew of musicians) used the lockdown to collaborate at a distance, and the result is a melancholy but uplifting quasi-cantata full of bird calls, phone calls, and calls across frozen borders.
— Justin Davidson, New York Magazine