Our Live Music Program is now undergoing a significant restructuring, with a shift in focus to music education and plans to partner with professional musicians in the Washington, DC area and beyond.
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Our live music program seeks to revive the folk music tradition at the heart of tango dance, train musicians from various musical backgrounds in tango's unique harmonies and technique, and promote community building through the performance of live music for social dance.
Founded in 2009, the Tango Mercurio Community Orchestra was the first and longest-standing all-volunteer tango orchestra in North America. It was established by Tango Mercurio founder Sharna Fabiano and dancer/musician Korey Ireland to bring live tango music to the United States as a folk music tradition at the heart of tango dance. The Orchestra had 12–15 volunteer musicians forming a traditional orquesta tipica who played classic tango music from the 1930s to the 1950s at social tango dances (called milongas) around the Washington, DC, region.
During the “Golden Age of Tango” in Buenos Aires, there were dozens of orchestras and countless ensembles playing around the city at dance halls, cafés, cabarets, and social and sports clubs. Since the financial success of these groups depended on the response from the dancers, a natural symbiosis developed between them, each depending on and enriching the other.
From 2009 to 2019, the Tango Mercurio Community Orchestra thrived, thanks to the supportive community of tango dancers in the Washington area. As an integral part of the local tango scene, the Orchestra was one of the few bands outside of Argentina that recreated the synergy and interdependence of the Golden Age in the dancer community.
Before 2009, a few spontaneous tango music events had happened in the US, but no permanent tango orchestra had taken root. Most tango formations were weekend jam sessions, pop-ups, or one-off performances at music festivals. Sharna and Korey formed the first pop-up orchestra to perform at the Tango de los Muertos tango festival in Boston. It was so well received, Sharna decided to create an orquesta tipica in DC and invited Korey to be the musical director. Soon after, Tango Mercurio Community Orchestra was born.
After its début performance at the 2010 Fishnet Fete, the Orchestra appeared at Glen Echo Ballroom, Colvin Run Dance Hall, the Warner Theatre, the Artisphere, Terrapin Tango Festival, Milonga Zandunga, the Washington Folk Festival, and other local milongas and festivals.
In spite of its artistic success, the Orchestra faced financial constraints and could no longer continue its operations as structured under Tango Mercurio. It continues to entertain the local dance community independently as the DC Tango Orchestra.
The Orchestra in Numbers:
12–15 volunteer musicians, including up to 4 bandoneon players
A repertoire of over 60 pieces of Golden Age tango music
An average of 8 performances a year
Two $1,000 scholarships to musicians to attend a Tango Summer Institute