The Albuquerque Judge Prepares For His Debut As The New Voice Of Zozobra

September 2 – There is a photo of William Parnall and his band playing during the pre-fire festivities at the Zozobra event in 1992. Zozobra has his head bowed to where Parnell and his band mates are , but it’s not clear from Old Man Gloom’s facial expression. whether he wants to applaud or devour the musicians.

Fast forward to 2022, if you can, and meet Parnall, a 69-year-old Albuquerque judge, preparing to return to the Zozobra festivities in early September. Only this time he will do a different kind of music.

He will be the voice of Zozobra.

“It’s a celebration of purging the negative and moving toward the positive,” Parnall said of the annual fall ritual as he watched a team of New Mexicans perform a rehearsal for the upcoming burn, scheduled Friday.

“My intention is to do this indefinitely and for as long as they want,” he said.

Parnall, a New Mexico native and Division I judge of New Mexico’s 2nd Judicial District Court, was one of about 60 people who tried out for the role during a July audition in Santa Fe.

It was the first such audition for the role in nearly 40 years. To date, just five people – including the late Harold Gans, who did the job for around 40 years – have provided the voice for the great puppet that ignites in September.

Those who auditioned had to bring the character to life with their voices while watching a five-minute silent clip of Zozobra on a screen in front of them. The clip showed Zozobra reacting to darkness (pieces of paper containing residents’ concerns), townspeople wanting to set him on fire, and his nemesis, the Fire Dancer.

Parnall was on the front line during this audition and used a cab mic to amplify his voice and give Zozobra a distinctive sound that Parnall says he has been lacking in recent years as new technologies have overtaken traditional techniques. ‘Ancient. (Parnall graciously lent the cab mic to everyone who auditioned that day.)

Growing up in New Mexico, Parnall attended a number of Zozobra events and believes that some of the alumni who provided the vocals in the past used cab mics to give Zozobra a “raunchy, distorted sound”.

Ray Sandoval, who organizes the Zozobra event on behalf of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, said the club chose Parnall because his voice was both “traditional and brand new”.

The way Parnall used the cab mic, Sandoval said, filled his Zozobra audition with a “hollowness that allows for something more ethereal.”

For despite his impressive towering size — he’ll be over 50 feet this year, Sandoval said — Zozobra is perhaps best known for the roars he lets out when townspeople light him up.

As Parnall prepares for the big night, he said he has no sense of stage fright. After all, you could say he played most of his life as a lawyer and judge in the law theater.

The Albuquerque native studied law at the University of New Mexico Law School and served as a public defender and private attorney for years. Parnall was appointed to the bench by former Governor Bill Richardson in 2007.

A lifelong musician, he also founded the rock band Money, Guns and Lawyers, which played local venues from the 1970s through the 1990s.

He remembers with humor and modesty the beginnings of the group at Line Camp, located north of Santa Fe, when he was 23 years old. He vomited on stage.

“For the first time, I felt like a star,” he said. “I felt like I belonged on stage. That’s where I felt at home.”

He started taking classical guitar lessons at the age of 10, but turned to folk music and composing original songs. His first original track, written while a teenager in love with his first girlfriend, was “Leavin’ In the Morning.” It includes mournful lyrics such as “I’m leaving in the morning, as soon as I can, goodbyes made me cry tonight, I don’t want to cry anymore.”

He’s written 40 songs since, he says. His daughter, Taylor Parnall Carpenter (her first name comes from Mount Taylor in New Mexico), who also makes music, plays some of them now, he said.

Parnall said as a judge he was used to being in the spotlight, ruling from the bench and finding a way to communicate his opinions – a different kind of action than giving vocal support to New Mexico’s largest puppet.

While he won’t reveal all of his vocal plans to give voice to Santa Fe’s King Kong-sized bogeyman, who ignites every September no matter what he does to protest, Parnall said that Zozobra – who first showed up in 1928 as part of Santa Fe’s Fiesta celebration – is nothing to complain about.

“Zozobra shouldn’t be sorry,” he said. “Zozobra is defiant until the end.”

Anyway, he said, everyone knows that Zozobra, who represents the darkness of the city, always comes back for another round of violent abuse from those who want to get rid of their sad thoughts and their past regrets.

“It is burnt out but only to return next year to afflict the community with sadness,” Parnall said. “He knows he’s coming back.

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