Bienvenido! Music Director Jason Asbury conceived the idea for this program after discovering Conrad Susa’s Carols and Lullabies. While he had encountered and performed many of the folksongs included in the work before, he was thrilled to find such an exquisite choral arrangement of these Spanish and Catalan cultural expressions of the Christmas season. As he began looking for a companion piece for the program, he was immediately drawn to Ariel Ramírez’s Navidad Nuestra that is based on the wealth of folk and popular traditional music of Argentina. What has emerged is a program that includes music-folk, fusion, concert, and popular- from the 16th century to the present that is as varied as the home countries-Spain, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, and the United States - of the composers who created it. In a time when some are eager to build walls to divide us, The Chorale hopes this program provides a musical bridge to people and cultures beyond our borders.
Riu, Riu Chiu - Anonymous, 16th century
Fuera! Fuera! Haganles lugar - Roque Jacinto de Charvarria (sung by the GCB Chamber Group)
¡Ay Andar, a Tocar, a Cantar, a Bailar! - Juan de Araujo (sung by the GCB Chamber Group)
"Carols & Lullabies: Christmas In The Southwest" - Conrad Susa
Convidando esta la noche by García de Zéspedes
O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria (sung by the GCB Chamber Group)
Navidad Nuestra by Ariel Ramirez
Performances took place at All Saint's in Park Slope on Friday, December 15th and at St. Ann's in Brooklyn Hts. on Sunday December 17th with accompanists:
Liann Cline - Harp
Carlos Cuestas - guitar
Chris Nappi - percussion
Christine Chen - xylophone
Ben Sutin - violin
.........................................................and a lively array of GCB soloists!
In the words of GCB Alto Jean Kahler:
The pieces in this program span 450 years of making the story of Christmas accessible and meaningful for people all over the world.
"Riu, Riu, Chiu" and "O Magnum Mysterium" come from 16th century Spain and grow out of a medieval tradition of Christian animal symbolism: Mary is compared to a ewe protected by God from a wolf prowling a riverbank and the humble animals of the stable watch over the birth of the incarnate God. These pieces would both have been sung in dark of night as part of Matins, a monastic service ending at dawn.
"Convidando Esta La Noche," "Ay, Andar," and "Fuera, Fuera," bring us to 17th century Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia, where European, African, and Indigenous Mexican and South American musical instruments and forms combined to create a new world of music. Juan de Araujo, born in Spain, became in Peru the teacher of Roque Jacinto de Chavarria, a criollo composer of mixed Spanish and Native Bolivian descent. In "Fuera," a piece recently rediscovered in storage in an old Jesuit mission in the Bolivian jungle, Chavarria dramatizes the conflict between Spaniards scoffing at the idea of Indians worshipping Jesus and the Indians' reply -- in Spanish and Quechua -- that all are sons of Adam, equally worthy to behold the lord. The piece ends with both sides crying "achalay," an Andean word meaning both "shiver" and "rejoice."
Argentine Ariel Ramirez wrote Navidad Nuestra in 1964, the same year he composed his well-known Misa Criolla. Both were written in response to the revolutionary Vatican II permission to perform mass in the local language of the people, rather than Latin. Navidad Nuestra tells the story of Christmas in six parts -- the Annunciation, the pilgrimage to Bethlehem, Nativity, the arrival of the shepherds, the gifts of the three kings, and the Flight into Egypt -- in Spanish and in the rhythms of Argentine folk dances. Conrad Susa's 1992 Carols and Lullabies knits together ten traditional Christmas songs in Spanish and Catalan, from Spain, from the Basque Country and Catalonia, from Puerto Rico and Mexico. Imagined as a Spanish language companion to Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, this group of songs of joy and praise gathers in the way their lyrics describe the shepherds, the wise men, and the world at large walking to Bethlehem to wonder at and celebrate the newborn Christ. Bells ring, flowers bloom, fish jump and dance, gifts are chosen, and at last Mary rocks her baby to sleep.