—Jonathan Miller, Artistic Director
Program Song List
Xtoles (L’ay yum K’in)
Exsultate Justi in Domino
Dic nobis, Maria
Éste ques ves, engaño colorido
De Sur A Norte
Dios nunca muere
Y es que no sabes
A la orilla de palmar
Pasar la vida
Encore: Te extraño
Notes on the Music
by Jonathan Miller
Trad., arr. Jorge Cózatl
There is a difference among musicologists about when Los Xtoles was created. Some of them say that it is the oldest Mayan song known and was chanted by warriors in praise of the Mayan Sun God, while others say that it is a piece from the late 19th century. In any case, this is a wonderful Mayan folksong based on a pentatonic melody. Since most popular songs were learned by heart, and passed from generation to generation, there are at least two versions of the same song and this arrangement integrates both melodies in two specific environments. The introduction is “the call,” an imitation of a caracol (conch shell), and the idea is to recreate and mix the pre-Hispanic instruments, including: ocarina (flute made of mud), maraca (shaker), quijada de burro (donkey jaws), tambores (drums) and the tunkul, a hollow log with two tongue-like grooves carved out and played with a stick.
Exsultate justi in Domino
Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (1595-1664)
arr. José Galván
Dic Nobis, Maria
Francisco López Capillas
Mi ciudad (My City)
Guadalupe Trigo, arr. Jorge Córdoba
Éste que ves, engaño colorido
Rodrigo Michelet Cadet Díaz
Trad., arr. Ramón Noble
This famous song about a weeping woman (“La llorona,” literally from the verb llorar, to weep) has been put in many different arrangements. This one is by the great Ramón Noble, folklorist and champion of Mexican culture who made many Mexican melodies accessible around the world through his choral works on traditional material.
De sur a norte
Dios nunca muere
Trad., arr. Francisco Zúñiga Olmos
This is essentially the state song of Oaxaca, arranged for choir by Francisco Zúñiga Olmos. The composer was another of the ¡Cantaré! musicians who has worked in the Twin Cities with Vocalessence. He wrote the following note for his setting:
I composed an 8-piece a cappella arrangement for VocalEssence, from the immortal waltz, Dios nunca muere [God Never Dies], by Macedonio Alcalá, composed in the nineteenth century and which is practically the hymn of the state of Oaxaca. Its key themes are life, death and especially, God.
He compuesto para VocalEssence, me permití realizar un arreglo a 8 voces a capella del inmortal vals Dios nunca muere, de Macedonio Alcalá, compuesto en el siglo XIX y que es prácticamente el Himno del Estado de Oaxaca. Aquí los temas centrales son de nuevo la vida, la muerte y especialmente Dios.
Y es que no sabes
Here is another work written just for Chicago a cappella. This is by Novelli Jurado, who is originally from Mexico City and now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Michelle. The two met when the composer was in the Twin Cities for his first ¡Cantaré! residency in 2012. The composer writes:
The song was composed in a bolero style. Since 1921 this music genre has represented Mexico’s rich musical tradition very well. The lyrics of this genre speak about love and passion. The bolero gained an important place in Mexico’s culture with the golden era of Mexico’s cinematography (1936-1959) in which Agustin Lara and Pedro Infante – two of Mexico’s greatest performers – used to act and sing.
The idea with this composition is to share two different approaches to a bolero song. In the first, after an 8-bar introduction, there is the main theme with lots of chord extensions (using chord notes such as the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th). The second has this same theme in other keys with a more realistic Mexican style, using simple harmony and having the basses sing a melodic line in a very “Latin” way. Also, a tenor and an alto will play maracas and a clave while they sing, which are two instruments very often used in bolero songs. In the middle section there is a bridge where the ensemble breaks in to SSAA to make a thinner sound and to contrast the 7 to 8 voices that both themes have. The final part of the bridge helps to do the transition and prepare the bass’s motives.
Rubén Fuentes arr. Luis Fdo Rodriguez Z.
Consuelo Velázquez, arr. José Galván
A la orilla de un palmar
Manuel Ponce, arr. Jorge Córdoba
Pasar la vida
This is a work of extraordinary power, exploring themes of exile, travel, and home. The composer writes:
The poem “Pasar La Vida (Hymn to Life)” was written by Jorge Mansilla, aka Coco Manto. Mansilla, originally from Bolivia, has lived in exile in Mexico for almost 30 years, and was formerly Bolivian ambassador to Mexico. Because of his long exile out of his country, the poem offers an internal and external perspective that is completely different from what we who have lived in our own country (and not in exile) have experienced.
The poem is about motion: Trashumante (Wandering Shepherd) on the move to new pastures and follows on as a Caminante (Walker), Navegante (Sailor) and Inmigrante (Immigrant). The first four stanzas develop a beautiful image of what motion means in each case, each stanza concluding with a sentence that captures this idea with a solo line.
The final stanza summarizes, in short sentences, all the moments of the poem integrating Militante de la vida (Militant of life), letting the piece conclude – after mentioning the immigrants – with an idea of being part of this world, no matter what, no matter how.