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May 12, 2008

Chanticleer tours California's mission era music

Los Angeles Times :

Most California schoolchildren learn the basic facts about the state's mission history in the fourth grade. Established from 1769 to 1823 by Franciscan monks from Spain to spread the Roman Catholic faith among the area's Native American population, the series of strategic-religious outposts spanned 650 miles of California coastline, from San Diego to Sonoma, providing Spain with a powerful presence on the Pacific frontier. Today, these monuments are among the state's oldest buildings and most popular tourist destinations.

Yet despite the importance of the missions to California's development, relatively little is known about the music that formed the backbone of Franciscan rituals and teaching. "The repertoire that was jotted into the mission choir books still remains largely unknown, even to musical historians," says Craig Russell, an expert on Mexican Baroque music at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "Similarly, the musical archives in Mexico City Cathedral preserve stacks of gorgeous and erudite sacred music that are largely neglected but worthy of professional attention and performance."

This month, however, many Californians' knowledge of this music is due to expand, courtesy of Chanticleer, the San Francisco-based 12-member male vocal ensemble. Beginning Thursday in San Luis Obispo, the Grammy-winning group is undertaking a tour of eight of the 21 missions on the California coast's legendary Camino Real, including two concerts in San Francisco's Mission Dolores, where it made its inaugural public appearance in 1978.

"This music is part of both our history and California history. It forms the artistic and musical fabric of the West Coast," says Joseph Jennings, who joined Chanticleer as a countertenor in 1983 and became its music director in 1984. "The mission composers were way ahead of their time," says Chanticleer vocalist Eric Alatorre. "While on the East Coast people were writing hymns and part songs, in the Latin parts of the country they were composing full Masses and venturing into Classical terrain."

Continue reading this fascinating article.

Posted by acapnews at May 12, 2008 9:19 PM

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