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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Modern Music Organ Concert at the Catedral of Oaxaca

How often, after seeing such wonderful samples of art from the past, as we did during our sojourn in Oaxaca, be it Music played on centuries-old organs, stone sculptures, architecture, altarpieces, mosaics, woodcarving, frescoes, oil painting, we say, with a nostalgic sigh , "What a shame It's all over! Those were the days! Things will never be the same here, neither the music, neither the art, nor the culture of Oaxaca." 
 
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The spirituality and artistic talent that helped build and decorate Oaxaca in the 16th Century continued to be vibrant in the 20th Century, as the concert Cecilia Winter gave us in the Cathedral manifests, and continues well into the 21sr century, strong and full of life.
 
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Cecilia Winter offered an unusual collection of music of 20th century composers of popular tunes of every region of Oaxaca. But it was not a concert of Holy Music, but of popular love songs from the beginning of the 20th Century. From the Valles Centrales or Central Valleys region, she played La Marcha Triunfal, Llevame Oaxaqueña, the Jarabe del Valle and the Danza de la Pluma or Feather Dance.

Cecilia Winter during organ
concert with contemporary
tunes from all the different
regions of Oaxaca.
 
From the Mixteca Region where we spent most of our visit in Oaxaca, La Canción Mixteca and the Jarabe Mixteco, from the Costa and from the Istmo.

But why do they let us play this type music in Church?
 
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The Council of Trent gave guidelines on church music that Catholics followed for centuries. "They (the ecclesiastical authority of each diocese) shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamor, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer." The Synod of Toledo in 1566, spent a great deal of time to the questions of what was proper or not during the celebration of Mass. Even Saint Jerome, as early as the mid-4th century, said that chanting during Mass should not be done so as to draw attention to the talent of the singer, but to the message of Christ.
 
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A priest celebrating Friday afternoon Mass in one of the side-altar chapels during the concert at the Cathedral, told Cicely Winter later on, "I like your concert very much, but during Mass those popular tunes distract me from prayer. The priest was not complaining. Quite the contrary, the local clergy really appreciate Cecily Winter's concerts and the contribution she makes to the cultural and spiritual life of Oaxaca.

However in Mexico, throughout the first half of the 20th century, organ concerts were organized with non- Sacra Music, on Saturday afternoons, as a strategy to get people to come to Church. Classical music! Popular folk tunes from the days of the Mexican Revolution. And this may be the reason why we found throughout our trip in Oaxaca, so many 4 foot tall portable organs, which could have be take down from the choir loft of the church and taken outside to the atrium for playing popular music during the feast days of the community in the city square.

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