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Misa Criolla

The Misa Criolla is the most famous work of the Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez (1921-2010).
You can find more information in English at the Ariel Ramirez website.

Latest news: April and May 2011, singer Javier Rodríguez of Misa Criolla will visit Europe. Choirs in Europe can contract him, als to sing the other Ramírez mass with Rodríguez: Misa por la Paz y la Justicia, Ramírez favourite composition. The Foundation of Argentine Music in the Netherlands can give you more information.

Ariel Ramírez composed the Misa Criolla in 1964 as one of the first masses in the national idiom. Ramírez not only used the language of his country but also the musical rhythms of Argentina, partly played by local instruments.
It is a Creole Mass indeed. Creole means: native, which is not the same as indigenous. The Argentine Creoles are descendents of many peoples, such as Europeans and  Indians. New immigrants are called gringos. The Argentine rhythms and instruments also descend from many places.
The first recording of the Misa Criolla took place in 1964, sung by the choir of the Basílica del Socorro and the folkloric male quartet  'Los Fronterizos', who sang the soloist parts either one by one or together.
The first live performance took place in Colón Theatre in Buenos Aires in 1965 (you can read a critic about this concert on the Ariel Ramirez website), the first European performances were in March 1967 in Germany.
The score was edited  in 1965 in Buenos Aires, together with the score of the Christmas cantata Navidad Nuestra. The
Misa Criolla became extremely popular. It was sung all over the world and its recordings were sold in huge amounts.  Almost 25 years after its birth, millions of  CD's of the piece were sold when the famous classical tenor José Carreras recorded it (1988).  At the end of 1998, Ramírez performed the mass  in Buenos Aires with the three main folkloric singers that sung the mass in its 35 years of existence: Gerardo López ( Los Fronterizos, he died in 2004), Zamba Quipildor and Javier Rodríguez. The mass was more recently recorded by Mercedes Sosa (1999) and by Javier Rodríguez (2002).

Voices and instruments used in the Misa Criolla

Movements and rhythms, to listen to parts: click the title.

  Title Rhythm  
Kyrie vidala-baguala slow rhythms from the North-Western plateau
Gloria Carnavalito - Yaraví a quick and a slow rhythm from the North-West
Credo chacarera trunca quick rhythm from the Middle-North of Argentina
Sanctus carnaval cochabambino Bolivian rhythm
Agnus Dei estilo pampeano rhythm from the Pampas

Misa Criolla on CD (selection)

year soloist choir remarks rest of contents availability in Holland
1968 Los Fronterizos Basilica van Socorro the original version with a folkloric male quartet Misa Flamenca (Spanish) Internet
1987 José Carreras Coral Salvé de Laredo/ Soc. Coral de Bilbao a classical tenor Navidad en Verano, Navidad Nuestra yes
1991 Zamba Quipildor Asoc. Coral Lagun Onak the tenor was the regular tenor of the composer for about 20 years. other  compositions of Ramírez no
1996 Opus Cuatro Coro Universitario La Plata an adaptation for a male quartet using more of their voices at the same time. otherArgentine choir works via SAM
1999 Mercedes Sosa Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires an adaptation, sung by 'the voice of Argentina'. Navidad Nuestra yes
1999 Grupo Alturas Studio vocale Alturas (?) an adaptation by a Peruan group, Kruidvat, only € 1,79 other South-American repertoire via Kruidvat-site
2002 Javier Rodríguez Coral de las Américas CD Misa Criolla/algo+ and Vientos de Hermandad by the last regular tenor of the composer other Argentine music, a.o. Ramírez via SAM

Scores    overview of scores available at SAM

 Be aware, that most scores lack the original Andean instruments! However, Argentine or other Latin American musicians, who know how to play the accompaniment, live in many countries.

The score you can buy in Europe and USA is not the same as the score you can buy in Argentina. From the first concert Ramírez adapted much in the way he performed Misa Criolla. A lot of these changes were written in an arrangement that was edited in Argentina in 1989. There was a smaller adaptation in 2001 by Damián Sánchez, who worked frequently with Ariel Ramírez. This is the official arrangement now. Our Foundation sells this score. It contains a page about pronunciation of Argentine Spanish, suggestions for the use of instruments and the choral score is put in four pentagrams in stead of two.  SAM only accepts orders in EURO-countries.

The piece lasts only some 20 minutes and does not seem to be very difficult because the music is quite accessible and stirring  However, the most difficult  part for non-Latin choirs are the rhythms of the mass.  Especially, the chacarera (in the Credo) may be problematic. An Argentine folkloric musician once told us that hardly any choir sings the mass completely correct!
Trying to learn the rhythm just from the score is no use. Even for the director, it would be wise to frequently listen to a non-adapted recorded version. Though the José Careras version cannot be considered as an original one because of the lack of a folkloric voice and an Argentine pronunciation, it can be used quite well for studying the rhythms. This CD is world-wide available. You can also use the Javier Rodríguez version, which is almost completely authentic.

How to pronounce Argentine Spanish?
Like Spanish except:
Like all South-American the Argentine pronounce 'c' just like 's'. So don't use the Spanish way of saying something like 'th'.
The Argentines pronounce 'll' more or less like 'j' in journal. (For instance in 'llenos están los cielos').