It Takes a Mass to Tango

Ever since the Missa Luba was first heard and recorded in the 1958 there has been a succession of world music masses. Among these the Missa Criolla (performed by Andrea Salvoni’s choir in Barga cathedral last year – see my post on it at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/a-choral-feast-at-barga/ ) stands out. I was, therefore, particularly keen to hear the Misa Tango, composed by contemporary Argentinian composer Martin Palmeri, at the convent church of San Francesco, Borgo a Mozzano last night.

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(Martin Palmeri)

The item formed part of the Christmas concert organized by the Stereotipi vocal group. I was lucky enough to participate as a member of the choir in one of these concerts in December 2012 when we sang (among other pieces) a Mass by Michael Haydn, Joseph’s brother.

This was the programme:

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The children’s choir (beautifully expressed in Italian as ‘voci bianche’ – white voices) sang a selection of Christmas songs with a grace far beyond that of the standard songs that children of that age are expected to perform in Italy (i.e. largely fatuous ‘pop’). It just shows how teachers Serena Salotti and Felicity Lucchesi have been able to get those of a young age to sing to a standard expected in such places as the typical English cathedral choir school.

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The fine Stereotipi choir – now expanded to a good dozen voices – followed with Faure’s exquisite ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’. As with the previous item, the balance between voice and piano, superbly played by Massimo Salotti (friend but no relation), was well-judged.

It may seem a strange mixture of sacred and profane to set a Latin Mass to tango rhythms but then tango is itself a form that has been raised to the highest level by such composers as Ginastera and Piazzolla. (See my post on the latter at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/tango-where-astor-piazzolla-originated-from/). After all, didn’t sublime musicians, like Bach and Mozart, raise dance music, such as gavottes, minuets and sarabandes, to the highest levels in their compositions?

The tango’s often acerbic harmonies and its infectious syncopations were fully captured by the ensemble accompanied by Massimo who truly understood the heart of the genre on the keyboard.

Apart from driving rhythms, often startling cluster chords and glissandi, full importance was given to Palmeri’s settings of the more reflective sections of the Mass, especially the ‘Benedictus and the ‘Dona Nobis pacem.’

It was most appropriate that this Argentinian Mass was performed in St Francis convent for, after all, isn’t the present pope also Argentinian and called Francis?

The Stereotipi had previously performed the Misa Tango in Livorno in the full arrangement for choir, soloists, and orchestra which should include that flexible South American tango instrument, the bandoneon. However, it was agreed that, just with a small choir doubling as soloists and a piano accompaniment, the essential impact of this extraordinarily infectious work was well-realised.

Again, for a free concert at Christmas time offered by the munificence of dedicated musicians, the church should have had a rather larger audience. However, those present fully appreciated the immense effort that had gone into the interpretation of yet another masterpiece of world music.

In a church attractively decorated with poinsettias, courtesy of Olesia Fiori ad Arte and with sponsorship from Borgo’s Misericordia, Valentina Brecevich did a fine job in presenting the evening and wished us all a Very Merry Christmas which, clearly I extend to all my readers!

Afterwards we met up with the dedicated musicians in the adjoining hall for a well-deserved rinfresco of prosecco and panettone – the Italian equivalent of other countries’ minced pies and mulled wine and even more delicious!

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The evening was truly a joyous one and we left the historic convent with lighter hearts and happier expectations! Well done to all those involved as performers and collaborators at this memorable evening!

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2 thoughts on “It Takes a Mass to Tango

  1. This was a great opportunity not to be missed and introduction to the amazing masterpiece Misa Tango unknown to us previously as always the Stereo Tipi gave an excellent performance and rendition with Massimo Salotti accompaniment at the piano that gave the Tango beat. I would like to hear the full version with bandoneon and a few violins as was performed in Livorno by this same choir group. Christmas was truly heartfelt as we also enjoyed the chorus of children performing their Christmas offerings. A great evening was enjoyed by all and thank you for raising the Christmas spirit to another level of joy happiness love and hope for our Planet Earth and above all Peace!

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