A Mexican Christmas. © 2021 Navona Records

CD Spotlight

A Mexican Knees-up

A reconstructed seventeenth century Christmas in Mexico City, heard by KEITH BRAMICH

'... the street ensemble is never far away.'


Described as 'an album of seventeenth century traditional music for worship and celebration', this rather different Christmas disc from the Newberry Consort and EnsAmble Ad-Hoc is, to my ears, rather more celebration than worship. In fact it seems to me a veritable knees-up of Mexican street music. The notes describe the mix of Spanish and African influenced music in Colonial Mexico which would have been heard in the streets of Mexico City at Christmas time.

The first track begins with a good example of this street rowdiness which fades, after a minute or so, into the much more liturgical Christus natus est nobis by Baroque Spanish composer Juan Gutiérrez De Padilla (c1590-1664).

Listen — Juan Gutiérrez De Padilla: Introducción / Christus natus est nobis
(track 1, 0:47-1:41) ℗ 2021 Navona Records :

Whilst inside the convent, we then hear the same composer's Voces, las de la capilla from what's referred to as the convent ensemble (which is the Newberry Consort).

Listen — Juan Gutiérrez De Padilla: Introducción / Christus natus est nobis
(track 2, 1:05-1:45) ℗ 2021 Navona Records :

Then it's back to the street ensemble (EnsAmble Ad-Hoc) for music by the Portuguese/Mexican composer and organist Gaspar Fernández (1566-1629) which begins quietly and reflectively but can't help being swept along by these infectious rhythms and tunes.

Listen — Gaspar Fernández: Andrés ¿Do queda el ganado?
(track 3, 3:03-3:42) ℗ 2021 Navona Records :

There's also music here by Spanish composer José De Cáseda y Villamayor (c1660-1725), seventeenth century Iberian Fray Jerónimo Gonzalez de Mendoza, Catalan composer and Benedictine monk Joan Cererols Montserrat (1618-1680), Mexican composer, singer, teacher and viol player Juan García De Zéspedes (c1619-1678) and Spanish guitarist and composer Santiago de Murcia (1673-1739).

Listen — Santiago de Murcia, arranged by J L Posada: Cumbé
(track 10, 1:59-2:50) ℗ 2021 Navona Records :

Many of the convent ensemble's pieces are still distinctly dancy, and the street ensemble is never far away. For another take on this Mexican Christmas fare, read my review of last year's disc from Siglo de Oro. Merry Christmas!

Copyright © 25 December 2021 Keith Bramich,
Worcestershire, UK








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