Misa Azteca hybridizes two cultures and religions into an eight movement, oratorio style, musical celebration for orchestra, choir and soloists.
“Misa”, the Spanish word for “mass” is the complex of prayers and ceremonies that make up the Eucharistic rite in the Latin Mass. It contains liturgical Latin texts taken from both the Ordinary and the Proper: Kyrie, Gloria, Gradual, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Salve Regina and Ite Missa Est.
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“Azteca” is the name for the indigenous people dominating central Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. Music and dance formed an essential part of their indigenous rites and ceremonies. Many of the musical instruments were believed to be sacred; thus, their rhythms formed a crucial part of all major Aztec ceremonies and festivals. However, we can only guess what these rhythms actually were. A manuscript from the 16th century, the Cantares Mexicanos, shows an example of a written rhythmic notation using 4 basic vocal syllables (ti, to, ki, co). It is from clues like these that modern practitioners of Aztec music are able to recreate this ancient music. From these modern day masters we gain invaluable insights into this world of rhythm, ritual and religion that have formed the basis of Misa Azteca.
Cantares Mexicanos
Misa Azteca takes verses from the above mentioned manuscript, Cantares Mexicanos, a monument of American Indian literature and the largest recorded collection of Pre-Columbian Nahuatl poems. These verses have a similar theme relevant to the sections of the ordinary and proper of the Mass whose text is used in tandem with the poetry. For example in the Gradual, the soprano implores in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, “May I never die! May I never perish! Let me go where one does not die.” This wail of grief is answered by the choir peacefully singing the prayer from the All Saints Day mass, “The souls of the just are in the hand of God… in the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.”
A Message of Unity
By blending Latin and Aztec texts, as well as the various rhythms, instrumentation and tone unique to both, this concert piece resolves the tensions commonly associated with two seemingly irreconcilable cultures. This theme of complementarity overrides the assumption that these two worlds must remain in conflict and binds everyone in the mutual quest for unity and peace.
Opening the prestigious El Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico as well as being performed at Carnegie Hall twice, The Sydney Opera House, The Walt Disney Concert Hall as well as various prestigious festivals internationally, Misa Azteca has touched and inspired people throughout the world.

Misa Azteca

by Joseph Julián González