30th March 2014: Sheffield Chamber Choir Perform Misa Criolla

30th March 2014: Sheffield Chamber Choir Perform Misa Criolla


Friday 21st March witnessed a rare event in Sheffield’s city centre: a performance of the iconic Misa Criolla by Ariel Ramírez at St Marie’s Cathedral, courtesy of the Sheffield Chamber Choir, conducted by Robert Webb with special guests Argentine tenor, Ernesto Correa, and Uruguayan conductor and pianist, Ignacio Pilone. The Argentine Mass was presented as part of a broader Hispanic programme commemorating the first anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis (the first-ever Latin American Pope), which included works by Tomás Luis de Victoria, Esquivel Barahona, Dante Andreo, Astor Piazzolla, Carlos Guastavino, Alberto Ginastera and José Serrano.

On arrival at the splendid, newly-refurbished, cathedral of St Marie’s, it was pleasantly surprising to see an almost full house in attendance of this unusual programme. Unsurprisingly, the choir, which specialises in liturgical music, appeared very much at home in the sacred Spanish Renaissance works by Victoria and Barahona which opened the concert. These were executed with great poise, as was the Ave Maria by lesser-known contemporary Argentinian composer Dante Andreo. This was, for me, the highlight of the concert, allowing the choir to reveal a special talent for atmospheric pianissimo.

To complete the first half, Ignacio Pilone offered new arrangements of two solo piano pieces: 'Alfonsina y el mar' from Mujeres argentinas, by Ariel Ramírez and Adiós Nonino by Astor Piazzolla, both of which oozed authenticity. These were followed by a selection of songs performed with Ernesto Correa: Se equivocó la paloma by Guastavino, Canción al árbol del olvido by Ginastera and the aptly-themed 'La roca fría del calvario' from the zarzuela La Dolorosa by Serrano.

In the second half came the centerpiece of the event, the Misa Criolla by Ramírez, complete with keyboard, bass and percussion accompaniment. This was a brave first incursion into the Spanish vernacular for the Sheffield Chamber Choir who gave a lively and commendable rendition of the work with an impressive command of pronunciation (including Argentine inflections) and a convincing grasp of the Argentine folk rhythms employed by the composer. The solo tenor parts provided by Correa were beautifully projected, enabling the singer to cut through the very airy acoustic to brilliant effect.

The appreciative audience were sadly bereft of an encore, but it is to be hoped that the Sheffield Chamber Choir will continue to blaze a much-needed trail for Latin American choral repertoire in South Yorkshire.



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