In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
More so, perhaps, than any other music ensemble in the State, Coro Hispano de San Francisco draws its listeners off the beaten path of standard repertoire, crossing over into new sounds, finding new delight in old sounds, exploring traditions still alive and vibrant, but unknown to mainstream ears.
Founded in 1975 to celebrate the bicentenary of Mission San Francisco, Coro's first members were largely from the City's Mission District; 92% Spanish-speaking, more than half without prior music-making experience. Educational outreach to the community has always been an integral part of Coro's mission. Its first concert drew an audience of more than 500, who stood in applause for ten minutes. Today, though totally professional in its performance standards, Coro holds true to its original identity: a community chorus of the Spanish-speaking of the Bay Area, open to all with requisite skills and a love of its defining repertory. In size, Coro is a chamber chorus, varying from a dozen to thirty-five or more singers, according to the requirements of occasion, venue and programming. Voice disposition ranges from solo to polychoral, a cappella to instrumentally accompanied, and accompaniment from a pair of guitars to orchestra, as the score requires. Authenticity of sound is a defining hallmark of Coro's arrangements: folk-works with instruments from that place, Early Music works with instruments from that period.
Coro's repertory embraces the choral and vocal music of all parts of the Spanish-speaking World, from the 12th century through the 21st, ranging from the cantigas of Alfonso el Sabio, through the Renaissance cancioneros, the songs of the Sephardic diaspora, the choral masterworks of Spain's Golden Age, then crossing over and camping out in the Americas, with Aztec and Inca chants from the first century of contact, misas and motetes from cathedral choirbooks of Mexico and Peru, the playful villancicos of the Iberoamerican Baroque, the elegant masses and responsories of the Mexican, Venezuelan and Brazilian High Classic, the lush melodies of the Latin Romantic Era, and into the 20th century - the 'New Age' of Latin American choral music, where folk idiom fuses afresh with classic forms to produce a bright new bouquet of song for many voices.
The lyrics of this repertory are no less diverse, from poetry in formal Castilian to barrio street-slang, from Portuguese, Galician or Catalan to the Jewish-diaspora Ladino, from Caribbean Afro-Hispanic dialect to the authentic indigenous tongues of the First Peoples: Nahuatl, Tlaxcalteca, Maya, Quechua... and then, of course, there are the works in Latin, sung in the pronunciation that singers would have used at the time and in the place the works were first composed.
Equally varied are the rhythms at work in any Coro program, from the throb of bombos legueros in Andean processional chants, through the maracas-accented lacework of Venezuelan polyrhythms, the soulful pull of boleros or the rousing swing of corridos, to modern Latin dance beats, from salsa to samba.
Coro's concert programming is constructed around feast-days and festivities observed throughout the year in the Latin cultural calendar, both sacred and secular: las Pascuas Navidenas, Dia de los Reyes, Dia de los Muertos, Dia de la Raza, Dia de la Madre, Cinco de Mayo, as well as local observances, like the Founding-Day of San Francisco. The works in any given program move freely from one genre to another, crossing styles, languages and centuries with ease, but each work drawing the listener ever more deeply into the meaning of the festivity itself: what it is that this music was written to celebrate. The result is a program that invites the audience into a whole culture, through music that thrills the ear and fills the soul. And that is a language that has no borders to cross: it belongs to all.
Coro Hispano de San Francisco functions as a program of the Instituto Pro Musica de California, a community-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) educational/arts corporation.
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Review: The Coro Hispano de San Francisco presents an exciting program including one of the most popular works of the Latin American choral repertoire, Ariel Ramirez's Musica Criolla. Since its composition, the Misa has been a showpiece for choirs around the world. In it, Ramirez has created a work at once spiritually exalting and deeply rooted in the folk idiom of his people. It's architectural simplicity, subtlety of detail, and vibrant colors make a moving experience which the Coro Hispano has lovingly and fully captured in this recording. Navidad Nuestra, a six-movement Christmas suite is a long-standing favorite with Coro Hispano's audiences. Rounding out the program is Oscar Bareilles' brilliant choral triptych Flor de Chanar -which is an ideal foil to Ramirez' masterwork. One sets the classic texts of the mass, the other deals with folk poems of love - but both drawing deeply from the rhythms and melodic modes of the people of Argentina.
Review: If "Mexican Baroque" has caught your ear, this wide-ranging anthology of choral music from Mexico, Central and South America is a must; it's got Latin American Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, Romantic and folk-originate works in a rich array of textures, styles and sonorities, from chorus-orchestra down to voice-and-guitar, all performed to the nines by the nation's premiere ensemble dedicated to this repertory: Coro Hispano de San Francisco. Brilliant vocal solos and on-target instrumental work by some of the West Coast's leading names in early music combine with foot-stomping Veracruz zapateados and robust, ranchera-style singing in this sampler from a half-dozen different concert programs. Latin America's choral music is a little-known treasure that's been quietly awaiting rediscovery for decades (or centuries- depending on how far back you want to go). Leading the way in its interpretation is the Coro Hispano de San Francisco, which has been exploring and performing this repertory exclusively since its first concert in 1975. On this disc-its third CD release- the nation's premiere Hispanic chorus turns in an amazingly varied sampling of music for voices and instruments from the cathedrals of Puebla, Lima and Sevilla, the ranchos of Early California, the plazas of Veracruz, all the way to the rain-forest missions of Paraguay and the mountain villages of Nigeria.