Chatham Baroque Set for Houston Early Music Hispanic Heritage Series

Chatham Baroque will journey from its wintry home in Pittsburgh to the Houston Early Music series with "Cantadas de Navidad," a joyous program of Spanish and Latin American Christmas music, which will be presented on Saturday, Dec. 5, at Christ Church Cathedral as part of the Hispanic Heritage Series.

"We are quite excited to be returning to Houston," said Chatham Baroque founding member and viola da gamba player Patricia Halverson, who fondly remembers the group's last visit to the series in 2006, when they also performed Spanish and Latin American music, though at a different time of year. "We recall from 2006 that the audience was very responsive."

In addition to Halverson, Chatham Baroque includes baroque violinist Andrew Fouts, a member of the 25-year-old group since 2008. Plucked-string player Scott Pauley, who joined the ensemble in 1996, rounds out the trio of members. He will play both baroque guitar and a large bass lute known as a theorbo during the concert, as will special guest David Walker. They will be joined by soprano Nell Snaidas, countertenor José Lemos and percussionist Danny Mallon.

On the program are cantadas and villancicos, Christmas songs that were highly favored by Latin American composers of the baroque era. One of these composers, Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, wrote many vernacular villancicos in a popular vein, designed to attract crowds of people to the cathedral in Puebla, Mexico, where he was assistant choirmaster in the early 1600s.

Puebla was the musical center of Mexico during this time, and several other composers represented on the program served as choirmasters there. These include Juan García de Zéspedes, a possibly native-born singer who began his career as a choirboy at Puebla Cathedral, and Antonio de Salazar, who, according to records, faced stiff competition in his bid for the top post.

One piece on the program sets a hymn in the native Quechuan language of Peru to a tune that some scholars speculate may have been written by an anonymous indigenous composer because of its blend of European harmonies with elements that sound Native American.

There also will be music by Sebastián Durón, who never traveled to the New World but nevertheless exerted a strong influence on the villancicos written there. Additional composers on the program include Santiago de Murcia, Gaspar Sanz, Manuel de Sumaya and many others.

Chatham Baroque will present "Cantadas de Navidad" on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Ave., Houston, Texas 77002. A preconcert talk will begin at 6:45 p.m.

Tickets are available for $40 general admission, $35 senior admission and $20 for students with a valid student ID card. Children under the age of 15 receive free admission.

For more information, e-mail or call 281-846-4222.

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