Houston Early Music Welcomes Back Audience Favorite El Mundo Tonight

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Houston Early Music audience favorite El Mundo returns to celebrate the holidays with a performance of "Villancicos y Cantatas de Navidad," a program of 17th- and 18th-century seasonal music from Spain, Italy and Latin America tonight, Dec. 12 at Christ Church Cathedral.

A part of the Hispanic Heritage Series, the program will feature traditional Baroque Christmas songs known as villancicos, as well as cantatas from cathedrals located throughout Latin America, along with works by noted Italian masters like Monteverdi and Legrenzi and neglected women composers such as Chiara Margarita Cozzolani.

"We will also tuck a few instrumental and secular pieces in there for fun," said Richard Savino, El Mundo's director.

Joining Savino, who plays Baroque guitar and theorbo, are sopranos Nell Snaidas, Celine Ricci and Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and bass Paul Shipper, who also plays percussion and Baroque guitar. In addition, two violinists, including Houston native Adam Lamotte, and brilliant young cellist Andres Bello Vera will take the stage along with harpsichordist and organist Matthew Dirst, director of Ars Lyrica Houston.

A highlight of the program will be the performance of a newly discovered work from the collection of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Archival Center at the San Fernando Mission, which includes music written at missions throughout California and Northern Mexico. These missions, some dating to the mid-1700s, were dedicated to the conversion of the indigenous population to Christianity, and the works were composed specifically for that purpose. Since this population was not historically trained in Western music, these compositions often have what Savino calls "a somewhat more naïve quality."

"Within the vast collection are some gems," said Savino, who has selected a small mass by Juan Bautista Sancho, a solemn reverential work, which will contrast well with other repertoire on the program that is rooted in dance music. There also will be a piece written by little-known Spanish composer Juan Iribarren, the maestro di capella at Spain's Salamanca and Malaga cathedrals.

"This concert will feature some spectacular works that are rarely performed," said Savino, a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at California State University at Sacramento and winner of the French Diapason d'Or. "I believe that the vocal and instrumental virtuosity that we will present will leave the listener breathless," he said.

El Mundo will present "Villancicos y Cantatas de Navidad" tonight, Dec. 12, 2014, at 8 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Ave., Houston, Texas 77002. A preconcert talk with Richard Savino will begin at 7:15 p.m.

Full-season subscriptions for the Houston Early Music 2014-2015 season may be purchased at HoustonEarlyMusic.org. Prices for full-season tickets are priced at $200 for general admission and $175 for senior admission.

A mini-pass option, which provides a selection of any three concerts, is also available for $110 general admission and $95 for seniors. Individual 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.

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