Misa Criolla - Ariel Ramirez (1921- )

When Ariel Ramirez recorded his Creole Mass in October 1964 in Buenos Aires one could sense it was a work of universal appeal, but no one could have foreseen its enormous success. The original recording, released in 40 countries, sold more than three million copies and the score was published in the United Sates by Lawson-Gould Music Publishers Inc., in Canada by the Ministry of Culture and in Argentina by Pigal-Lagos. The first public performance, conducted by the composer, was in the Rheinhalle, Düsseldorf on March 12, 1967.

The Mass, sung to a Castilian text approved in 1963 by the Liturgical Commission for Latin America, is a striking combination of the composer's own melodies and traditional Argentinian and Hispano-American regional forms and rhythms. The forces involved are a soloist (or vocal duo), a choir of at least 40 mixed voices, organ (or piano) and an instrumental ensemble featuring the charango (a five-stringed guitar), quena (a rustic flute), siku (Bolivian panpipes) and a wide variety of regional percussion instruments.

The Kyrie, in the Andean rhythm of the baguala-vidala, suggests in the solo part the vastness, solitude, and aridity of the high plateaux, the loneliness one has living on a deserted high plateau. The Gloria uses the carnavalito yaravi (in 2/4 and a minor key), the Argentine variety of the carnaval, one of the most widespread dances of the high plains of northwest Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru and evokes the sense of rejoicing implicit in this part of the mass. The two sections of the Gloria are separated by a recitative (Yaravi) which makes the cadence of the carnavalito more brilliant when it returns with a full rhythmic accompaniment.

The obsessive rhythm of the Credo is the chacarera trunca, from Santiago del Estero, a province of northern Argentina. Its obsessive rhythm accentuates the profession of faith and the section ends with the final words of prayer which reaffirm the triumph of everlasting life.

The carnaval returns in the Sanctus, but this time it is the Bolivian type, in the triple rhythm and major key typical of Cochobamba, one of the most beautiful and unusual Bolivian folk rhythms. It has a subdued but marked beat. The prayer for peace in the Agnus Dei is written in a typical style of the Pampas the lyrical estilo pampeano. As in the Kyrie, a feeling of solitude and distance is created. A simple recitative expresses the universal longing for peace.

This work has won the unprecedented admiration of the critics and public of Argentina and other South American countries. It proves that indigenous musical forms can communicate the highest values of life, and that the religious act may be conveyed through a popular medium of expression.