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Misa Criolla

In 1963, when the Vatican council authorized the performance of the mass in a common language, Ariel Ramírez began to write his most famous work: the Misa Criolla. Although most people in Latin America are Catholic, the celebration of the mass in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America was still very European--all of the readings from scripture were in Latin, a European language that few people understood. The Misa Criolla represented a new direction. Instead of using Latin, the texts were in Spanish, so everyone could understand them. Each movement was based around a different form of traditional music from the Andean region, specifically Argentina and Bolivia. The Misa Criolla was the first mass using both musical references from indigenous culture and lyrics in Spanish.


The name Misa Criolla translates authorized - allowed, permitted literally as "Creole mass," scripture - the sacred writings of the Bible referring to people with a Andean region - the Andean mountain range that combination of European and spans many South American countries including indigenous heritage. Much Argentina like the people of Argentina indigenous - originating or occurring naturally in a whose heritage is a mixture place or area; native of cultures, the Misa Criolla combines the European musical literally - translated exactly; word-for-word Creole - a person, language, or tradition that mixes traditions with the Latin elements of two or more cultures (usually American musical traditions. It Europe and indigenous) can also be described as a "folk ethnicity - heritage, background; people that share mass," meaning that it takes the same ethnicity are descended from the same the essential elements of the group of people traditional Catholic mass and convent - a home for nuns who live there to read, recreates them in a folk style. meditate, teach, and pray Many of the musical elements Holocaust - during WWII, the mass slaughter of Jews are the same as those found in and other minorities by the ruling Nazi party indigenous Andean folk music. Some of the instruments used in the piece are traditional Andean instruments, rather than the European instruments used in the past. By fusing the European religious traditions with Argentine elements, Ramírez created something that represented a uniquely Argentine version of Catholicism. Although the Misa Criolla is uniquely Argentine, it has been popular all over the world. It has been performed by choruses with famous soloists like the classical tenor José


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Celebrating Sacred Rhythms: A Teacher's Guide

Carreras in cities from London to New York. Ramírez wrote the work intending to honor all people of the world, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or beliefs. He said that he intended to write a piece "that refers to man, to his dignity, his courage, to freedom... and to his relationship with God the Creator." Part of the inspiration for the Misa Criolla had come to Ramírez years earlier. In the 1950s, Ariel Ramírez was living and studying music in Germany. One day, while staying at a convent in the countryside, he met two nuns who had been at the convent for many years. They told him about how, during the Holocaust, they had secretly helped German Jews, who were confined to a concentration camp nearby, by bringing them food each day. Ramírez was so inspired by their story that he began to think about writing a piece that would celebrate all of humanity. The Misa Criolla is unique because it is distinctly Argentine and Catholic, while at the same time appealing to people all over the world. There is an Argentine saying that says "know your village, and you will know the world." The Misa Criolla is a piece that is important for a "village" (the people of Argentina) but also for the world.

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. Name at least two places where Ariel Ramírez worked and studied.

2. Why is Misa Criolla unique?

3. What does it mean when Misa Criolla is described as a "folk mass"?

4. In your opinion, what is the message Ramírez is attempting to convey to the world through his work as a composer?

This page may be reproduced for use in the classroom

Celebrating Sacred Rhythms: A Teacher's Guide



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