Christmas in summer. It’s when it happens in South America and also the name of my favorite Christmas hymn.
Many writers tell me that they listen to music while working. Some say absolutely not. I myself don’t do anything without music playing. Not drive. Not cook. Not write. Certainly not decorate the Christmas tree.
Years back, while shopping for the playlist to inspire Invisible Country, I came across the work of the Argentine Composer Ariel Ramirez. If you don’t know of him, I want you to introduce you to him today. If you know his work, you will know where I am going and will likely want to follow.
Born in Santa Fe, Argentina in 1921, Ramirez was destined to be a school teacher like his father, until a vocation in music took him over. Given the country of his birth, he began by studying tango, but then he met Atahualpa Yupanqui, a great Argentine folk singer and songwriter. Ramirez became an aficionado, student, and worldwide proponent of traditional music of South America.
The rhythms of that music became his greatest inspiration and the basis of his masterpiece: the Misa Criolla. The Washington Post called his non-Latin mass “a stunning achievement.” The text is Spanish. The instrumentation, the tempos, the melodies highly influenced by indigenous South American Indian music. It is gorgeous. Here is a taste, with the angelic voice of the late, great Jose Carreras:
For this time of year, Navidad Nuestra is his Christmas oratorio—again a fusion of Spanish and Indian musical cultures, and a beautiful one.
For me, though, my favorite of his pieces is Navidad in Verano. While I was writing Invisible Country, I listened to it every day at least once. In the end, I put the song in the mouth of my character Salvador Leon, and it inspired one of the most intensely emotional scenes in the book.
I wish I could play the best version of it for you here, but is not available on YouTube, or it requires the dreaded Flash Player. The one I recommend is in this CD:
If you use iTunes, you can hear samples there, can download the whole album ($9.99) or just Navidad in Verano ($1.29). It is a truly lovely Christmas hymn. Here is a version you can access now. It is not the best, but it is true to Ramirez’s vision and it is heartfelt:
PAZ A TODO LOS HOMBRES!
Annamaria – the Monday before Christmas, 2013