Cualli netlācatilizpan! Celebrating Christmas with Aztec Christmas Carols

Colonial Mexico was a spectacular land of opportunity for musicians—composers and performers alike.

By the end of the sixteenth century, Mexico’s great cities were some of the wealthiest cities in the world. Flush with wealth brought in from the lucrative silver trade, the great churches of the region recruited a steady stream of musicians and composers from Europe. A Chapel Master in Mexico City could make a fortune relative to his peers in Italy or Germany, and many musicians eagerly immigrated to the New World to enjoy a standard of living they could never attain in the Old.

Once set up in the New World, these musicians discovered the rich, vibrant musical traditions of the native peoples. These musical stylings hit composers like a thunderclap and led to a revolution in composition that fused European traditions with those of the indigenous people. Soon church composers were taking things a step further, composing religious motets in native languages, such as the Aztecs’ Nahuatl, to reach and engage local audiences that couldn’t speak Spanish or Latin. The result is a stunning musical tradition that crackles with rhythm, drive, and excitement.

Mexican Baroque music was born.

And some of the most delightful Mexican Baroque music being written was to celebrate Christmas, at times using texts in native languages.

That means that yes, there were Aztec Christmas carols. Continue reading

My Favorite Classical Christmas Music

As we charge toward Christmas, I wanted to send along my very best wishes to all my readers who are celebrating this magical time of year. As a musical Christmas Card to you all, here’s a quick list of my favorite classical Christmas music. I don’t claim this is an exhaustive list, or that these they are the best selections, but all are of personal meaning to me.

Enjoy the holiday, stay safe, and may you have many blessings in the year ahead! Continue reading

A Classical Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice!  It that time of year when we finally—and for those of us in Minnesota, usually far too slowly—start working our way back to summer’s light.  But winter has charms all its own, with fairy-tale frost, crisp air, and wonderful snowscapes everywhere.  So, let me welcome the new season with a playlist of winter-themed classical music.  Some of the following selections are delicate, some melancholy, some dramatic… but all take winter, ice, or snow as their point of departure.  Note that I have deliberately avoided Christmas or holiday music here… Christmas music deserves its own post.

Cheers! Continue reading