OC LIVE : MUSIC : Mission: To Reveal Music of Spanish Colonies


Oh, those trendy Californians. Just when you think you've got your American music history down, they come up with Mexican Baroque and California Classical.


"We've all had a tendency to just deal with this kind of New World music and focus instead on the East Coast" and its Germanic and English traditions, said Alvin Brightbill, who leads a "Festival of Mission Music" Friday at Mission San Juan Capistrano Catholic Church. "We haven't paid attention to what's going on in Mexico and the West Coast.

"Yet what we're discovering is that in some ways, music was much more advanced on the West Coast," Brightbill said. "We're finding fully orchestrated choral Masses, all this exciting stuff, from a time [the 18th Century] when you'd only have found psalm-singing on the East Coast."

For the occasion, Brightbill has rallied the Saddleback Master Chorale and Concert Singers, the San Juan Capistrano Mission Choir and vocal soloists.

They'll perform music from the Spanish colonies, including:

* Ignacio de Jerusalem's polychoral Mass in D Major, discovered three years ago at Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana in Los Angeles.

* Three pieces by Manuel de Zumaya, which, along with De Jerusalem's Mass, were first performed in modern times by the a cappella ensemble Chanticleer at a musicological conference in 1993.

* "California Mission Music," a compilation of manuscripts found at the Santa Barbara Mission and ascribed to Padre Narciso Duran.

With the exception of Duran's music, edited by John Biggs and performed locally by the Saddleback Master Chorale in 1988, these works may not have been heard in a live concert setting in more than a century.

Zumaya was born in 1678 of Indian and European ancestry and named chapel master at the Mexico City Cathedral in 1715; he wrote the first opera in the New World, "Partenope."

Italian-born De Jerusalem was the cathedral's chapel master in the mid-1700s; his Masses, discovered by John Koegel (when he was a member of Saddleback College's associate music faculty), combine galante style with Baroque and were probably performed in California in the 19th Century by Native American Christian converts.

Duran arrived in California from Spain in 1806. He wrote Latin plainchant as well as a Kyrie that Brightbill described as "almost tuneful, Schubertian"; also on the program is a four-part setting of the Lord's Prayer in Spanish.

At Mission San Jose, and later at Mission Santa Barbara, Duran developed orchestras of Native Americans who both played instruments--including strings, flutes, trumpets and drums--and sang.

"Duran wrote a little treatise on music stating that there should be no difference between singers and musicians," Brightbill said, "that everyone should learn to play an instrument and sing."

At this performance, however, it's one to a role. Soloists are sopranos Julie Barron and Brenda von Gremp, mezzo soprano Marci Irving and tenor Charles Stephenson. Mission Choir director Brian Copple will play continuo.

Brightbill said that works such as the De Jerusalem Mass make all the often merely dutiful musicological digging worthwhile.

"You go through a lot of stuff that's found, or published, and it's sort of, 'eh?' Sometimes you think it could have stayed in the archives and it wouldn't have been terrible," he said.

"But how much art is out there, how many masterpieces? We should not stop digging. Every once in a while a gem like this will pop up."


* What: Festival of Mission Music.

* When: Friday, 8 p.m.

* Where: San Juan Capistrano Catholic Church, 31522 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

* Whereabouts: Take Interstate 5 to the Ortega (74) Highway exit and head west. Turn right on Camino Capistrano.

* Wherewithal: $10 to $12.

* Where to call: (714) 582-4656.



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