Navidad Nuestra: El Nacimento Ariel Ramirez (1921-2010)

This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of our parish magazine. You can read it again here:

Navidad Nuestra (“First Christmas”) is a 6-movement work that takes us from the Annunciation through the Pilgrimmage, the Nativity, the Shepherds and the Three Kings to the Flight to Egypt. I had my first look at it in the summer of 2018, and rehearsals began in earnest that Saturn ready for the Manchester Chorale’s Christmas concert.

I love this music. Ramirez, a native Argentinian has used traditional Argentine dance rhythms and instrumentation to produce a work that it lively, uplifting and contemplative.

Around the world, the Christmas story has been adapted to fit the indigenous climate and culture: traditional Canadian carols tell of tribal leaders taking beaver pelts to the infant; in Argentina the kings take a white poncho made of the finest white alpaca wool; we sing of a Christmas set “in the bleak midwinter” in which “snow had fallen snow on snow”. It rarely snows in Israel!

In rehearsals, my attention was fully taken with learning the notes and getting the Spanish text to sound right. One evening, while our MD was working on a section of the third movement (The Birth) with the tenors, I read through the translation. When I got to the line

In his arms a tiny cross grows

I caught my breath. Celebrate the nativity, but know that the horrors of Holy Week and Good Friday are inevitable. This is so much like Balthazar’s verse in “We Three Kings”:

  • Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
  • Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
  • Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
  • Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

The full text of the third movement of Nuestra Navidad is:

El Nacimiento The Birth
  • Noche anunciada, noche de amor,
  • Dios ha nacido, pétalo y flor,
  • todo es silencio y serenidad,
  • paz a los hombres, es Navidad.
  • Night long awaited, night of love and power
  • Jesus is born of petal and flower
  • All is silence, calm his birth
  • Peace upon earth, Christmas is with us
  • En el pesebre mi redentor
  • es mensajero de paz y amor,
  • cuando sonríe se hace la luz
  • y en sus bracitos crece una cruz.
  • Low in the manger Lord from above
  • Brings us the news of peace and of love
  • When he is smiling radiance glows
  • And his arms a tiny cross grows
  • Angeles cantan sobre el portal
  • Dios ha nacido, es navidad
  • Angels singing over the door
  • Christmas is with us, Jesus is born
  • Esta es la noche, que prometió
  • Dios a los hombres y ya llegó,
  • es Noche Buena, no hay que dormir
  • Dios ha nacido, Dios está aquí.
  • This is the night God Promised of old
  • His gift to mankind, now see it unfold
  • This is the night when sleep is foregone
  • God is among us, Jesus is born.

You can listen to Nuestra Navidad in full here.

Carol P











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