Navidad Nuestra: Los Reyes Magos Ariel Ramirez (1921-2010)

This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of our parish magazine.

As mentioned last month, “Navidad Nuestra” is a 6-movement work that takes us from the Annunciation through the Pilgrimage, 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 autumn ready for the Manchester Chorale’s Christmas concert.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love sent to me…gold, frankincense and myrrh, delivered by an unspecified number of “wise” men who had travelled a long and arduous journey from the east, guided only by an unusually bright star in the sky.

Los Reyes Magos

The Three Wise Men

Llegaron ya, los reyes y eran tres

Melchor, Gaspar y el negro Baltasar

Arrope y miel le llevarán

Y un poncho blanco de alpaca real.

 

Three kings there are come riding from afar:

Melchior, Caspar and black Balthasar.

They bring a poncho white and warm,

They bring Him honey and cakes Christmas morn.

Changos y chinitas duérmanse

Que ya Melchor, Gaspar y Baltasar

Todos los regalos dejarán

Para jugar mañana al despertar.

 

See how sweetly baby Jesus sleeps,

Before Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar

See the weary kings who travelled far

Bringing their gifts and following the star.

 

El Niño Dios muy bien lo agradeció

Comió la miel y el poncho lo abrigó

Y fue después que los miró

Y a medianoche el sol relumbró.

 

Good cakes they bring and honey besides,

Then Jesus wakes and laughter lights His eyes.

The infant wakes and then He smiles,

And when He smiles, see the sun light the skies.

This piece is written for four voice parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), accompanied by guitar, harpsichord, jingle bells and bongo drums – but any collection of south American instruments will do! It is a lively piece, with exuberant dance rhythms. The choir had difficulty standing still whilst performing it!

Reading the translation during rehearsal made me aware that our treasured Christmas stories and traditions are a western construct – and that other nationalities have versions that make more sense for their own cultures. For example, in the 2018 Manchester Chorale Christmas Concert we also sang the Canadian Huron carol, which tells of tribal warriors bring beaver pelts for the new baby.

So what did the Wise Men actually bring? We cannot be certain. All we have in our New testaments are translations of translations of transcriptions of stories handed down by word of mouth over centuries.

You can listen to Los Reyes Magos here: https://goo.gl/4sKJ5E

Carol P


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