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

Appropriately enough, this article was first published in the Christmas 2018 issue of our parish magazine. Here it is for you again:

Navidad Nuestra 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 autumn 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 Bethlehem!

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 in 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 or you could hear it live performed by the Manchester Chorale at Didsbury Baptist Church on Saturday December 8 at 7.30pm.

Carol P

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