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Christmas in the New World

Musica Antica Rotherhithe presents a Christmas hard to find anywhere else this year in London: one rooted in the music written in Latin America and Iberia during the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The discovery of America by European Nations at the turn of the 16th Century was one of the most destructive periods in world history. Within 40 years two vast empires: The Aztecs in Mexico and Inca in Peru, had collapsed as small bands of Spanish adventurers exploited divisions between local peoples to topple the ruling class, assert colonial rule, and become rich beyond all imagining in the process. Those with a more humanitarian bent – horrified at the treatment of indigenous peoples – sought to preserve what they could of pre-conquest art, language and music, saving objects and reconciling whatever they could with Hispanic society.

Camilla Seale

The result was an incredible fusion of cultures, and Musica Antica Rotherhithe has built a programme of beautiful music that expresses just that: from joyous dances featuring a mix of American, African and European instruments and styles, to sacred music – written in the polyphonic style of the European Renaissance – but with words written in Quechua and Nahuatl, the languages of ancient Peru and Mexico.

Director Oliver Doyle writes ‘Concerts at Christmas are often dominated by Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Passions, but there’s so much music out there that’s equally beautiful and completely absent from Classical Music programmes. We’re hoping this concert will provide something different – equally Christmassy, but promising something people might not have heard live before.’

It’s also a rare airing of music from the Renaissance and Baroque by composers who weren’t born, lived and died in Western Europe.

‘Society in Portugal was already pretty diverse by this point in history – we’re doing a lot of songs written by indigenous American people, but also by Vicente Lusitano, a Portuguese composer who was the first black man to have his music published.’

Ticket prices for Musica Antica’s concerts remain low, with a £2 ticket for children, students and anyone looking for work. At a runtime of 1 hour 30, including a long interval to enjoy some of the venue’s famous gin, it promises a beautiful, festive evening in the week leading up to Christmas.

Musica Antica Rotherhithe
18th December, 7:30pm – 9pm
Holy Trinity Church, Rotherhithe, SE16 5HF
Tickets £10/£2 for children, students and jobseekers: musicaantica.org.uk

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