Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SAVAE at 20 - by James Baker

About 8 months ago a committee was formed to study the possibility of presenting a series of concerts in San Antonio featuring music of Colonial New Spain. Vitally interested in the project were Father Larry Christian, Rector of the Assumption Seminary, and Renata Furst, Director of Studies at the Seminary. When they asked me how we should begin the answer came easily. Let's invite SAVAE, the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble. Little did we realize it at the time, but through the magic of serendipity we scheduled the SAVAE concert on what turns out to be the exact 20th anniversary of the ensemble's first concert on December 4, 1989, at the San Fernando Cathedral. Needless to say, we are all thrilled to be part of this anniversary concert by SAVAE which will also serve as the inaugural event of the Celebrating Latin American Arts Series (CLAAS).

SAVAE has traveled several musical roads, but their track always seems to bring them back to Colonial Latin America. This is where they made their first mark and it is certainly music to which they bring passion and authority. In speaking recently to Covita and Christopher Moroney, two of the founders of SAVAE, I found that they have been intentional in staking claim to a certain repertory, a music which speaks more directly from the New World than through the filter of European musical styles. Their performances reflect this bias through the numerous folkloric and indigenous instruments which they bring to the stage. According to the Moroneys, they typically bring about 30 instruments to their programs. These punctuate and accompany the various Latin, Spanish, Nahuatl and Quechua texts which reflect the concious effort of the Catholic Church to invite the New World to meet and mingle with the Old World.

SAVAE's concert will kick off a multi-year project in San Antonio called the Celebrating Latin American Arts Series. Future concerts will take place in a variety of venues, including Mission Conception in 2010. This first concert, however, is in a relatively new space, one which mimics the stone and mortar construction of the traditional Spanish missions of the Southwestern United States. The Assumption Seminary's Chapel was designed by the maverick San Antonio architect O'Neil Ford. More about this relatively unknown work of Ford in a future post to this blog.

SAVAE's anniversary concert will take place Friday, December 4, at the Assumption Seminary Chapel, 2600 W. Woodlawn, just West of Woodlawn Park. The concert is free and open to the public. Ample free parking is available. The concert begins at 7:30 pm, with a reception following the concert.

This concert is sponsored by MATT (Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together), and is presented in cooperation with Old Spanish Missions, Inc., San Antonio Institute of Catholic Cultures and KPAC, 88.3.

Itinerarios, airing on KPAC Sunday evening at 7, will this week feature the interview with Covita and Christopher Moroney while also previewing parts of SAVAE's December 4th concert.

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