There is still snow out there as I look through my study window on the shortest day of the year here in Lewes in Southern England feeling that chill in the air. My thoughts have turned to celebration as we get nearer and nearer to Christmas so to cheer myself up, I played the cd that my friend and relative Henry gave me for my birthday – the inspirational, foot-tapping album El Nuevo Mundo by the early music specialists Hesperion XXI lead by their brilliant, bass viol playing, director, Jordi Savall. There is nothing dry or fussily scholarly about this disc which concentrates on baroque South American music from the 18th. Century. I have been playing this music since September and I just can’t get it out of my system.
Listen to this if you don’t believe me when I say that this is excitingly fresh music. It is a Mexican piece, a galliard on the popular Mexican song El Jarabe Loco.
It is a poignant but thrilling song written with the excitement but also I think, the awe-inspired fear of a young Spanish adventurer a long way from home:
Ahora si ya unidos
el nuevo y el viejo mundo
y solo estan divididos
por un viejo mar profundo.
At last they are united,
the old and new world,
and now they only stand divided
by a sea as deep as it is old.
It not only makes me dance but it makes me want to exchange the cold Lewes weather and to cross that old sea to a land of sunshine and fun just as my paternal grandfather did when he left Scotland – never to be seen again. Here is a traditional version of the same song and these people really are dancing. Wonderful.