The Santa Fe Desert Chorale returns to in-person performances with its 2021 Winter Festival: “Nochebuena.”
The 24-member group will kick off the season on Saturday, Dec. 11, at Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, then head south to Albuquerque’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Dec. 12. Various Santa Fe performances follow through Dec. 22.
The program blends Gregorian Chant with music by Hispanic composers and traditional English and American carols.
The concert opens with “Queen of Heaven,” a traditional Gregorian Chant, followed by “Ave Regina Caelorum” by Tomás Luis de Victoria, the most famous composer in 16th century Spain. De Victoria took the chant and set it to eight voices.
“The architectural structure is the original Gregorian chant,” conductor and artistic director Joshua Habermann said. “He has them sort of in conversation with each other.”
The music of New Spain follows with Latin American Baroque.
“Mexico was a very important center for composition at that time,” Habermann said.
The singers will perform this late Baroque music associated with the holidays with harpsichord.
The traditional Hispanic carols moved from Spain to New Mexico, including “O Mi Belén” and “Gabriel’s Message.”
“The Great Mystery” or “O Magnum Mysterium” arranged by Kevin Memley follows. The text has been a holiday tradition for 10 years, Habermann said.
“It’s always sort of meditative and beautiful,” he added. “It’s a rich harmony of a capella voices.”
The concert closes with British and American favorites such as “The First Noel,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “White Christmas.”
Founded in 1982 by Lawrence “Larry” Bandfield, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale is one of the longest-running professional music organizations in New Mexico.