Paco Peña

Misa Flamenca

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Perhaps it seems strange or even disrespectful to write a Catholic mass in the style of flamenco. After all, flamenco is a very earthy kind of music. Perhaps the concept that can bridge the gap is "passion," which, as "duende," is the profound and painful soul of flamenco. "Passion" originally meant "suffering," which is why stories about the death of Jesus are called passions. For this project, Paco Peña brings together four flamenco singers, four guitarists (including himself), two percussionists, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus, a British classical choir. Peña, with clerical counsel, has adapted the text of the mass to the kind of Spanish verse sung in flamenco.

Unfortunately, the finished product does not gel. All the performers are competent, and the British chorus works better than it has a right to, but the mass lacks forward motion. There are a few exceptions: the "Santo" (Sanctus), in the form of a Tanguillos, has exciting percussion and palmas, and the guitars slash along their course while the singers perform with enthusiasm. But most of the sections have just one or two musicians performing with far too much air around them. Despite some wonderful bits and pieces, the overall effect is static. If you're looking for a more vibrant mass that's from a Spanish-language tradition and that uses popular instruments, try Ariel Ramirez' Misa Criolla.

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