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August 25, 2016

Mariachi in the Mass and communal prayer

Pedro Rubalcava


The vast majority of the pieces in Misa del Sagrado Corazón are written in the genre commonly known as son huasteco (inspired from the region and culture of the huasteca, which touches the Gulf of México), and encompasses what is commonly known as huapango and son jaliscense. There are a variety of rhythms included in this collection of compositions that are related within this genre, although some of the forms are hybrids that are more modern in style, in terms of the choice of harmony and chord sequence.

The thought is that in mariachi music, as it has become more mainstream and an internationally known art expression, it has taken on some of the cultural and musical expressions that it has touched and has consequently been touched by. All this to say, that some of this music can easily be adapted to fit and feel at home in some Southamerican genres. The melodies are intentionally simple and accessible to allow for community participation.

What was the inspiration behind Misa del Sagrado Corazón?
The inspiring force behind the music and the texts of the processional songs in particular was the Holy Spirit, of course! I also was seeing a need for a setting of the Ordinary of the Mass in a mariachi style utilizing the “official” texts from the Roman Missal that was accessible and aimed at a participation of the people as a goal.

Since this particular idiom and style is very popular (of the people) it is not uncommon for mariachi arrangements of music for the mass in general to be performance-focused primarily and the facility of participation of the assembly overlooked, in which case the music tends to be wonderful to listen to and, sadly, the people in the assembly are left as spectators.

My hope is that this setting would become the “go-to” setting of mariachi groups as a better option to the well-known Misa Panamericana, which served a unique and useful purpose since the 1970s but in light of the ongoing renewal of the liturgy has naturally called for something to take its place in the common repertoire of the mariachi to serve the newer generation of believers. Beyond that, the very nature of the texts of the four processional songs, I felt needed to be general in theme, that accompanied the rite and pointed to the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst when we gather as a community for this important encounter with the Body of Christ.

So, hopefully, in the singing of these songs there would be an opportunity for formation and transformation through a sound theology of the presence(s) of Christ in the liturgy and the transformative love of God who calls us into relationship. In a nutshell, this Divine Love which we experience when we gather on Sunday is best expressed to me through the image of the Sacred Heart; this music, then, became an interpretation or metaphor that flowed from there.

The recording will appeal to a wide Latino Catholic audience, but primarily Mexicans of first, second and third generation, whose deep religiosity and cultural experience are drawn to the sound of mariachi. In the U.S in particular, in the last 15 to 25 years there has been a renaissance of mariachi music and programs in public school systems that according to some estimates now number over 500 across the nation in elementary, middle and high schools, not to mention a high number of colleges and universities.

Consequently, there has been a direct and indirect influence on the participation of some of these same students in pastoral music ministry at the parish level. As a result of the above mentioned, there are a significant number of parish mariachi groups in the US. In addition, there are groups that have been born out of that experience and are now operating on a professional basis, which still have connections to parishes.

The unique connection that is maintained to popular religiosity and the intersection of culture and religion particularly within the Hispanic/Latino communities, I am hoping, will naturally allow for la Misa del Sagrado Corazón to become a staple part of the mariachi repertoire and perhaps, in time, even replace la Misa Panamericana as the mass of choice for use in celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It is not uncommon to find parish communities searching for mariachi groups to play for the many masses that are celebrated on that day. In the same fashion mariachi and certainly pastors, and pastoral ministers (and parishioners) who plan weddings, funerals and quince años celebrations will find a welcome resource in la Misa del Sagrado Corazón. Another group that I think can benefit will be organizers of the many mariachi festivals throughout the country that for the most part include a mass (sometimes celebrated by the local bishop) as part of the program. I am hopeful that these organizers would consider placement of workshops to show and teach the mass setting in the many offerings that are provided at these festivals for aspiring and professional mariachi.