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Music

Music played a prominent role in the mission program; indeed all means possible were used to "enlighten" the native inhabitants and draw them into the church. Where practical, the Indians were educated in musical technique in fourteen of the missions,[120] and a small orchestra and choir were included as part of religious celebrations. Listing the material goods at San Ildefonso, for example, Domínguez noted "two old breviaries, which, along with introits, etc., written in musical notes, are for the use of the choir singers."[121] At the least a drum announced the mass. The Abo congregation raised sufficient capital from salt exports to purchase an organ, an impressive feat in light of the cost and difficulties of importation. Several other missions also possessed small organs for the divine service. That music continued as a part of religious ceremony well into the nineteenth century was verified by John Gregory Bourke's reports in 1881. An unskilled performance at Santa Cruz amused, rather than touched, the lieutenant: "Two guitars and a violin, each of domestic make and each in the last stages of decrepitude, furnished the music for a choir of voices, also of domestic manufacture and also in the last stage of decrepitude. To somewhat complicate the matter, the musicians (I use the term for want of a better), played different tunes and the singers pitched their voices in different keys."[122]

While skeptical of the merit of the performance at Isleta, Bourke was moved by the quality of the indigenous ceremony and the symbiotic relationship of the rite to its architectural settings:

At the moment of our entrance, an organ in the choir was playing a soft prelude. (This was one of the very few church organs I heard in New Mexico.) Shortly afterwards, a woman struck up, in a voice crackled and feeble, a chant, the purport of which I could not make out; the antiphone to this was rendered in a murmur of gentle music by the chorus kneeling figures about her.

There is something peculiar about the church-music of the Río Grande valley: the solos are stridulous and strained, but the choruses have in them something weird, soft, and tender, not to be described.[123]


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