sor  mariaA manuscript “Cuaderno de tonos de maitines de Sor María Clara del Santísimo Sacramento” (“Notebook of Psalm Tones for Matins of Sister María Clara of the Most Blessed Sacrament”) was registered in the AHAAO some years ago and published by Wayne Leupold Editions in collaboration with the IOHIO in 2005*. It consists of a collection of short pieces or verses for organ and seems to have been compiled, though not composed, by a Oaxacan nun during the first half of the nineteenth century.

We are almost certain that these organ pieces were composed in Oaxaca by Oaxacans, in which case they would be the only examples of organ music documented to date by Mexican composers. These light, happy verses are classical in character and very accessible to the listener. It is possible that they were written down for teaching purposes, since liturgical organ was usually played by memory or improvised and for that reason so little of it remains. We also know that teaching music to young people was one of many responsibilities of a titular organist.

Since the publication of the manuscript, Ricardo Rodys has discovered genealogical references which prove that Sor María Clara (or Clara Martínez Ramírez) was part of a dynasty of Oaxacan organists and organbuilders which originated in the late eighteenth century. What had been a routine research project suddenly turned into exciting detective work as one reference led to another.

Thus Rodys was able to discover that Clara´s grandfather, Juan Martínez, had been the organist in the Oaxaca Cathedral from 1786 to 1795 and that his brother, Mariano (Clara´s great uncle), had been violinist and second organist in the Cathedral for some years before that. Before assuming his post in Oaxaca City, Juan Martínez had been the organist in Tlacolula and other nearby communities such as Ocotepec and Teitipac  (where the outer cases of the organs still exist). It seems likely that at some point he would have played the organ in the neighboring community of Tlacochahuaya as well.

Clara´s uncle was also an organist in the Cathedral, her cousins were organbuilders, and her aunt had been an organist in the Conceptionist convent, just like Clara herself. (To read the complete article about Sor María Clara published in the Fourth Newsletter of the IOHIO, click here). Although most of the information about Clara and her family was discovered in the Cathedral archives, the document which cites the profession of her uncle (“organista”) and of his four sons (“organeros”) comes from the Municipal Archives, while references to organs built by her uncle José Domingo Martínez are found in the Notarial Archives.

To honor the memory of Sor María Clara and her relatives, the IOHIO regularly programs pieces from her notebook in our concerts and incorporates them into the repertoire of our students. We also encourage the organists invited to play in our festivals to include them in their programs.

*To order this book click here.

(For reports on previous IOHIO archive research, see Newsletters No. 1 p. 4, No. 2 p. 11, No. 3 pp. 5-6, and No. 4 p. 11).