NOVEMBER 8 - 13, 2007




Beginning in 2001, the IOHIO has had the honor and the pleasure of promoting the Oaxacan historic organs by means of an organ and early music festival. This event is highly regarded world-wide and attracts not only the most renowned international artists, but also a growing number of organ aficionados who are lured to Oaxaca by the concerts, field trips and related activities. It should be noted that Oaxaca is one of the few places in the world where concerts may be heard on six or more eighteenth- century restored pipe organs in just a few days.

Our Festival concerts typically feature the organs in Tlacochahuaya, the Oaxaca Cathedral, Zautla, Tamazulapan, la Basílica de la Soledad and Yanhuitlán, but this year for the first time a concert was also programmed in Tlaxiaco. With this addition to the roster, it was hoped that all seven restored organs could be presented in one festival, but Oaxacan realities being what they are, just as we added one, we had to cancel another--in Yanhuitlán--due to a roof repair project in the church. But this year another concert was hardly missed, since the Festival was longer and more extensive than ever, lasting six days instead of the usual four and including a two-day excursion to the Mixteca Alta region after an intense long weekend of six concerts.


November 8   The festival began with the first of two master classes conducted by Dr. Kimberly Marshall on the historic organ in Tlacochahuaya. The general theme of the first session was the 16th century Iberian repertoire, with special attention focused on dance forms (everyone learned how to dance a pavana), ornamentation of the tientos and appropriate registrations.


That evening, the Oaxaca Cathedral was the venue for the Inaugural concert of the Festival. Swiss keyboardist Bernard Brauchli presented an elegant program highlighting the contrasting styles of Swiss and Iberian repertoire of the 16th to 18th centuries.



November 9     Kimberly Marshall gave her second organ master class in Tlacochahuaya. This time the focus was on the 17th century repertoire and the history, evolution and interpretation of the Batalla (Battle) form.


That afternoon, participants gathered in the Francisco de Burgoa Library in the Santo Domingo ex-convent for the official inauguration of the Sixth IOHIO Festival.  Cicely Winter, director of the IOHIO, presented a lecture about “The Historic Organs of Oaxaca and the Work of the IOHIO,” which included such topics as the historical antecedents of the organs, the evolution of construction and decorative techniques, the conservation, documentation, and protection of the organs, and the keyboard training project centered in the IOHIO Music Education Center.

Following the conference, the director of the Library, María Isabel Grañen Porrúa,  inaugurated an exhibit of rare books from the Library´s collection and other Oaxacan archives “El arte y los libros de música.” Inspired by the IOHIO, Dr. Grañen has taken an active interest in acquiring historic manuscripts and publications related to the themes of organs and music in Mexico.   


The Second concert of the Festival took place in the Basílica de la Soledad, with its wide open nave and excellent acoustics. An ensemble of Mexico City-based artists was organized by organist and harpsichordist Rafael Cárdenas and included Roberto Rivadeneyra, violin, Alan Durbecq, cello, Michael Samford, trumpet, and Guadalupe Jiménez, soprano.



November 10   Our traditional all-day field trip to the Mixteca Alta region began with a visit to the Dominican church and ex-convent of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán. Because of the roof repair project in process, the organ and all the altarpieces were covered with plastic sheeting, but at least it was possible to appreciate the magnificent architecture of the church and the location of the organ in a high side balcony.



We continued on to Santa María Tamazulapan for the Third concert of the Festival. This exquisitely decorated 2´ processional organ, constructed around 1725 and located in a high lateral balcony, is the smallest of the seven restored Oaxacan organs, though its robust sound belies its small dimensions. The concert featured the ensemble directed by organist Rafael Cárdenas which had performed the previous evening in La Soledad, as well as Kimberly Marshall who played several renaissance dances and coaxed a variety of sounds from this little organ never heard before.                                  




After the concert, eight children from Tamazulapan who study in the IOHIO Music Center performed solo pieces and duets, both classical and Mexican, and the community was enthralled to hear its own young people playing the organ.                     



Our next stop was in the nearby community of Santiago Teotongo. The organ seems to be contemporaneous with the splendid baroque altarpieces and even though it lost all its pipes and keyboard during the Mexican Revolution, the magnificent red and gold case still exists. Carved angels once stood atop the organ´s towers and were removed from storage for a special viewing. Their mouths form an O to blow out the sound from the pipes which passed through their bodies.


We were received in San Andrés Zautla by a local band and plenty of mezcal and were then ushered to the patio behind the church for a dinner of mole amarillo organized by the families of the scholarship students.  The Fourth concert of the Festival was presented by the chamber ensemble directed by Rafael Cárdenas, which alternated pieces using the organ from up in the choir loft with others using the harpsichord from the church. After the concert, the two local scholarship students played short pieces. This 4´ organ (1726), though situated on a table, is too tall and heavy to be portable and represents an unusual trend in Oaxacan organbuilding.





November 11   Festival activities started with a visit to the unrestored organ (1866) of San Matías Jalatlaco. Several restorers were on hand to heartily approve a new IOHIO conservation measure which involves making replacement keyboard covers to protect any still existing keyboards and façade plank replacements to fill in the gaps of the case and thus protect the organ´s interior. This organ is of lovely proportions, unusual because of its blue-painted case, and very well constructed by 19th century organbuilder Pedro Nibra.



At noon we gathered once again in the Burgoa Library for an illustrated lecture about clavichords by Bernard Brauchli. His talk was followed by the Fifth concert of the Festival on two instruments built by Juan Luis García Orozco in Mexico City, which were transported to Oaxaca for the occasion.  This was the first time that most of the local audience had ever seen or heard a clavichord, not to mention that their first listening experience was provided by one of the world´s experts.



The Sixth concert of the Festival took place in Tlacochahuaya was provided by the luxury bus of the Guerreros de Oaxaca, the local baseball team. This organ is the jewel in the Oaxacan crown. Its gorgeous decorated case and façade pipes make it a work of art in its own right; Susan Tattershall´s restoration was masterful in respecting and reinforcing the character of the instrument; the architecture of the church seems to be perfectly synchronized with the organ to create ideal acoustics; and the exuberantly painted church interior is one of the loveliest in Mexico. Kimberly Marshall gave an elegant performance focused on the classical Spanish repertoire. After the concert the two scholarship children from the community each played a short piece, and then many people climbed up the winding stone staircase to have a closer view of the organ.

November 12 We departed early in the morning for our journey through the Mixteca Alta toward Santa María Tlaxiaco. This was the first time that Tlaxiaco had been included in the festival, because its three hour distance from Oaxaca City required an overnight. So we took advantage of being in the area and programmed visits to unrestored organs along the way. The festival had been weighted toward organ teaching and study at the beginning with Kimberly Marshall´s master classes. But for the last two days, the focus shifted toward issues of restoration, and for this we were fortunate to have five Mexican restorers join our group.

Our first stop was in Santa María Tinú. This small stone church houses an organ (1828) which is disproportionately large for the interior space. The organ, completely intact and played just a generation ago, still grunts and wheezes when the bellows are pumped. It is very possible that this organ could be made playable again with just an overall cleaning and patching of the winding system, without having to engage in a more intrusive restoration. The teachers from the primary school brought the children to the church to see the organ and they in return charmed their visitors by singing “Las Mañanitas.”




We then proceeded to San Andrés Sinaxtla. We refer to this organ (constructed 1791) as the first post-Dominican organ, since it begins a trend throughout the next century of unpainted natural wood cases without polychrome decoration, gilding or religious imagery. This organ is of particular interest because of the prominent lettering across the façade which proclaims the name of the woman who donated the organ in honor of her husband, its cost, and the date of construction.



The organ in Santa María Tiltepec is one of a cluster of extant organs located close to Yanhuitlán. We have programmed a visit to this lovely 17th century church in all our organ festivals, because of its elaborate carved stone facade, its lovely baroque altarpieces, and its whimsically carved and painted organ. The date of the organ painted across the façade is now worn away and only because of a recently discovered archive reference were we able to ascertain that it is in fact one of the oldest existing Oaxacan instruments---built in 1703. The former custodian of the church offered a midday dinner of barbacoa de borrego in the tree-sheltered patio of his home by the river.



We continued northwest into the high sierra of the Mixteca Alta to Santa María Tlaxiaco, which has been an important market center since pre-Hispanic times for the surrounding ethnic groups. The seventh and final concert of the Festival was performed by Rodrigo Treviño and Víctor Contreras, organists and teachers from Mexico City. This 8´ organ appears to have been built around 1800, and its decoration is perfectly synchronized with the red, white, black and gold interior of the church and retablos




November 13  We had hoped to have access to the Tlaxiaco organ in the morning so that the many organists in attendance could have a chance to play it, but due to a miscommunication, permission was denied (this is not a first in Oaxaca). So we used the available time to visit the nearby Mixtec archeological site of San Martín Huamelulpan with INAH archeologist Marcus Winter. 


We continued on to San Pedro Mártir Yucuxaco whose church is situated atop a promontory with an almost 360° view of the surrounding pine-covered hills. The 4´ tabletop organ dated 1740 is complete and in excellent condition, and its carved keyboard is exquisite. It is almost identical to the organ in Zautla except that it is unpainted.


Our next stop was San Pedro y San Pablo Teposcolula which along with Yanhuitlán and Coixtlahuaca is one of the three great 16th century Dominican convents in Oaxaca. It is especially famous for its open-air chapel used for mass conversions soon after the Conquest. The organ probably dates from the early 18th century and has a similar profile to that of Yanhuitlán, though it is painted a cream color and is undecorated.




We proceeded to Santiago Tejupan, whose 16th century church and convent have been cited in colonial documents (see Fourth Newsletter p.14). This organ (1776), like many others extant in Oaxaca, is actually not the original instrument, but a successor. Although it no longer has pipes or keyboard, its polychromed decoration and case inscriptions detailing the name of the donor, the date of construction, and the cost, make it particularly interesting.



Our Mixtec organ tour culminated with a visit to San Mateo Yucucui (1743). The floor planks of the side balcony on which the organ sits and the wooden beams sustaining the balcony are much deteriorated, so it was risky to venture too close to the organ. The situation has been evaluated by the INAH and a repair project is under consideration.


November 14   As a postlude to the Festival, INAH archeologist Marcus Winter offered a guided tour to the

famous archeological site of Monte Alban.



The Sixth Festival lived up to the high expectations set in past years and as usual, attracted a most congenial and interesting group of people from Mexico and beyond. Contact information was circulated and new projects and collaborations such as publications, concerts, and research and study opportunities are already underway. Once again, it was most gratifying for the IOHIO to have provided the momentum for so many valuable future activities.


The IOHIO is grateful for the support of the following institutions:

Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (CONACULTA INBA)
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH)
Arquidiócesis de Antequera Oaxaca
Secretaría de Cultura del Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca
Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca A.C.
Biblioteca Francisco de Burgoa
Pro Helvetia (Suiza)
Arizona State University
Universidad de Valladolid, España
Caminos y Puentes Federales (CAPUFE)

We are also grateful for the support of the following Oaxacan businesses:

Hotel Anturios
Hotel Azucenas
Hotel Casa Arnel
Hospedería La Reja
Hotel Parador San Agustín
Hotel Principal
Hostal de la Noria
Proveedora Gráfica de Oaxaca