By Clay McAdam
Los Cantantes del Lago is the choral group from the Lake Chapala area that has become very well known for the two concerts it gives, at Christmas and again at the end of March each year. The choir is made up of some seventy members, male and female, Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans ranging in age from 17 to 80-something. Since my wife is a member of Los Cantantes, I had the privilege of being allowed to join their 2009 Summer Tour. The tour took place from Monday, July 6 to Friday, July 17, and visited various areas in central Mexico.
The kick-off concert was held on Friday, July 3 at the Templo San Francisco de Asis in Chapala. Before the concert began, a procession that had departed the church returned and completed their service. Many of the Mexican people who were taking part in the service remained for the concert and all were impressed with the many voices singing songs originating in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. With the end of this concert, it was then time to spend the weekend packing for the actual tour. Two 40-passenger luxury coaches had been hired to transport this group of singers to various concerts and sightseeing tours for the next twelve days.
The first concert of the 90th Encuentro de Coros en la Inmaculada was held in Zamora, Michoacán, enroute to Morelia, Michoacán, on Monday, July 6. Another concert was sung Tuesday evening at the Auditorio de La Inmaculada in Morelia, and also featured two other groups, Coro de Cámara del Instituto de Música Sacra de Morelia, and Ensable Vocal Aire Fresco which was comprised of a quartet and the director/pianist. It was a terrific concert, well worth attending.
Wednesday morning gave us the opportunity to explore the historic centre of Morelia before boarding the buses and making our way to Patzcuaro for an afternoon touring the town and another evening concert at Templo del Sagrario, and return to Morelia. A side trip was made Thursday morning to the village of Tupátaro to view an old village church which is reported to be the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. This church dates back to 16th century and is non-descript from the outside, but once inside your eyes are drawn to the ceiling and the paintings dating back to the 18th century. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the inside of the church. Returning again to Morelia, we had some more free time in the afternoon before a late afternoon departure for the town of Cuitzeo for another concert at the Ex-Convento de Sta. Maria Magdalena.
The following morning, Friday, saw us once again board the buses for another side trip, this time to the town of Sta. Clara del Cobre and a copper-making demonstration. This was not a modern day manner of making copper items, but the way it has been done for centuries. The copper mines have run out, but the copper is now reclaimed from wiring and other materials using copper. Following this very interesting show of making copper, shopping in the town for various copper articles was in order, with many items being purchased and brought back to Ajijic by the group. Then the return to Morelia and another concert, but this time Los Cantantes del Lago were able to rest after four straight evenings of performing. Music presented by choirs from Mérida and Mexico City was enjoyed by our singers. Again, lunch followed the concert with the opportunity to mix with the members of the other choirs.
Saturday afternoon provided a trip to the town of Tzintzuntzan and a visit to the Ex-Convento de San Francisco and the Templo de la Soledad. The plan to visit a pre-Columbian ruin was washed out with a heavy downpour of rain. The evening provided the choir and the choir groupies, as we non-singers were now being referred to, to attend another concert and enjoy the singing of others.
The final performance in Morelia and area was held Sunday morning at the Inmaculada as a part of a massed choir performing the mass. The remainder of the day again offered the opportunity to explore historic Morelia, and pack for the departure the following morning.
The buses departed Morelia Monday, for San Miguel de Allende to continue the tour. Accommodations in San Miguel were at the Posada de la Aldea, just a few blocks walk from the main square. Not having been to San Miguel before, I didn’t realize that everywhere you went, it was uphill.
Dolores Hidalgo was the destination for Tuesday, when we visited the historic city where Mexico’s 1810 Independence movement began. On the way back to San Miguel, we just had to make two stops at different talavera factories to make more purchases, and to load the buses down some more. Talavera is the colorful pottery that is seen in Mexico. The remainder of the day in San Miguel was at our leisure.
Wednesday morning provided more free time. In the late afternoon, we departed for the town of Atotonilco, about a third of the way toward Dolores Hidalgo. There, the choir performed in front of the Sanctuario de Jesús de Nazareno de Atotonilco, as the interior is undergoing restoration. This church has an amazing array of paintings inside and rivals any I have seen elsewhere. As the choir began the concert, few people were in attendance, but as the singing continued, the area in front of the church was soon filled with people from the village who were amazed with this choir that had come to entertain them at no cost to them.
The final concert was held in the Teatro Angela Peralta in Morelia, and was the only concert of the entire tour in which admission was charged. The entire admission fees were turned over to a local school in Morelia to enable young children to begin their education. A long and hectic tour, but Los Cantantes del Lago performed admirably throughout and proved their worth as ambassadors of music from Lake Chapala.
If you would like to join the choir for their next season, please contact Los Cantantes’ Musical Director, Timothy G. Ruff Welch (firstname.lastname@example.org).