Guacamaya: Songs & Chamber Music from Mexico

Confessing to a thirty-year love affair with the music of Mexico, Scottish tenor Jamie MacDougall enthusiastically joins forces with Delphian regulars Mr McFall’s Chamber, whose involvement in Latin American music goes back nearly as far.

The resulting album of songs and chamber music covers the whole of the twentieth century, charting a journey through nationalist, modernist, folk and Aztec influences to the work of Arturo Márquez and Javier Álvarez, two of the most prominent and successful composers in Mexico today.

At the heart of the programme are the classic songs whose writers grew up in the drawing-room culture as well as the bars and brothels of turn-of-the-century Mexico, a repertoire MacDougall reckons the equal of the American Songbook, that should be much better known and more widely heard.

"Scottish tenor Jamie MacDougall thinks the songs and tunes of Mexico are “up there with the American songbook”, and devotes his album Guacamaya to unearthing gems from the Mexican tradition. Agustín Lara’s Granada is the best known song in the recital, and MacDougall’s affectionate rendition is abetted by the buoyant support of the instrumental group Mr McFall’s Chamber, complete with clacking castanets. Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita is another popular favourite which glows in MacDougall’s fondly sentimental reading, and includes a marvellously sinuous solo for the musical saw. Between the songs sits a selection of instrumental pieces, including the contemporary composer Javier Álvarez’s bustlingly rhythmic Metro Chabacano and Pablo Moncayo’s Aztec-inspired Sonata for Viola and Piano—all winningly performed"

"It is tempting to speculate that the title of this collaboration between violinist Robert McFall’s chamber ensemble and tenor and media music presenter Jamie MacDougall was born of a shared sense of humour as well as musical compatibility. A splendid red macaw adorns the cover of the disc, which appropriates the Mayan name for those birds, but nothing in the recording is mere parroting of the music of others ... Modestly, McFall has chosen not to be credited as the arranger of that music, on the basis – he explains in the booklet notes – that he has merely transcribed the work of others, to retain the authenticity of the Mexican originals. The way he has combined these sources, however, as well as adapted them from other instruments, gives the group’s way with the music its own unmistakable originality ... That approach governs the whole project, which combines six songs from MacDougall with chamber music for strings and piano (Claudio Constantini), with Stuart Semple on percussion and cellist Su-a Lee adding her individual ability on musical saw to the disc’s closer, Estrellita ... Those contrasts are what make Guacamaya a very fresh and lively way to soundtrack the summer. It seems quite a long time since either McFall’s or MacDougall issued a new recording and this one is a great credit to both"

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"If you loved the balladic side of the Buena Vista Social Club you'll go for this ... Joaquín Heras's Canción en el puerto is for cello and piano, a deceptively simple song-like piece, but a long way from the earlier popular song styles on the album. It is romantic, but with an edge, and played so by cellist Su-a Lee and pianist Claudio Constantini ... All performers give this music a splendid outing, as soloists or a group, and the recording is beautifully balanced and clear. MacDougall may not let himself go as much as a latino singer might in some of these songs, but his voice is warm and expressive, and he obviously has a great love and knowledge of this material. The mix of styles might put some purists off, but they'd be missing out on a very interesting and well-presented disc"

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"This versatile group – here, a string quartet with percussion, piano and double bass – have a strong sideline in South American music, so ensemble and singer are well matched. Eight composers are featured in a wide range of styles, from drawing room culture to folk, bolero and bordello, with compositions dating from 1912 to 1993. Instrumental music is interwoven, by Javier Álvarez, Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras, Arturo Márquez, Silvestre Revueltas and others. The songwriters to note are Manuel Ponce, María Grever (who had success in Hollywood) and Agustín Lara, whose Granada is the most familiar track: hot, passionate and with a lingering hint of the bullfight"

Release Date: 16 June 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34286
Total playing time: 1:15:00

Recorded on 27-29 April 2022 in the Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Edinburgh Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter
Piano: Steinway, model D, serial no. 600443

Piano technician: Norman Motion
Design: Drew Padrutt

Booklet editor: Henry Howard
Cover photo: James Naphtali/Unsplash
Session photography: foxbrush.co.uk

Delphian Records Ltd – Edinburgh – UK www.delphianrecords.com

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Album Booklet

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