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Human Voices in San Miguel


By Rodrigo Antonio Treviño Lozano

On the front of a small house in a San Miguel neighborhood, a local poet wrote: “Music expresses what words cannot convey but cannot stay silent.” On October 20 and 21, the world renown Canadian group Les Voix Humaines (the human voices) will present two concerts in San Miguel showcasing the wide range that their unusual instruments make possible to express, complementing what words cannot convey but needs to be said.

Since the beginning of human history, music has played an important role both for entertainment and communication. The human body was the first and remains today the most important musical instrument. From singing, to clapping, to foot stomping, the human body conveys human emotions with sound. Other musical instruments were developed to imitate or enhance the human body, extending the range of sounds and emotions. Among those musical instruments, the Viola da Gamba, also known as the bass viol, was classified as the closest one to express human emotions and imitate the range of sounds of the human voice.

The viola da gamba is a very beautiful instrument both to listen to and to look at. At first glance, it looks similar to a modern cello. However it is built, tuned, and played differently. The viola da gamba is actually a derivative of guitars and lutes but played with a bow. The sound is not very potent in terms of volume, but it is extremely resonant and expressive. It can be made to sound like and convey the feeling of a human sigh, a tender song, or an uttering that seems to come directly from the human soul. Many violas da gamba were beautifully carved with human faces, giving them a rare visual beauty but also making them seem somehow more connected to human beings. The Viola da Gamba, together with the lute, was the most popular instrument of the baroque period and a favorite among French kings, British composers, and even JS Bach in Germany. However it was replaced by the cello of the violin family when more potent instruments were needed to fill larger concert spaces.

San Miguel de Allende will have the opportunity to discover the amazing sound of these instruments with two concerts by the Canadian Viol Ensemble Les Voix Humaines. The group takes its name from the human-like voices and emotions unique to the viola da gamba. The first concert will feature a complete five-viol ensemble accompanied by the world famous lute player Nigel North. The program includes John Dowland’s “Lachrimae” or “Seven Tears,” an iconic work that defies the 21st century concept of sound bites or tweets! It is rich in harmony with time for contemplation and even regret for lost love. The second concert will feature the two founders of the group, Margaret Little and Susie Napper, playing the duos for two viols by the mysterious French composer Saint Colombe, whose life was romanticized in the movie All the Mornings of the World.

Both concerts will take place at the Obraje Cultural Center on Calzada de la Presa. Tickets can be bought at SmartSpace (Salida a Celaya 34) or reserved by calling 415 185 8914. The San Miguel Baroque Music Festival presents these concerts with the support of Centro Cultural Santa María del Obraje and the Government of the Province of Quebec, Canada. For more information, visit the Baroque Festival’s web site:



By Les Voix Humaines

Fri and Sat, Oct 20 and 21

Centro Cultural Santa María del Obraje

Calzada de la Presa

Tickets at SmartSpace, Salida a Celaya 34




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