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The Music of Ascención

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Scene II. Arrival
Ascención’s joyful greeting when J. P. Harrington arrives is quoted – “Dios es muy grande ... He has come to save the language of the San Juaneños.” Ascención used the Spanish term when referring to the Indians from the San Juan Bautista area. Her quoted phrase “ dead and finished” recurs in later scenes, each time with a different sub-text. English translation of original Spanish by Dr. Manuel Peña.
Helene Joseph-Weil, mezzo-soprano; Hatem Nadim, piano.

Scene V. Baskets
Ascención’s mother instructs her young daughter on the art of Mutsun basketry. A women’s choir interweaves names of various baskets.
CSUF Choir, Anna Hamre, Director.

Scene VI: Thunders
This work recounts the story of the creation of thunder, “Trura.”
Hatem Nadim, piano; CSUF Choir, Anna Hamre, Director.

Scene VIII. Lamentation
Ascención’s spirits recount the captivity and death of their people and culture, the genocide of the California Mission Indians under Spanish, Mexican, and American rule. Thousands died not only from the cruel practices of their conquerors, but also from a drastic change in their indigenous diet when the native peoples were taken into the missions. Ultimately, it was the conquistadors’ diseases, such as measles, small pox, and syphilis, to which the San Juan people had not immunities, that sent thousands of the captured tribes to early graves.
Helene Joseph-Weil, mezzo-soprano; Hatem Nadim, piano; CSUF Choir, Anna Hamre, Director.

Scene XIII: Final Journey
Over the tolling bells of Mission San Juan Bautista and ancestral spirits singing, Ascención prepares to die. “The spirit of Miguel Solórsano [her father] is sitting next to you and my dead children are at the door.” She calls out to her parents in Mutsun, and her final words repeat the joyful cry “Dios es muy grande!” heard in Scene II Arrival. Ascención dies whispering those same words in Mutsun. A historic first recording of the bells of Mission San Juan Bautista accompany this scene. Spirits are also heard chanting a requiem from an 18th century missal found in the Mission San Juan Bautista archives.
Helene Joseph-Weil, mezzo-soprano; Hatem Nadim, piano; CSUF Choir, Anna Hamre, Director; Sarah Josephian, soprano soloist.