"The Andean people have always been a singing, a poetically disposed, race..." - So writes translator Ruth Stephan in her introduction to The Singing Mountaineers, a collection of Peruvian poems and tales collected by the folklorist, José María Arguedas. These poems form the basis for the present choral work, Hombre Errante ("Wandering Man"), which attempts to convey a sense of Andean cultures that have endured for thousands of years. The poetry has been freely adapted and rearranged to craft a loose plot - that of the hombre errante, or wandering man of the Andes, home to current-day descendants of the Incas. The first movement, "Invocación", features a bass/baritone solo recitativo inspired by melodies from Cuzco, the original capital of the Inca empire, amidst Andean echoes sung by the rest of the choir. "Jakakllito" is a lively second movement inspired by the Peruvian coastal "romancero" style where men sing of conquests, love, and a good drink. The third movement, "Dos Palomas", is sung only by women, and finds inspiration in two types of song: (1) The low-voiced llorona ("crying woman") who sings a free and melodic line, and (2) the higher-voiced palla choir who sing staccato and in a static harmony. The fourth movement, "Responsorio Serrano" is a call-and-response number between solo tenor and choir, that refers to a snow storm with images of a horseman and a bull that come from supernatural beliefs of the Indians. "Despedida" ends the work, and is a reprisal of the first movement.
Gabriela Lena Frank