Funeral marches are musically popular domain, through broadcasting, radio coverage, the availability of acetate discs, cassettes and CDs. However, there is a paradox fact, because despite its popularity and profound significance, little is known of the history of these musical forms.
Research has been conducted on the subject, which have become basic sources for every student who works on it. We refer especially to the valuable contributions of Mr. Celso Lara Figueroa, whose works can be considered as pioneers in this field.
The funeral marches are primarily expressions of popular religiousness, and have as their source: the various elements that shape and structure these manifestations of faith. In particular, a motivation and encouragement aesthetic or artistic, is made by images of Passion (Nazarenos, Dolorosas, Sepultados, Yacentes etc.) the biblical and apocryphal characters who participated in this event.
Second are the processional functions and its various components, and any ephemeral art activity that develops around these Lenten festivities. Guatemala has always been a centralized nation, taking the capital, Antigua and Quetzaltenango predominant role in relation to the rest of the country, it is not strange therefore that was the point of convergence of composers and creators of this musical culture.
While many were born in other departments, they had to migrate to the capital city to develop their skills. And probably they were inspired by the celebration of Lent and Holy Week in theur area to perform his compositions.
The most representative composers of this genre Guatemala are mostly natives of the country, professional or amateur musicians, with academic or empirically, devotees of a certain image or lovers of these celebrations.
The universe of these characters is the most varied and Widespread, both in the nature of their inspiration as in the particular way of structuring different harmonies and compositions.
The quality of these musical pieces varies greatly, and somehow Guatemala have chosen and consecrated it. There is a production to satisfy the amalgam of likes. However, some of them have marked by its originality and nature, melodies, style and sounds that can be considered as basic in this genre.
Within the range of the compositions are therefore of classical and popular genre, long or short extension of the original sound and repetitions or variations thereon.
Lenten marches have a title, which has its own history and circumstances. This fact in most cases is anecdotal, transmitted orally and lacking of written documentation, sometimes making difficult their degree of certainty and credibility. Despite these situations it is important to consign what is known on this subject until nowadays.
Que nuestra música siga sien un puente dentre Dios y el ser humano.
History of some funeral marches
Each Funeral March has had an inspiration, motivation and dedication; in most cases are the images of Passion, and other characters, experiences or situations typical of this era. So we could say that each funeral march has its peculiar history. Some of these histories have been compiled and after checking its veracity, we include them to enrich and understand the factors which led to the composers and authors, to capture in these works, the feeling of Lent and Holy Week in Guatemala.
La Fosa (Santiago Coronado)
Without doubt one of the most significant funeral marches and representative of the Guatemalan Holy Week is "La Fosa" by the noted teacher and musician Santiago Coronado, who was born on December 30, 1865 and died on June 16, 1934.
Mr. Santiago Coronado was a great devotee of Jesus Nazareno de la Merced of the Capital City. He wrote many funeral marches, including one which he dedicated to Señor Sepultado de Santa Catalina and other to Señor Sepultado de San Felipe.
Salva a tu pueblo Señor (Pedro Donis)
The work of a musician has always been sacrificed. Perhaps the best reward is provided by the sense of contributing to the arts and its dissemination. For musicians who make up the bands that accompany the processions of Holy Week is no exception. These characters work in their profession throughout the year. Sometimes their work takes them to travel the roads of the country and see places that for many of us, it does not even exist in our geography.
A pair of own funeral marches of Holy Week in their names reflect these situations. One of the most renowned authors of funeral marches has been Pedro Flores Donis. One of the marches composed by this master, is named as a phrase that he saw in the back of the altar of "El Calvario" from Chiquimula in eastern Guatemala. This phrase is "Salva a tu pueblo Señor" (Save your people, Lord) was made the first Friday of Lent in 1949 and released on the second Friday of Lent of that year.
La Memorable entrega de Jesús Nazareno (Pedro Donis)
Another march that reflects some similarity to the previous one, which commemorates a great event in the daily lives of ordinary and humble people. For the inhabitants of the village of "El Pinalito" in Jalapa, was a memorable day when they were given the image of Jesus Nazareno which they had commissioned for their church. The master Donis Flores, immortalized the moment composing a march titled “La Memorable entrega de Jesús Nazareno”.
Dios es Amor (Víctor Manuel Lara)
One of the more traditional processions of the capital city is that of Jesus Nazareno of La Merced on Holy Tuesday known as “La Reseña”.
One feature of this procession is the interpretation of the funeral marches and for many years this procession called as many musicians.
The master Victor Manuel Lara directed for long time the band of this procession, and at the ending of it, every Holy Tuesday, said goodbye to his fellow musicians with the phrase “Que Dios se los pague”, with which he was grateful for the selfless participation of his colleagues because the procession did not supply to pay all the musicians involved.
Years later, the Mr. Victor Manuel Lara, composed a march originally named “Dios se lo Pague”. Which he dedicated to his colleagues who participated in the procession of "La reseña" on Holy Tuesday for free and he entitled the phrase with which annually goodbye to them at the end of the procession.
When Mr. Mario Ruata Asturias produced the first series of funeral marches discs, he included this Mr. Lara's march, but he persuaded the author to change the name and look for a different but with a similar message.
Mr. Lara took a pencil and cross out the name of "Que Dios se lo pague" and instead he wrote "Dios es amor" (God is love). That would be the title of the new Funeral March. Which is one of the most popular today.
Milagro (Salvador Milián)
The son of the master Salvador Milian frolicked in the groves of Cerro del Carmen. Being on the branches of a tree, they did not support his weight and when the boy made a bad move these were split causing his fall to the ground. Her playmates saw that he did not react, then they called the priest. The priest took him in his arms and instead of taking him to a medical service took him to the temple of Señor San José, and placed him at the foot of the "Nazareno de los Milagros". The surprise was that at that moment the child began to react. In gratitude, the notorious master dedicated a Lenten march named “Milagro”.
Tu Última Mirada (Alberto Velásquez)
A lot of funeral marches contain human experiences and these melodies are the ways of expressing the feelings of the authors. Such is the case of the Funeral March "Tu última mirada" of the composer, Alberto Velásquez Collado. It is dedicated by the author to his deceased mother. The title is due to the master Velásquez's mother was in very poor health, who for various reasons could not come to see her, Mrs. Velásquez died and his son came in the moment when the funeral took place and asked to please open the coffin to see his mother for the last time, at that time came to the mind of the master the notes of the Funeral March that he would compose in honor of his deceased mother, and it would take the title of the last time he looked at his mother.
Luís Gerardo Ramírez Ortiz
Las Marchas Fúnebres Cuaresmales