25 April 2012. The Baroque Music Festival, which takes place every 2 years on even-numbered years, is one of the most sought-after tours in Bolivia. In 2012 this Festival will take place between April 26nd and May 6nd in 20+ Jesuit Mission towns (simultaneously!) located throughout the Amazon jungle regions of Chiquitos, Guarayos
, Bolivia and covers over 3000 square kilometers of area within Bolivia's two eastern-most departments of Beni
and Santa Cruz
Six of these towns
were declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity sites by UNESCO in 1990, which also classified them as "living towns". (Although the Jesuit Missions were established nearly 500 years ago they are still inhabited).
The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos (established between 1691 and 1767) and of Moxos (1681 – 1767) were built by Jesuit missionaries from Spain and Italy. During the restoration of the temples of several of these towns in the 1970’s, an astounding 10,000 sheets of hand scored baroque music
from the 17th and 18th centuries were discovered in the temples. These are some of the mission towns portrayed in the movie The Mission (Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons).
APAC (Asociación Pro Arte y Cultura, or the Association for Arts and Culture) was established in Santa Cruz de la Sierra to promote the culture and traditions of this region. APAC organizes the “Misiones de Chiquitos International Baroque Music Festival” each even-numbered year and the “Santa Cruz de la Sierra International Theater Festival
” each odd-numbered year, to promote the cultural and artistic heritage of the Bolivian lowlands. (Unlike the Andean highlands of Bolivia where the predominant cultures are Aymara
and Quechua, Eastern Bolivia is home to over 20 completely different cultures, among them the Guarani
, and many others.)
“APAC considers culture to be an invaluable investment to make it possible to reshape a community’s destiny”. To preserve this heritage, and share the Chiquitos and Moxos musical archives with the world, since 1996 APAC has organized this festival every two years. Musicians and orchestras from around the world participate. Considered one of Bolivia’s most important cultural events, the concerts take place in several places along the Jesuit Mission circuit deep in Bolivia’s dense tropical forest. One of the most famous of these groups is Florilegium, which is well-known throughout Europe.
In accompaniment to festival, APAC organizes a scientific encounter called the “International Musicology Symposium” where historians, researchers and musicologists can participate in discussions on ancient music. APAC publishes and distributes the presentations made at these encounters.
Today, orchestras and choirs exist in fifteen mission towns and in the city of Santa Cruz
. Many of the young people who play in these orchestras have traveled extensively to foreign countries to perform. Entry fees to these concerts are very, very inexpensive. If you can't take an actual tour to one of the jungle towns (it's an amazing experience) then don't miss one of the orchestras or choirs scheduled to play in the city of Santa Cruz.
The last of these festivals took place in May 2010. Concerts were given in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, the Jesuit Missions of Moxos, and the Franciscan Missions of Guarayos.
In 2010 forty groups participated (numbering over 800 musicians and singers from 20+ countries such as in Europe, the Middle East, etc.) and 120+ concerts were given in 20+ towns during this festive week, which also include ancient baroque art exhibits, handcraft exhibits and sales, and short theater or typical indigenous dance exhibits in certain towns.