Update browser for a secure Minnesota Orchestra experience

It looks like you may be using a web browser version that we don't support. Make sure you're using the most recent version of your browser, or try using of these supported browsers, to get the full Minnesota Orchestra experience: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

Inside the Music

Making New Traditions from Holiday Classics

Ahmed Anzaldua sitting at a piano, reading music; the room has large windows that shine on Ahmed.

“Honestly, if I had to pick a piece that I won’t ever get tired of … it’s Handel’s Messiah,” says Ahmed Anzaldúa, the artistic director of Border CrosSing. While Messiah has become a staple in holiday season repertories of ensembles across the Western world, Anzaldúa’s interpretation will breathe fresh perspective and a renewed sense of urgency into this nearly 300-year-old work.

From December 9 to 10, Anzaldúa will lead his choral ensemble and the Minnesota Orchestra in a one-of-a-kind bilingual program that blends portions of Messiah sung in both English and Spanish with all six movements of Navidad Nuestra, a Christmas cantata by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez. With its call for traditional Andean instrumentation—played in these concerts by local musicians—Navidad Nuestra introduces Latin American folk music into the Baroque-era composition, making it sound as though we’re hearing it for the very first time.

Weaving together vocals in both Spanish and English came naturally to Anzaldúa, who was born in Mexico City. “The experience of myself as an immigrant isn’t entirely in Spanish—we switch back and forth constantly between languages.” That lived experience has also guided the mission of Border CrosSing, which is to realize a landscape where singers and audiences more closely reflect the racial and cultural composition of the Twin Cities. Emblematic of this mission, Anzaldúa will bring the Orchestra to Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis—where most of the choir’s performances take place—for a pay-what-you-wish concert on December 11.

View the video above to learn more about Anzaldúa’s approach to intertwining Messiah and Navidad Nuestra, the practice of switching between languages and traditions, and his excitement for these upcoming concerts.