Sara de Ortega y Manuel Sierra – A San Cipriano

June 14, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve revisted the wildly diverse folk music of Spain. Today’s example is from the autonomous community now known as Cantabria, and in the past known as Santander (after its port city) as well as the more lyrical La Montaña.

Cantabria is indeed, mountainous. A small, coastal, and green region, it is bordered by Asturias to the left and the Basque Autonomous Community to the right. Because of it’s geographic location, it’s no surprise that its music has much in common with the music of its neighbors. And yet, it retains its own uniqueness. This piece is introduced with the classic pitu and tambor duet – the pitu being the small reed instrument of the north of Spain, and the tambor, its accompanying drum. However, after a short introduction, all stops, and the classic, acapella singing of Cantabria begins. Journalist Rodney Gallop somewhat improbably wrote about these two particular artists when they recorded a few sides for HMV in 1928 and 1930, and distinctly noted what he called the “tragic intensity” of their brand of Cantabrian singing. It’s also forceful and strident at times. What still, for some reason, shocks me, is the fact that it’s unaccompanied, until the pitu and tambor return for a brief refrain at the end of the piece. It shouldn’t shock me, I suppose – although it’s less common on commercial discs, unaccompanied folk singing was recorded all around the world. Even Asturian tonadas, right next door to Cantabria, were often completely unaccompanied (when not accompanied by the gaita bagpipe). And on a crisp recording like this one, made in 1930 by the German Polydor company, you can really experience the acoustics of the room, something that is often buried under layers of hiss and decades of groove wear. The sound of the singers’ brief pauses are almost as interesting as their voices themselves.

Because, perhaps, of the region’s size, the cancion montañesa of Cantabria wasn’t recorded nearly as much as the coros of Galicia, let alone the flamenco superstars of Andalusia. As far as I can tell, Manuel Sierra and Sara de Ortega made a handful of records for several labels from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, after which I have no idea where their careers went. Sierra was popular enough to perform at a large exposition in Barcelona in 1928. Any success they would have had outside of Spain would probably be due to the intrepid Rodney Gallop, probably the only person writing about commercial “ethnic” 78s for the English speaking world at the time. He was specifically fond of Sierra and Ortega’s duets. The song itself is a sweet interplay between a boy and a girl on the way to the festival and pilgrimage honoring Saint Cyprian, which dates from the XV century and still occurs yearly in Cantabria on September 16th. Thanks to reader isoldevila, we have a full transcription of the song, a slightly different version than the one documented on this site.

Vístete pronto mozuca
que vamos a San Cipriano
no te apures por las cuestas
que yo te daré la mano
y en brazos, nena, te llevaría
A San Cipriano a la romería.

Dices que me quieres mucho
y a la romería iré,
y al pasar el regatuco en
tus brazos me pondré
pero no te resbales
que no quiero caer.

No tengas miedo
que yo resbale
con una carga
que tanto vale
con gran cuidado
iré, preciosuca, como
llevando a la virgenzuca

Y si caemos nos levantamos
y le decimos a San Cipriano
que fuimos juntos al regatuco
y nos caímos apretaducos.

Sube, sube las cuestas arriba,
que por ti suspira tu moza querida,
y subimos arriba a los llanos,
a tomar la sombra de los avellanos

Manuel Sierra y Sara de Ortega – A San Cipriano

Technical Notes
Label: Polydor
Issue Number: 220060
Matrix Number: 3047 BK

And yet another shout out to Heritage’s Voices of Spain CD, which contains 3 songs by Sara de Ortega and Manuel Sierra. One duet, and two solo pieces.

14 Responses to “Sara de Ortega y Manuel Sierra – A San Cipriano”

  1. lsoldevila said

    Beautiful song!

    This is what I can add to the prior transcription:

    “Vístete pronto mozuca
    que vamos a San Cipriano
    no te apures por las cuestas
    que yo te daré la mano
    y en brazos, nena, te llevaría
    A San Cipriano a la romería.

    Dices que me quieres mucho
    y a la romería iré,
    y al pasar el regatuco en
    tus brazos me pondré
    pero no te resbales
    que no quiero caer.

    No tengas miedo
    que yo resbale
    con una carga
    que tanto vale
    con gran cuidado
    iré, preciosuca, como
    llevando a la virgenzuca

    Y si caemos nos levantamos
    y le decimos a San Cipriano
    que fuimos juntos al regatuco
    y nos caímos apretaducos.

    Sube, sube las cuestas arriba,
    que por ti suspira tu moza querida,
    y subimos arriba a los llanos,
    a tomar la sombra de los avellanos.”

    Thanks for your blog and keep on sharing such great music!

  2. gracenotes said

    What a knockout! Magnificent singing. And I love that Polydor logo – a cross between a gramophone and Munch’s ‘Scream’. Your commentary is as wonderfully informative as ever, but I especially loved your observation that ‘The sound of the singers’ brief pauses are almost as interesting as their voices themselves.’

    • JW said

      Thanks, as always! Polydor and Polyphon are anomalous in a number of ways – the methods by which they recorded through 1940 or so are unlike the other studios, at least as far as my ears can tell. They recorded in massive sonorous spaces, which was terrific for solo artists and very small groups….but often terrible for large ensembles. But when they made recordings as good as this, which was quite frequently, they really capture something wonderful.

  3. youngbeard said

    Awesome! This site posts tons of good shellacs and vinyl from Latin America. http://listentoyourears.blogspot.com/ I’ve been alternating between the two of you for the last few weeks. I’m teaching in Thailand and played the Thai Rhyme With Sound track for some of my Thai teacher colleagues and they were…perplexed, but very interested. Thanks for all the good tunes!

  4. I M Grand son of Sara de Ortega

    She record 20 records all about canciones montañesas (County songs from las montañas de Santander)
    They both sing to the Civil Guard
    and ,many others songs.
    Casa Odeon from Barcelona came to Santander (Gran Casino) to record their voices many times.
    But later run they went to Barcelona to record .
    Sara was a singer at prisionn when spanish civil war and sing to the prisioners and was against General Franco .
    POne of her sons, was at russia with Division Azul (blue Division)
    a voluntaire force to fight against Comunism.
    Other son, was prisioner at Canarias and others where to America and Canarias to work photografy.
    Sara life 86 years and my self took care of her while she blind during a disease in her eyes.
    She comback to see again with glases and was a very hard woman even in Francos time and allways against the regimen .
    Her real name was Sara Valdivielso Chaves but she allways carry away the surname of her husband Felix Ortega Reales

    see this addres

    http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/voi_spai.htm

    and this other

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/CANTABRIA-78-rpm-RECORD-Parlophon-SARA-ORTEGA-MANUEL-SIERRA-Tambor-Pito-/290832153257?pt=Music_on_Vinyl&hash=item43b6f27aa9

    more about Sara de Ortega

    http://www.ortegase.com/Periodismo%2000.html

  5. Sara de Ortega & Manuel Sierra con pito y tambor / Manuel Sierra con pito, tambor & castañuelas Parlophon B 25501 76606 / 5 Ayer te vi que subías / Tengo cuatro pañuelucus

  6. JW said

    Thank you, Carlos! Thank you for sharing yours and your grandmother’s story. What a great singer!

  7. https://www.facebook.com/pages/SARA-De-Ortega/282664055137820?ref=hl.

    A LA MEMÓRIA DE MI ABUELA SARA VALDIVIELSO CHAVES, “SARA DE ORTEGA”.

  8. carlos ortega said

    file:///C:/Users/GUIGUI/Desktop/%E2%96%B6%20Sara%20Ortega-Canciones%20Monta%C3%B1esas%20-%20YouTube.htm

    This is a song sent by my brother Javier

    I will go on sending more information about my grand mam,
    merry cristmass 2013
    Carlos Ortega

  9. carlos ortega said

    Sorry, is this adress the one yyou must open to hear another song from Sara Ortega

  10. carlos ortega said

    http://www.ortegase.com/Periodismo%2000.html

    From my brother Jorge Orrtega webpage
    Regards from CArlos Ortega

  11. carlos ortega said

    Es muy importante señalar que en las canciones de Sara
    Is very important to notice that in Sara de Ortegas songs

    de Ortega, se suele oir el clásico grito de la montaña
    use to hear the clasic montanas shaute
    llamado “CHISQUIO”, Y ERA TAN BUENO EL QUE HACÍA UNA
    called “chisquío” and was so good the one who used to do
    TAL qUETA DE cOHICILLOS, (cartes) cANTABRIA, QUE sARA
    such a woman called Queta from Cohicillos(CArtes-Cantabria)

    LA INVITABA a bajar para que chiscara en sus discos con el
    that Sara self invite her to recor in their songs with
    clásico hi ji ji ji.
    clasic hi ji ji ji

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