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François Froger, “São Sebastião/Episcopal Village of Brazil”, ca. 1695.1
The Parish of São Sebastião, highlighted to the left of the illustration, disappeared in the razing of the hill of Castelo in 1922.


The Diocese of Rio de Janeiro was created on November 16, 1676 through the Bull Romani Pontificis pastoralis sollicitudo, promulgated by Pope Innocent XI, which promoted the Parish of São Sebastião, in the hill of Castelo, to the condition of Cathedral.

The Royal Provision of November 18, 1681, in addition to determining the number, position and the earnings of the chapter and the ecclesiastical ministers, brings the first record on the music: one of the devices set up a small musical set with four singer chaplains, one subchantre, a four boys choir, one organist and one chapel master.

This intrusion of the royalty in spiritual matters is explained by the institution of Patronage, valid in Portugal since 1514. In that year, Pope Leo X, through the Bull Dei fidei constantiam granted to King Manuel I the title of Grand Master of the Order of Christ, making him the head of the church in the Kingdom and in the colonies. The members of the clergy began to receive their earnings from the royal treasury, as public servants. And, in fact, they performed some notary functions such as the record of the baptisms, marriages and deaths, which at the time were worth as the civil registry.

The Permit of October 19, 1733 increased the number of singer chaplains from four to eight. It also doubled the earnings of all dignities, the subchantre and the organist, but left the chapel master with no increase. This year, being already quite worn the Church of St. Sebastian, the cathedral was transferred to the church of the Holy Cross of the Military, in Rua Direita.

Three years later, in 1736, the Chapter of the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro received the first statutes 2, copied from those of the Diocese of Bahia (1718). Chapter 40 features the role of the chapel master: lead the music at major ceremonies, or those request by the Chapter. The statutes does not mention the obligation of composing. 3, That opened a gap for the chapel masters to import scores or contract other composers, depending on the urgency of what they were demanded.

On August 1, 1737, the cathedral was once again transferred to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict of the Black Men, in Rua da Vala (current Uruguayana), where it remained until 1808. The stay was punctuated by conflicts between the ecclesiastical elite and the "little black" men of the Brotherhood.

Although the documentation proves that the Cathedral was at that time a musical center, with the exception of the works of Father José Maurício, the scores of composers who worked in the eighteenth century were not preserved. The reason for this was informed by Monsignor Pizarro e Araújo, in 1793: "Having upturned quite what it contains, it seems incredible to me that something worthy of memory is still preserved; because the clutter of our predecessors is [...] for its excessive drowsiness, lack of care, zeal and interest in what [concerns] to the Chapter's table". 4,

Some musicians born in Rio de Janeiro are recognized as composers in the eighteenth century: Friar José Pereira de Santana, Friar João de Santa Clara Pinto, Antonio Nunes de Siqueira and Friar Manuel da Silva Rosa.

The compositions of Friar José Pereira de Santana (1696-3 January 1759), were presented in Rio de Janeiro, before he traveled to Portugal. In the kingdom, he wrote the History of the Carmelite Order. He witnessed the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which affected his mental faculties.

Friar João de Santa Clara Pinto (1735-1825), who took orders in 1760, was a choral composer in various convents of Rio de Janeiro and churches in the neighboring towns of São Paulo

Antonio Nunes de Siqueira (1701-1783) was an eminent theoretical and was regarded as a qualified composer. He collaborated with the work School of Singing and Organ, of the chapel master of Bahia, Friar Caetano de Melo e Jesus. Without taking orders, he became chapel master at the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro in 1733, being deprecated from the increase in his earnings by the Permit of October 19. He married, in 1734, Joana Vieira de Carvalho Amada. In 1736, already a widower and having a daughter, he requested to take orders, which occurred only ten years later. This period was marked by a failed attempt to replace the musicians of the Cathedral by other more competent. His insistence on founding a Carmelite convent for nuns - the Convent of Santa Teresa - earned him a prison between 1752 and 1753. He accomplished what he wanted after being released and making a travel to Portugal, but the attitude earned him the animosity of the bishop. He served in the convent as professor of music to the nuns, up to death in 1783.

Friar Manuel da Silva Rosa, who died in 1794, is quoted by Araújo Porto-Algere 5, as a prominent composer in the eighteenth century. There is no documentation associating him to the Cathedral; however, his Passion of Jesus Christ was sung in the Imperial Chapel and in the convent of St. Francis still in the mid-nineteenth century.

After Nunes de Siqueira, the position was occupied by other musicians, about whom there is no evidence that they were composers: Father Gervásio da Santíssima Trindade Machado and Father João Lopes Ferreira.

About Gervásio da Santíssima Trindade Machado there is very little documentation. It is known that he was chapel master around 1760.

Father João Lopes Ferreira, Nunes Garcia's predecessor, was chapel master from 1780 to 1798. In 1781, he began to act informally as subchantre. Confirmed in this position in 1789, he was paid only for this function, despite the other he accumulated. As there is no record of any composition of his own, the question remains open whether he composed or just conducted the compositions of his talented pupil 6.

Appointment of João Lopes Ferreira subchantre of the Cathedral
Appointment of João Lopes Ferreira subchantre of the Cathedral, on August 24, 1789. 7

1 REIS, Nestor Goulart. Imagens de Vilas e Cidades do Brasil Colonial [Images of Villages and Cities of Colonial Brazil]. São Paulo: Edusp, 2000. p. 162-163.

2 Estatutos do Cabido Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro / 1736 [Statutes of the Metropolitan Chapter of Rio de Janeiro / 1736]. In Acervo Musical do Cabido Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro. [Music Files of Rio de Janeiro's Metropolitan Chapter]. Document CRI-SD100. Access: Oct. 30, 2014.

3 "Shall be the obligation of the Chapel Master to sing all Vespers of the classic prescripted days, and all the solemn Masses on Sundays and holy days and in the ceremonies determined by the Bishop or the Chapter". Estatutos do Cabido ..., doc.cit., pp. 40v-41r.

4 ARAÚJO, José de Sousa Azevedo Pizarro e. Compilação das Memórias Dos Prelados, Bispos, e Cônegos Nesta Cidade de S. Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro [Compilation of Memories Of Prelates, Bishops and Canons in this City of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro]. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, Arq. 1.3.13, f. [4v]

5 PORTO-ALEGRE, Manuel de Araújo. Apontamentos Sobre a Vida e a Obra do Padre José Maurício Nunes Garcia [Notes on the Life and Works of Father José Maurício Nunes Garcia]. In Estudos Mauricianos, Rio de Janeiro: FUNARTE, 1985. The Passion is not mentioned in the Catálogo das Músicas da Capela Imperial [Catalog of the Music Files of the Imperial Chapel], by Miguel Pedro Vasco (1902).

6 The ordinance in which he was appointed chapel master, dated November 22, 1770 and signed by the Bishop Fray Antonio do Desterro, had the clause that he should be zealous to avoid the presentation of "profane or indecent Songs and Chants", such as "vilancicos and papers [...] not those who are worthy", and the punishment should be "Excommunication for all musicians of our diocese". It is the first clue that he would have been only conductor. As a former Jesuit, it would be easy for him to acquire music sheets composed in the Spanish colonies. MATTOS, Cleofe Person de. José Maurício Nunes Garcia - Biografia [Biography]. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, 1997. p. 217.

7 "The twenty-fourth day of August 1789, a provision to me was presented by the hon. and rev. Mr. Joaquim D. José Justiniano, passed the twenty-second day of November of the one thousand seven hundred eighty-one years and which provided João R. Lopes Ferreira in place of Subchantre of this Cathedral, whose occupation he exerts from the said time. And for the record this term record of this holy Provision: I sign. / The Canon Secretary Duarte". Acervo Musical do Cabido Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro [Music Files of Rio de Janeiro's Metropolitan Chapter]. DVD-ROM, document CRI-SD120. Access: Oct. 30, 2014.

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