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Guillermo Cuéllar

The Concert: An Evening of Song and Story

by Guillermo Cuéllar |

Guillermo Cuéllar, Salvadoran composer, was commissioned by Archbishop Oscar Romero before his death to write the "Misa Popular Salvadoreña." This concert included parts of this Misa, as well as Cuéllar's personal testimony of working with Archbishop Romero as a young adult, writing liturgical music that sprung from the reflections of a Christian Base Community, and his commitment to be a voice for justice in El Salvador.

Donna Peña, a liturgical musician from the United States, rerecorded the “Misa Popular Salvadoreña” in 1995 after a transformative immersion experience she had in El Salvador several years earlier. Her reflection on the significance of this work provides a context for Cuéllar’s work:

"Misa Popular Salvadoreña" was written during the Archbishop’s lifetime and was inspired by the struggle for human rights, for life, and was a cry against the brutal repression that murdered tens of thousands of people in this smallest of countries. This repression was not only against the people of El Salvador but against the Church as well, for many priests and religious leaders were murdered...The mass setting survives even though it was silenced because of its political and economic cry for justice. It speaks of a just God who is a necessity, not an option. It sings of the word of God that inspires and brings life and hope to a people, not confusion and division. It sings of a way of living which all are welcome and are united in bringing about the kingdom of God.

This event was co-sponsred by the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Campus Ministry, and the Justice and the Arts Initiative.

The Composer and Musician:

Guillermo Cuéllar currently serves on the faculty at the Universidad “Francisco Gavidia” in San Salvador, El Salvador and is a member of the multidisciplinary group, “Dirección Nacional de Investigaciones en Arte y Cultura de la Presidencia de la Republica” (President’s National Board of Research for Arts and Culture). He has an advanced degree in Social Anthropology and his other areas of study have included philosophy, theology and communications from universities in Mexico and Central America.

In addition to his dedication as a teacher, music has monopolized his professional commitments for the last 35 years. His musical trajectory began as a choir member as a youth in Woodstown High School in New Jersey and the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador. Over the last 35 years he has been a member of musical groups that best represent the Salvadoran “Nueva Canción”: Sembrador (1975), Mahu Cutah (1977), Yolocamba l Ta (1980), Banda Tepehuani (1986), Cuestarriba (1994), Exceso de Equipaje (1996-2009).

Between 1999 and 2005 he directed the university choir of the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador. He is the renowned composer of two mass settings: “Misa Popular Salvadoreña” (1980), which was written at the request of Archbishop Romero, and “Misa Mesoamericana” (1994), as well as “Dos Alas” (2000), a musical composition of the poems of the Salvadoran poet, Alfredo Espino.

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