Hispanic Church Music: the Suppe Collection


This Sunday, April 20th, is Easter Sunday, celebrated by Christians worldwide, and that’s why this week we’re taking a look at the Gertrude C. Suppe Hispanic Church Music Collection. Suppe was an ethno-hymnologist who lived in Southern California. Beginning in 1976, she became involved in the identification, transcription, translation, liturgical use, and promotion of Hispanic hymns, working with groups both nationwide and internationally. Suppe retired in 1996 as Secretary to the Editor and Consultant to the Ecumenical Spanish Hymnal Committee just after she and her peers finished a five-year project authoring El Himnario, “a compendium of traditional and contemporary hymns as well as songs and choruses representative of a large variety of Hispanic cultures” covering languages from Spanish to Portuguese to Catalan.

To compose that work, Suppe gathered cancioneros; small song books used in worship. The image above is a cancionero entitled Today I Return from Afar. The bottom of the image shows one of the hymns it contains, “Christ Surrendered for Us.” suppe004Cancioneros were not the only hymnals included in the Suppe Collection. The work pictured above, The Paschal Mystery, is a full-sized publication containing songs to be sung during Paschal week. The Paschal Mystery is a central tenet of Christian faith for both Catholics and Protestants. It revolves around the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus its celebration, and the performance of these tunes, occurs at Easter. Many of the works found in Suppe’s collections relate to such holidays, as well as Saints’ days and festivals. suppe005A large portion of the Collection documents Suppe’s participation in workshops and conferences in the United States, Canada, and a number of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations. She also worked with scholars, private individuals, and various organizations to assemble her impressive collection. The letter above comes from Rev. G. R. Sanchez in Lima, Peru, who asked not only to meet her in person if possible, but also thanked her for her efforts to preserve these materials and, by extension, this aspect of international Hispanic culture.suppe001This final image is of another cancionero. This book was one of dozens of cancioneros published as a part of a series entitled “Cantado al Señor.” Many cancioneros were published in similar series, organized either by theme or as collections of specific composers and authors’ pieces.

For those interested in seeing these materials, as well as the other items such as correspondence and research notes that document Gertrude Suppe’s work, our Reference Staff would be happy to help. Why don’t you give them a call!