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San Diego choir becomes first to perform Handel's Messiah in Spanish across the border

The Bach Collegium San Diego is now the first choir to adapt the entire classical piece of music into Spanish and perform in both San Diego and Tijuana.

SAN DIEGO — They say music can transcend boundaries; and in this case, international borders.

The Bach Collegium San Diego choir is now the first to perform a classical piece of music entirely in Spanish, and in Mexico, at Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT).

"When I first heard the first word in Spanish I thought," said Mario Montenegro, from CECUT.

"What can I say, I was… almost crying because it was my work my text and to hear that text performed within the frame of that beautiful music, I was very, very happy and moved," said Montenegro.

The cross-border project has been in the works for more than a year. Ruben Valenzuela, the Bach Collegium's Artistic Director, says the first hurdle was connecting with other musicians across the border, despite the short distance.

"That border is tricky," said Valenzuela. "Despite the fact we may be speaking the same musical language, it's just hard to make those connections."

Next came Montenegro's work in adapting the entire English Messiah into Spanish. Montenegro says it's more than just a translation and a feat never done before.

"Actually it's another version because you have to do things here and there in order to have that fluent continuity of text and music," said Montenegro. "It needs to work in Spanish."

The Bach Collegium's performance in Tijuana, the last of their three stop tour, was a first for the choir. 

Both directors say it is opening doors for more art collaborations and in turn, connection across the border.

"At the end, we are a community of people who enjoy art and we belong to the same area," said Montenegro. "We are border cities, we are neighbors, and we share many things."

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