Latin American Choral Music - Table of Contents

References Cited

The Holy Spirit Mass:
 A problem of authorship in Brazilian colonial music
Marshal Gaioso Pinto

Musicologists in Brazil have acknowledged the great wealth of Brazilian colonial music from states such as Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. However, although the state of Goiás experienced a high level of social-cultural development in the eighteenth century, its role in the history of Brazilian colonial music is a subject that has not been satisfactorily considered.

One of the few representatives of the musical past of Goiás known today is the so-called Missa ao Divino Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit Mass). This work has been performed quite frequently in the cities of Jaraguá and Pirenópolis, since at least the mid-nineteenth century. When I started my research on this piece, the musical community of Goiás knew very little information about it, except for the fact that it had been composed by Father Manoel Ribeiro de Freitas from Jaraguá (Mendonça 1981: 232; Bertran 1998: 68).

It was surprising to discover that the Kyrie and Gloria of the Holy Spirit Mass were known in Minas Gerais as a Mass in C and that there it has been attributed to three different composers, all of them important in the history of Brazilian colonial music: José Joaquim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita (1746?-1805), Joaquim de Paula Souza (c.1780-1842) and Manoel Dias de Oliveira (c.1735-1813). Thus, a significant question arose: Was the Holy Spirit Mass composed in Goiás and then carried to Minas Gerais, or, instead, was the Mass in C composed in Minas Gerais and later carried to Goiás? My purpose in this paper is to present the results of my research about the genesis of the Holy Spirit Mass.

The point of departure for my research in Goiás was the copy of the Holy Spirit Mass made by Braz Wilson de Pina in Goiânia in 1970. Thanks to Belkiss de Mendonça, it has been known that Braz de Pina’s copy was based on Joaquim Propício de Pina’s copy (Mendonça 1981: 232). Propício de Pina’s copy was written in Pirenópolis in 1900. Today, all the copies by Propício de Pina are deposited in the private collection of his family. In this collection, we can also find several nineteenth-century copies of this work, called by the owner of the collection “copies from Jaraguá.”

With the exception of Braz de Pina’s copy that is written as a full score, all copies from Goiás are manuscripts written in separate parts. The copies of Braz and Propício de Pina present the five parts of the ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei), whereas the nineteenth-century copies present only the first two parts (labeled “Missa”) in some copies or the last three (labeled “Credo”) in others. There is only one exception to that division that I will comment on later.

In regards to the title and attribution of authorship in these copies, we have the following situation. In Braz de Pina’s copy, the title is Missa ao Divino Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit Mass), and it is attributed to M.R. Freitas, M.R. standing for Manoel Ribeiro. In Propício de Pina’s copy, the title is Missa de Freitas, which can be translated as Freitas’s Mass or Mass by Freitas. There is no other indication of authorship. The use of the words “de,” “do” or “por,” as in the expressions “Missa do Freitas” or “Missa de Freitas,” does not have an univocal meaning. The words “de” and “do” could, for example, indicate the authorship of the work or just the authorship of the copies or the ownership of the material (Biason 2001: 356). In the first group of the copies from Jaraguá, the title is also Missa de Freitas and, again, there is no other indication of authorship. Finally, in the second group of copies from Jaraguá, the title is Credo de São José do Tocantins (São José do Tocantins Credo), and there is no indication of authorship. São José do Tocantins was a rich city of Goiás in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Today, it is called Niquelândia.

The exception that I mentioned before is the oldest copy of this work found in the state of Goiás. It is an anonymous part for the second violin, copied in Jaraguá in the year 1861. What is interesting about this copy is that it is the first manuscript, and the only one from the nineteenth century, in which all the five parts of the ordinary of the mass are presented together. However, a careful analysis of this manuscript reveals that the last three parts of the Mass (Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) were added later, probably by the same copyist. Moreover, there is another part for “piston” (cornet or trumpet), written by the same copyist that presents only the Kyrie and Gloria.

In regards to the supposed composer of the Holy Spirit Mass, Father Manoel Ribeiro de Freitas, my research presented a curious situation. There were at least four people who lived in the region of São José do Tocantins and Jaraguá in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries named Manoel Ribeiro de Freitas. Coincidently, two of them were priests (Pinto 2004: 29-30). Most intriguing is the fact that none of them seem to have been involved in musical activities. In addition to this, it is interesting to point out that I am working with the musical collection of the Ribeiro de Freitas family, and, until now, I have not been able to find any work written by a composer named Manoel Ribeiro de Freitas.

Summarizing, we have the following situation in regards to the copies from Goiás: the Holy Spirit Mass is actually formed by two different works, one Mass in C Major (called Missa do Freitas), and one Credo in G Major (called Credo de São José do Tocantins). We are not certain of the name of the composer of any of these pieces. There is no support for the thesis that someone named Manoel Ribeiro de Freitas composed these works, as previously thought.

Concerning the copies from Minas Gerais, unfortunately, because of the apparently chronic problem of access to primary sources in Brazilian collections, I was not able to consult all the manuscripts of the Mass in C. Thus,in some cases I have based my research on data found in thematic catalogues and articles available in the current literature.

There are certainly more than twenty sets of parts of this Mass in the state of Minas Gerais.1 At least eleven copyists can be identified, and there are several other anonymous copyists. Most of the dated copies are from the second half of the nineteenth century, but some copies have been classified by scholars as being written in the first half of the nineteenth century: none of them can be identified as autograph. Also, all copies from Minas Gerais are manuscripts copied in separate parts. Some copies attribute the work to José Joaquim, which has been assumed to be José Joaquim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita, some to Paula Souza and one set of parts to Dias de Oliveira. All the copies of the Mass found in Minas Gerais present only the Kyrie and Gloria.

There are incipits of the Mass in C in four thematic catalogues of Brazilian colonial music. Conceição Rezende published in 1985 the catalogue of Lobo de Mesquita’s work, and in it she presents the work with the observation that it might be “an arrangement or work attributed to Lobo de Mesquita” (Mesquita 1985: 24). Maria Inês Guimarães also organized, years later, another catalogue of Mesquita’s work (Guimarães 1996). In this catalogue, Guimarães included the Mass among the works by the composer, but added a remark about the existence of some copies of it that bear the name of Paula Souza. The catalogue of colonial music from Minas Gerais published by the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (Barbosa 1978: 202-203), from Rio de Janeiro, and the catalogue of the Curt Lange collection of the Museu da Inconfidência (Duprat and Balthazar 1991: 108), from Ouro Preto, present the Mass as being composed by Joaquim de Paula Souza.

In addition, the Mass in C was published and recorded in 2001 as part of the project, “Brazilian Music Archives – Restoration and Dissemination,” sponsored by Petrobrás and coordinated by Dr. Paulo Castagna. In this publication, Aluizio Viegas, the scholar responsible for the edition of the Mass, attributed the authorship of the work to Joaquim de Paula Souza. Viegas does not comment on the attribution to Lobo de Mesquita, but he points out the existence of a set of parts that present Manoel Dias de Oliveira as the composer of the work (in Castagna 2002). Viegas is one of the most important Paula Souza scholars in Brazil, thus it would be interesting to know his motivations in choosing Souza as the composer of the Mass.

What can we deduce about the connection between the copies from Minas Gerais and Goiás? Unfortunately, we don’t have concrete evidence about how this connection was established. However, we do have some intriguing points that can be material for speculation. The first of these points is the fact that the mass was known in Goiás as Missa de Freitas. Until now, we have tried to find some connection between the Missa and Freitas family because of the fact that this family doubtless has an important role in the history of music in the state of Goiás. However, it is possible that the Freitas named in the Missa de Freitas refers to someone else outside of the Freitas family from Jaraguá. This person could be Ricardo Francisco de Freitas, the copyist of one of the sets of parts of the Mass found in Minas Gerais. According to this hypothesis, the copies of the Mass found in Goiás would all be derived from the copy of Ricardo Francisco de Freitas.

The second point is even more intriguing. There is a composer from Pirenópolis, Goiás, who is called José Joaquim Pereira da Veiga. At first sight, there is no connection between Veiga and the work here in question. However, at least three points seem to connect him with the copies of the Mass from Minas Gerais and its supposed composers. First is the fact that at least one work composed by Paula Souza and copied by Pereira da Veiga has been found in the music archives from Goiás. It is a Credo in C Major, known in Goiás as Credo do Bonsucesso (Mendonça 1981: 101). Second, one of the women who bore the children of Father Pereira da Veiga had the same family name as Joaquim de Paula Souza. She was called Perpétua de Paula Souza (Jayme 1973 1:234). Finally, the first two names of Pereira da Veiga, “José Joaquim,” are the same as the first two names of Lobo de Mesquita (José Joaquim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita). This point becomes significant when we notice that José Joaquim is the only name found in the copies that have been attributed to Lobo de Mesquita. This hypothesis would be strengthened if a copy of the Mass by Pereira da Veiga survived in Goiás, but unfortunately I have not yet located it.2

In conclusion, we can state that the so-called Holy Spirit Mass is formed by two distinct works, the Mass in C and the Credo in G. The Credo in G is found exclusively in Goiás and there is no evidence about who was its composer. The Mass in C was found in Goiás, known as Missa do Freitas, and in Minas Gerais, where it has been attributed to three different composers: Lobo de Mesquita, Paula Souza and Manoel Dias de Oliveira. In my opinion, the information available up to now is not sufficient to support a definitive attribution. Each of the three composers listed above or some other composer from Goiás, could be the actual composer of the Missa. On the other hand, the link between the copies from Goiás and Minas Gerais could be the copyist Ricardo Francisco de Freitas, or the composer José Joaquim Pereira da Veiga. However, once more there is not enough information to confirm any of these hypotheses.

The Edition

The difficulties in editing the Mass in C and the São José do Tocantins Credo are caused mainly by the present condition of their sources. We do not have the autographs, and practically all extant sources are sets of parts.3 Thus, one of the main difficulties is to define the instrumentation originally conceived by the composer. The problem is made worse by the fact that each time that these works were copied they were actually adapted to the instrumental configurations available at that occasion.

This is a general phenomenon observed in the history of music in Brazil. As was pointed out by José Maria Neves, (Neves 1997: 19) during the nineteenth century there was, on the one hand, a decline of the eighteenth-century sacred ensembles that were mainly constituted of voices and strings, and, on the other hand, a significant development of the wind band. Thus, most of the eighteenth-century sacred repertory survived in nineteenth-century copies for wind band. It is possible to observe the patterns of these adaptations from string to wind or brass instruments. Violin parts were adapted for requinta (Eb clarinet), Bb clarinet, flute or piston (cornet or trumpet). Violoncello and double-bass parts were adapted for low brass instruments such as ophicleide, helicon or bombardão. Sometimes arrangers created new harmony parts for trombones and horns (French horns or saxhorns).

In the case of the Mass in C, there seems to be no doubt about the use of four voices, two violins, bass and two horns. With the exception of the horns, which are missing in some sets of parts, all of these instruments seem to be found in all sources. However, in regards to the oboes and violas, which were included by Aluizio Viegas in his edition (Castagna 2002), I am not totally convinced about their authenticity. The oboe parts are basically a doubling of the violin parts, and this is something that seems to be inappropriate in light of the economy of instrumentation normally adopted by the Brazilian colonial composers. The viola part, on the other hand, is absent in most sets of parts, including all sets found in Goiás, and it is probably a later addition. Thus, I decided to include in my edition of the Mass in the C the four voices, two violins, bass and two horns. For the edition of the Credo I kept the same instrumentation, with the exception of the two horns that were never present.

Even though this research seems to have given rise to more questions than answers, it reveals the critical necessity of considering the state of Goiás in future attempts to reconstruct the history of colonial music in Brazil.


1. Aluizio Viegas points out the existence of no less than eighteen sets of parts found in the Museu da Música de Mariana (in Castagna 2002).

2. Pereira da Veiga’s manuscripts are deposited in the private archive of Pina’s Family in Pirenópolis, Goiás. As this archive has not yet been systematically studied we do not have a clear idea of the actual role of Pereira da Veiga in the music history of Goiás.

3. Probably the only exception is Braz de Pina’s copy. It is written in score presenting the four voices, SATB, and a sort of keyboard part. The right hand of this keyboard part is actually the first violin part, and the left hand is the bass part.