(Above) Coro Dóci Papiaçám di Macau perform at the Cathedral Square on Saturday
On Saturday, Macau’s Catholics were treated to a rare experience – Christmas carols sung in Macanese Patois, a unique Portuguese-based creole.
Known as Patuá to its speakers, the glory of God was sung in beautiful notes thanks to the efforts by Coro Dóci Papiaçám di Macau, a choir founded at the end of the 1990s.
The choir had debuted on December 19, 1998, when it sang hymns in patois during the Eucharist at Saint Dominic’s Church. In 2000, the choir accompanied the midnight mass at the same church. And then, there was a long hiatus – almost 20 years – after which the choral ensemble was revived only two years ago, in December 2020.
Two years later, Dóci Papiaçám emerged once more to repeat the initiative in the midst of a slightly different mood prevailing in Covid-weary Macau.
Speaking to O Clarim before Saturday’s performances, choir founder Miguel de Senna Fernandes, a lawyer and cultural activist, was upbeat nonetheless.
“The songs are basically the same, but the energy is quite different. We are apparently on the verge of opening up after three very difficult years in the shadow of Covid-19. The local authorities will probably lift the remaining restrictions and this is something that gives people a certain emotional boost. Deep down, it’s a message of hope, the one that we want to convey. It is a way of anticipating the good times that will surely come. This is the reason behind our decision.”
“Two years ago, when we revived the choir and when we sang at Saint Dominic’s, what we tried to convey was a message of courage. We were in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet people also flocked to the Mass. The message at the time was, basically, a message of resilience, of courage. Now things are different,” he added.
At the evening mass on Saturday, Dóci Papiaçám sang themes of a religious nature translated into Macanese Patois. After the Eucharist, the choral group performed a Macanese version of some of the best-known Christmas songs.
But this year, Christmas carols in Patois were not confined to Saint Dominic’s alone. The ensemble also held a small open-air concert on the stairs of the main entrance to the Cathedral, after it received an invitation from Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang.
“On Saturday, a fair or something of the kind was planned at the Cathedral Square and Bishop Stephen Lee asked us to sing a few Christmas songs to brighten the atmosphere,”
Dóci Papiaçám obliged the bishop’s request and performed at the Cathedral Square on Saturday afternoon. Among the themes that were part of the line-up at both performances were songs interpreted in Patois, with lyrics by Adé dos Santos Ferreira, Fernanda Robarts and Miguel de Senna Fernandes himself.