Thanks to a good friend and the Funding Arts Network (FAN), I made a jewel of a discovery that I’d never imagine existed. It’s the Chapel of Our Lady of La Merced and the exceptional Martha/Mary Yamaha concert series that it hosts. No ordinary venue this, it’s part of the Colonial Florida Cultural Heritage Center LLC in Allapattah that operates La Merced Chapel Miami and La Casa. The latter includes an exhibition space and art restoration and preservation studio. The Center focuses on times from the earliest Spanish Colonial influences throughout South, Central and North America and the Caribbean, with a special focus on Colonial Florida, through the 19th century and in some cases the early 20th.
Besides being a house of worship, the Chapel is home to significant original works of art, both Spanish Colonial Art created in the New World and works imported from Europe by colonial settlers. The façade could have been plucked from colonial days in Peru. Inside are richly gilded columns and side altars made by local craftsmen and carvers from Bolivia and inspired by traditional indigenous carving from the Andes.
Tours are given the second Sunday of every month from Noon to 2 p.m. It’s also available for weddings, concerts, art exhibits and presentations, as well as docent led group viewing of its art by appointment (305-635-1331). For example, recently there was an exhibit of contemporary sculpture of Maria Christina Carbonell curated by the talented art historian Carol Damian, P.H.D.
The Chapel and the Mimo main Corpus Christi Church, are the scene of Martha/Mary concerts. We went to a world-class Baroque jazz concert that was outstanding. Coming up is the Queen’s Six on April 19. Based at Windsor Castle, all the members of The Queen’s Six are also Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel, whose homes lie within the Castle walls. The Chapel Choir, which consists of boy trebles and twelve professional adult male singers, often performs before the Royal Family. In 2018, their duties with the Chapel Choir included singing for the wedding of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Their repertoire extends far beyond the reach of the choir stalls: from austere early chant, florid Renaissance polyphony, lewd madrigals and haunting folk songs, to upbeat Jazz and Pop arrangements. Following The Queen’s Six on May 3 will be The Starburst Concert featuring leading young local musicians.
But there’s much more. The second building in the complex, La Casa, boasts an impressive collection of historic documents ranging from documents and memorabilia related to Cuba from its beginning through the 20th century, to original documents such as a 1492 letter from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela, to original maps including the newly discovered New World.