Manoel Dias de Oliveira (c. 1735–1813)

It is thought that Manoel Dias de Oliveira was born in São José del-Rey (now Tiradentes), where he spent all his life, though he took on responsabilities also in the neighbouring town of São João del-Rey. He worked mainly as a composer, conductor and music teacher. There are registers of payments for these services in the confraternity documents of the region starting in 1769, though he also comitted himself to contribute to the music of the solemnities of the Brotherhood of Charity from 1762 as a form of payment of the annual dues. He also worked as a caligrapher, having authored several books of commitment for a number of brotherhoods both in his home town and in São João del-Rey.

Like many of the musicians at the time, Manoel Dias was a mullato. He married Ana Hilária, with whom he had eleven children, including Francisco de Paula Dias de Oliveira, who became the organist of several confraternities in São José del-Rey from 1789 onwards.

Manoel Dias was made a captain in 1772, which though unpaid, placed in command of sixty men from the 'Third of the District'. A 'third' was a group organized to remain on alert to defend the town if necessary or to maintain order. His son Francisco de Paula, who also became a captain, took over from his father.

The functional character of the Manoel Dias's music had a great influence on his style. In order for the liturgical text to remain understandable he avoided unnecessary pretentions, preferring homophonic and syllabic treatments. Thus, vertical movement prevails in his work, with only a few exceptions, especially in sections for soloists.

In time his works spread to several towns, particularly in the southern part of Minas Gerais, where they are still performed annually in many places, especially during Holy Week. Besides Campanha, one can hear his music in Ouro Preto, Prados, Tiradantes, São João del-Rey, Ayuruoca, Pitangui among other places. According to Flávia Camargo Toni (1985), who has provided one of the main studies of the composer, his style "was favourable to its popularization, because its writing is easy to perform and of great beauty."

Click the 'back' button to return.