By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Most Hudson residents of Portuguese descent are from the Azorean island of Santa Maria. Several of them are musicians who were first brought together in 2002 by Manuel “Manny” Chaves. They play various stringed instruments, accordions and percussion. Two years later, a few vocalists including Juvenalia Chaves (no relation) were invited to join the musicians. Now known as Grupo das Candeias, they still meet weekly for rehearsals at the Hudson Portuguese Club.
“Manny always had that dream to play music,” Juvenalia said. “He got everyone together to play right before the club's new facility was built, so they did a few fundraisers. From there, we kept practicing the old songs that we learned as kids from Santa Maria and even from the mainland. The music brings people back to where they came from, back to their home.”
Each of them is originally from the town of Santo Espirito. They named the musical group after the town's church, the Lady of Candeias. They'se also continued celebrating a holiday unique to their hometown. Each Feb. 2, Grupo das Candeias hosts “Festa das Candeias,” a dinner-dance for all ages at the Hudson Portuguese Club.
“The Lady of Candeias is a holiday for us every Feb. 2 in the town over there,” Juvenalia explained. “We used to go to church and everybody would light handmade candles. So we make the candles here, too. Grupo das Candeias plays music and everybody lights their candles.”
A goal of Grupo das Candeias is to share cultural traditions with the younger generation.
“Manny wanted to get young people to learn the Portuguese songs,” Juvenalia said. “Over the years, we'se had young musicians who stay with us while they'se in high school, but then we lose them when they go to college. When we do have young musicians, they'se very excited to learn the music and they like it. Our hope is that they'sl come back.”
A founding member of the group, Antonio Braga, has offered guitar lessons to anyone who is high school age or older.
“It's important for us to keep the traditions alive,” Juvenalia added. “Our kids will never know what it was like growing up there in Portugal, except from what they'se learning from us.”
Juvenalia also leads Grupo Folclorico de Criancas, a folk dance group for girls and boys ages 4 to 14. That group has been active for six years. In addition to appearing in processions and club events, they'se entertained several years at the Hudson Downtown Holiday Stroll.
“All these kids were born here, so I's amazed that they actually want to come and learn Portuguese folk dance,” Juvenalia said. “It's a joy for me to watch them perform. My daughter is 14 and she can's speak Portuguese, but she can do Portuguese folk dances.”
The musicians and vocalists of Grupo das Candeias have performed frequently at the annual Day of Portugal Parade held in Cambridge each June. The group has also travelled to appear in Holy Ghost feasts in Fall River; Providence, R.I.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Montreal, Canada.
In Hudson, the musical group will participate in the procession of the Imperio Micaelense Holy Ghost Feast, scheduled for Sunday, May 26. They will also provide music for the procession of the Imperio Mariense Holy Ghost Feast, to be held Sunday, June 23.
The group's other musicians include Artur Chaves, Victor Chaves, Andre Costa Jose Funtado, Jose Rego and Antonio Reis. The other vocalists are Elvira Chaves, Jose Manuel Leandres, Laura Monteiro and Manuel Santos.
For information about Grupo das Candeias, call Juvenalia Chaves at 978-875-0352 or visit hudsonportugueseclub.org.
File photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.