“The church bells are ringing / announcing that the old year is leaving / the joy of the New Year is already coming / the hugs are incessantly confused”At first a deep voice sings accompanied by a meaningful musical arrangement.
Then the sonata fills with more momentum and the singer launches an announcement that deepens the melancholic aura:
“Forgive me for leaving the party / but there is something I will never be able to leave / a pretty old lady waiting for me / on the nights of an eternal Christmas”.
From now on, the scene is composed: a man intons, his choir supports him and millions of Colombians listen to the lyrics through tears just a few moments after another cycle closes.
That is the impact of ‘It’s five to twelve’, the song that has become the anthem of each end of the year for more than 50 years in the country.
What is it inspired by? How did it come about? What does your chorus mean?
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The New Year’s sensory exploration
‘Missing five to twelve’ came to life by the end of the year 1963 thanks to the work of the Venezuelan composer Oswaldo oropeza (the same as ‘Mom, where are the toys?’) and the interpreter Néstor Zavarce.
Back then, the intention with the melody was simply to complete a studio album of about 10 songs.
However, the song began to gain so much popularity that it literally ‘got out of hand’ with local audiences turning it into a national anthem.
Then, as history shows, it became a true heritage of the Latin American New Year’s Eve.
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The original version appeared in 1963. Composed by the Venezuelan Oswaldo Oropeza and sung by Néstor Zavarce, “Faltan cinco pa ‘las doce” arrived in El Salvador in the 1960s and became one of the most representative songs of this time. pic.twitter.com/IX3bSsElgJ
– Salvadoran Academy of History (@ahistoriasv) December 31, 2019
The song played a decisive role in the careers of Oropeza and Zavarce, as both received immense recognition.
Until then, according to media specialized in Venezuelan music, neither of the two had enjoyed greater economic comforts.
In fact, some of them have pointed out that Zavarce had to ask for money to buy clothes for his first presentation.
About Oropeza they have said that he had to work from a very young age to contribute financially to his home.
Perhaps that personal experience of having lived the ‘less kind side’ of life at such an early age favored the sentimental exploration that both brought out in ‘Missing five to twelve’.
The origin and meaning of an immortal song
Regarding the real story behind the iconic theme, it has not been possible to decree a specific version.
However, as reported by some Venezuelan media, Oropeza’s ‘Christmas streak’ comes from a family tradition in which the end of the year deserved a separate chapter.
The experiences with his five siblings would have been the motivators of his interest in approaching the end of the year in a heartfelt and, above all, original way.
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Regarding the meaning, it was Néstor Zavarce who, in an interview with ‘RCN’, at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, gave details about the three values that, according to him, the chorus contains:
– La fe expresses in the part that “Church bells are ringing”
– The Solidarity implicit in “The hugs that are confused incessantly”
– Love portrayed in the idea of the “Pretty old lady who waits for me in the nights of an eternal Christmas”.
The eternal symbol of Christmas
After the ‘boom’ of the original version, several adaptations of ‘Missing five pa’ las twelve ‘have been released from time to time.
In Colombia, the Barranquillero Hannibal Velasquez he was the one who fruitfully adapted the song to the rhythm of the guaracha music.
That, perhaps, is one of the most listened to versions in the country.
Oswaldo Oropeza passed away on December 3, 1998 and Néstor Zavarce on August 27, 2010.
Currently his legacy is more relevant than ever thanks to the fact that ‘Missing five pa’ twelve ‘has not stopped ringing.
Maybe that constant will last for many more years because, as the refrain says, Christmas is “eternal.”
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The story behind the sad song ‘Missing five to twelve’