celestial harmonies

 

the sephardic experience

4 cd boxed set

the renaissance players

celestial harmonies 19911-2

cd - 0 1371 19911 2 3

file classification: world music (spanish - jewish)

 buy from celestial harmonies: US $ 50.00

     The Sephardic Experience quadrilogy, is a priceless sound document in which the Renaissance Players present their own performance versions of well– and lesser–known romansas (ballads), kantigas (religious songs) and muwashshahat (poetical forms) which have survived for centuries entirely via oral/aural transmission by parents, grandparents, friends and acquaintances within the family circle, while working, or as a form of ad hoc entertainment in Sephardic communities of the West and East. Sadly, as the end of the 20th century draws near we are witnessing the alarming disappearance of Spanish–Jewish culture due to vast, worldwide changes in social circumstances. In fact, these songs are no longer a part of the rich, musical fabric of the everyday life of the Sephardim.

     As was the case in the middle ages for many types of traditional music, the lyrics of the Sephardic romansa, kantiga, muwashshah and zajal could be sung to a newly composed melody or to a pre–existing melody from either secular or liturgical repertoires. In traditional Sephardic singing one does not hear heavy and constant vibrato or long–held notes which are not decorated. Furthermore, there is a firmly blended fusion of Spanish–Arabic qualities both in the sound of the melodies and the way they are treated in performance.

 

     The Renaissance Players is the longest standing professional Early Music ensemble in Australia. Founded in 1967 by Winsome Evans, the ensemble is well–known for its varied and imaginative concert programs which are presented in costume and enlivened by poetry, mime, dance and processions. They perform a wide range of music dating from the 9th century through contemporary folk and classical styles, using replicas of, and/or ethnically, authentic instruments where possible and attempting to reproduce performance styles appropriate to whatever music is played. The Renaissance Players have a library of over 2,500 pieces, which have all been collected, arranged and/or composed by Winsome Evans.

     Winsome Evans, Director of the Renaissance Players, is also the producer of this series. Aside from the performance and dance schedule of the Renaissance Players, Winsome teaches music at the University of Sydney and is one of Australia's busiest harpsichordists. She has mastered an additional 25 wind, string, percussion and keyboard instruments.

     Members of The Renaissance Players performing on this recording include Winsome Evans, Benedict Hames, Llew Kiek, Mara Kiek, Melissa Irwin, Mina Kanaridis, Andrew Lambkin, Barbara Stackpool, and poetry reader Geoff Sirmai.

 

the project

the artists

The main themes in this first volume, Thorns of Fire, relate to the rose as a symbol of love; with weddings and various associated customs; with delightful, ravishing Muslim girls; and with the omnipresent force of the sea and the siren. The Sephardic romansas and kantigas featured in this volume are from sources in Andalusia, Rhodes, Balkans, the Orient, Bulgaria and Tetuan, and the dance songs come from Macedonia, Andalusia and Australia. Also featured is a single declaimed Biblical text, linked by theme and concept, accompanied by entirely improvised, taksim–like instrumental commentary.

This collection of Spanish-Jewish songs and Mediterranean dance tunes in this second volume, Apples and Honey, are named for the joyful celebrations of Rosh Ha-Shanah, the head of the year. The texts of the muwashshah and kantigas evoke images of the sea and the river (powerful forces for the Sephardim in their post–expulsion Mediterranean settlements) and water. These are, in their turn, connected with exile, the siren, the moon, and various marriage customs. Various procedures related to Arabic and Balkan music are followed here: improvised instrumental taksim-like preludes, interludes between stanzas, repetition of the solo singer's line by a chorus of voices and/or instruments, lively, celebratory ululation by chorus singers, a variety of chest- and head-voice timbres, constant ornamentation of melodic lines, measured and unmeasured metres, and simple and complex additive rhythms. Likewise, a wide variety of arrangement is demonstrated.

The collection of Spanish–Jewish songs in this third volume, Gazelle and Flea, include satire, a panegyric addressed to a minstrel, wedding songs, laments, coplas, kantigas, and romansas. These are placed cheek–by–jowl with traditional dances from the Sephardim's host countries, Bulgaria, South Yugoslavia and Macedonia. The text covers themes of love from literal and figurative references involving animals, humans and insects (e.g. gazelle and flea) to more direct faces of love—courtships which are frustrated, sadly disappointed and sea/siren connected, and weddings, specifically the traditional marriage preparations with their expectations of nuptial bliss and love's frightful sufferings in a cycle of destruction–famine–exile. The songs and dances are performed with improvised decoration as the melodies to which these originally Hebrew texts were sung are lost forever in the ancient folk-memory.

 

 

The opening refrain of track 1 on this fourth volume, Eggplants, declares that the following copla will describe seven recipes for stewing eggplants. The eggplant was a staple of Ottoman cuisine which was beloved by all, at every level of society from the Sultan and his slaves to the Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other inhabitants. There are many references in this volume to foodstuffs which were staples of the Ottoman Sephardic diet—eggplants, olive oil, rice, chicken, aromatics, rue, apple, lemon, milk, cinnamon, coffee and sherbets. In the menu of musical items, Macedonian dances, instrumentalized and sung kantigas and coplas, fragments of romansas and kantigas, and bodas tell of Sabbath food, tragic births in the royal palace, joyous, wicked, seductive, rejected and spiritual love, and mischievous, intoxicated, boisterous pre– and post–nuptial hijinks.

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Stelbishte oro

Por alli paso un cavallero

Como la rosa

Yo m’enamori d’un aire

La rosa enflorece

(i) Slušaj kaj šumaj šumite bukite

(ii) Tri pati

Noches buenas

Puncha, puncha la rosa huele

(i) Here is a poem

(ii) Return, O Shulammite

Morena me llaman

Staro oro

Ah, Signora novia

La madre de la novia

  Total Time:

3'08"

4’30"

4’48"

4’52"

3’53"

4’23”

 

3’24"

5’47"

4’40”

 

4’49"

3’34"

3’08"

6’43"

57'56"

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3

4

5

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8

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10

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13

14

 

Haralambis

La sirena

En la mar ay una torre

Cunja mija

Siete anos

Bandary

Morenica sos

Por la tu puerta

Yo Hanino

Para beri

La novia entre flores

Kopanitsa oro

Have you heard, my friends?

Durme, durme mi angelico

  Total Time:

3’40"

4’20"

6’16"

4’26"

5’33"

2’03”

4’19"

5’42"

2’33”

2’38"

3’55"

2’57"

4’04"

4’21”

56'52"

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5

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Cetvorno oro

El rey de Francia tres hijas tenia

Rychenitsa

Por amar una donzella

Ajugar de novia galana

Staro povrateno

Y una madre comio asado

El conde niño

Cetvorka

Hija mia mi querida

Y aunque yo no vendi nada

Play for me minstrel

Desde hoy la mi madre

Pravo za ramo

Fleas

Estavase la mora

Dvajspetorka

(i) Dunje rajke kruske kara manke

(ii) Kyustendilka

  Total Time:

1’32"

7’58"

1’26"

4’26"

3’03"

2’55”

4’29"

3’43"

1’14”

5’05"

 2’55"

3’16"

2’08"

3’58”

1’30”

2’49”

3’02”

2’35”

0 58'11"

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3

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14

 

Los guisados de la berenjena

Dunula

Potrculka

La sclava pario un hijo

Dolores tiene la reina

Teškoto

Si la mar era de leche

Una matica de ruda

Esta montaña d’enfrente

Salgas madre

Potrceno

Poco le das la mi consuegra

Ay, el novio no quiere dinero

El mi querido

  Total Time:

5’32"

4’34"

4’09"

3’59"

5’26"

3’24”

6’40"

5’34"

4’03”

5’10"

3’05"

8’35"

4’58"

4’35”

73'58"

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