The Rose Ensemble performed on campus this afternoon, and it was magnificent. The concert, titled “Voices of Ancient Mediterranean Christians, Jews & Muslims,” used a wide variety of instruments and vocal styles to convey the rich interweaving of these three cultural and faith traditions, especially in Spain. Carefully programed juxtaposition of Gregorian chant, music of the Sephardic Jews, and of Moorish Spain highlighted a shared emphasis on poetry and imagery, of songs sung with a single melody (no harmony) and even shared characters (Abraham featured in several songs). At the same time, the Rose Ensemble brought out the unique cultural and spiritual characteristics of each source.
This is the third time I’ve enjoyed the Rose Ensemble, all of them different from each other. As founder Jordan Sramek said during the discussion period after the concert: this is not music we are likely to have heard before, not music you can purchase at a music store. Only in Western Europe did a tradition of musical notation spring up to help us know the tune and timing. Sephardic and Islamic melody and song were handed down from musician to musician. Texts might be written, but finding the right tune and interpretation is a matter of building up a performance from known patterns of medieval music – and excellent contemporary musicianship.
The 5-minute promo tape gives a flavor of the skill and diversity of the performers, as well as the enthusiasm of their audiences.