Candlelight Concert Society marks 1492

October 16, 1992|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

Despite its position in history half a millennium ago, the year 1492 still stirs passion in those who wish it remembered with the correct perspective.

Regardless of their arguments, both sides of the debate can agree on one thing: The year was epochal. Whether viewed as expansion or exploitation, glorious or genocidal, 1492 has influenced humankind to the present -- and not just in the Americas.

The Candlelight Concert Society of Howard County is offering its own effort toward understanding this era by presenting The Waverly Consort performance, "The Year 1492: Spanish Music in the Age of Discovery" tomorrow at Howard Community College.

The Consort is a New York-based group -- six singers and four musicians -- that performs music from the 12th to mid-18th centuries.

The musicians play period instruments. Some, including the harp, recorder and flute, are familiar to the Western ear. Others, such as the oud, sacbut and vihuela, are exotic.

About half the music for the program will be drawn from the Consort's recent compact disc, "1492: Music from the Age of Discovery" (Angel-EMI Classic).

The group created a musical score for a video on Columbus and the music of his time, titled, "1492: A Portrait in Music," for broadcast by PBS.

Bonita Bush, Managing Director of the Candlelight Concert Society, said the Consort's timely performance will be a slight departure from the society's usual mainstream chamber music.

"It's a highlight for early music [before 1850] lovers," she said. "The Waverly Consort was the premier group to make early music the in thing."

Although the performance is designed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival on some still-disputed island in the Bahamas, 1492 is the central theme to the music of tomorrow's program.

The year can claim two other events that shaped history: The Spanish defeat of the Moorish kingdom of Grenada, which eliminated the last vestiges of Moor rule in Spain, and the Edict of Conversion, which ordered all Jews to accept Christianity or face expulsion from the newly unified state of Spain.

These events in Spain, coupled with the nationalism of Columbus' voyage formally ended what Fouad Ajami, writing in The New Republic, called "a polyglot world . . . of Arabs, Berbers, Jews, and blacks, Muslims of native Spanish stock, native Christians" that "was to fashion a society of tranquillity and brilliance" during the 10th and 11th centuries.

Four hundred years before Columbus set sail, Spain was practicing the 20th Century concept of multi-culturalism, where tolerance for each group allowed for a greater good.

The sight of Muslim, Jew and Christian working together on a large scale would be an alien vision to contemporary eyes. Spain of a thousand years ago was fortunate to exist on the margin of the hearths of these three religions centered in Mecca, Jerusalem and Rome, respectively. Like an outpost, it had more freedom to write its own rules.

1492's three significant events in Spanish history will be the subject of a free lecture at 6 p.m. by David Crawford, professor of musicology and associate dean of undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan.

The Waverly Consort 8 p.m. program is divided into two parts. In "Part One -- Circa 1492," the music selected is divided into three sections, discovery, the fall of Granada and music for the courts of Ferdinand and Isabella. The lyrics are in Italian, Spanish and Latin. Programs contain English translations.

The first song of the scheduled program,"Ayo visto lo mappamundo," is an Italian frottola that declares in the first line "I have seen the world map," a foreshadow of Arab geographic and scientific influence in the West that spurred European exploration and the Renaissance.

In that same vein of new empire is "Viva el gran Re Don Fernando," a lively, nationalistic song that trumpets King Ferdinand's crusade over "The Mohammedan city, most mighty Granada." The city is declared "free, released from the false pagan faith," the Muslims.

To Western ears the most exotic -- and enticing -- song of the program may be "B'tayhi -- M'saddar," with its distinct Middle Eastern sound played on instruments not familiar in a high school band, but influential on Western music. It may be interesting for those in the audience to compare this piece with "La Alta," which is played in the court music, and final section of the first part, and see how the former influenced the latter.

The second part of the program is titled "Legacies." Its first section plays Spanish music of Europe and the Americas, which features three devotional songs that seek the Virgin Mary's blessing.

The growing hegemony of Catholicism in the Americas works as a contrast to the final section of the of the scheduled program, "Exodus and Diaspora: Judeo-Spanish Songs."

One song "El paso del Mar Rojo"("Crossing the Red Sea"), strikes a parallel between the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and the expulsion from the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.