30 Apr New Sephardic Music
About a year ago, Eugenia Moliner and Denis Azabagic approached David Leisner, Clarice Assad, Allan Thomas, Joseph Williams, and myself to write chamber works for what would be a collaboration between the Cavatina Duo, the Avalon String Quartet, as well as members of the Lincoln Trio Desiree Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe.
The register of the Violin – along with its near infinite sustain – was a welcome addition to a now familiar Flute and Guitar combination. It became clear that rather than compete for range with the Violin, I chose to use (for the most part) the Alto Flute as a wonderful and grounded color, allowing the Guitar to live comfortably in its own register. Most importantly, the melodies to be used to inform this piece were of Sephardic origin. My knowledge about the music itself was desultory, but Eugenia and Denis’ passion about it was contagious.
So I began to investigate, and first learned about the troubled history of the Sephardic Jews in Spain…and then I fell into their poetry, and music.
The first poem/song to grab me was Ven Kerida:
Ven querida, ven amada
Ven al bodre de la mar
Ven te contaré mis males
Que te metas a llorar
Huérfano de padre y de madre
Yo no tengo onde arrimar
Estira la tuya pierna um poko m’arrimare.
Azere un buen suenyo
En tus brasos muerere
It loosely translates to the following: Come my love to the edge of the sea. I will tell you of the sufferings I have lived through, as they will make you cry. An orphan, without a Father or Mother, I have nowhere to rest. Stretch your leg out a little so I may sleep, well, for in your arms I shall die…
It was this poem and gorgeous melody that formed the pillar of the piece I wrote. Throughout the writing process, I had a recurring vision of a proud, yet helpless, soul approaching the edge of the coastal town of Burriana in Eastern Spain, pleading her misery as an affront to the Ocean. After a silence, she hears a song. She joins in, perhaps comforted, and tells her story.
It is a story wrought with sadness, yet hopeful – and to me perfectly encapsulates the Sephardic people’s plight.
PLEGARIA Y CANTO (AL BODRE DE LA MAR) will receive its premiere at the Ravinia Music Festival, and will be released by Cedille Records worldwide on March of 2016.