by JCC staff
On November 5th at 7 p.m. at the JCC, Indianapolis should be ready for an emotionally powerful, artistic voyage awash with warm harmonies, intricate textures and spellbinding rhythms.
Starting in ancient Spain and winding through Sarajevo, Salonica and Jerusalem, the award winning Guy Mendilow Ensemble will deliver the adventure, humor and grit of Sephardi songs and legends, sung in the endangered Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino, when it performs for the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts.
"There’s a greater responsibility when we work with music that is so old and rich," Mendilow says. "We must be careful to respect the tradition, even as we use a modern musical tool box to bring these songs to life in an artistic way that will capture the imaginations and hearts of listeners today."
Though some of the lyrics pre-date 1492, the music itself is primarily from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is because these songs are a true folk music, preserved aurally and not written until recently (when dealing with Ladino music, the 1800’s are recent).
Mendilow’s finely crafted interpretations innovate even as they preserve the songs, stories and traditions in which they are firmly grounded. Epic tales of sailors and love lost to the seas, fantastic dreams and the intrigue of kings vividly come alive in arrangements that crackle with rich musical storytelling, seamlessly interwoven with poetic narration and often-poignant historical vignettes.
We’re fairly certain that some of these songs were sung hundreds of years ago,” says Mendilow. “But we have little idea as to the melodies, rhythms and ornamentations used back then, and with a long history of adapting to homes across borders and languages we can hardly even guess.”
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed is more a show than a concert: A narrative arc threads throughout, and there is a cinematographic quality to the music. Close your eyes and you can see the stories play out, movie-like, through the presentation.