Texas Early Music Project Highlights Five Hundred Years of Sephardic Music

As distinctively Western European as we might think it is, classical music did not get shaped in a silo. Culture absorbs and exudes.

That’s one of the hallmarks of the Silk Road Project by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Highlighting a fusion of different musical traditions that could be found along the Silk Road trade route.

Culture is mobile. Throughout history, influences spread around the world, whether they followed a particular artist or a trade caravan.

Sometimes, however, the story is not a happy one.

Source: Wikipedia / Encyclopaedia Judaica

In the late 15th century, Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula were expulsed, first from Spain under the Alhambra decree in 1492, and later from Portugal by order of King Manuel in 1497. The ensuing diaspora saw the Sephardi land in different parts of the world, from the New World to the Ottoman Empire to Western Europe (where a descendant of the Sephardic Jews made big waves in the philosophy circles: Spinoza).

The Texas Early Music Project (TEMP) presents Noches, Noches: Sephardic Songs Of Love & Life this weekend. The program features Sephardic music from the last 500 years.

“The majority of the songs are about love lost, love found, love wanted, as well as weddings and daily dreams,” writes Daniel Johson, director of TEMP. “But there is the influence of being exiled in many of the songs, a deeply felt sadness. Even in some of the 19th century poems there are references to King Ferdinand and the expulsion and how lives and histories were changed because of that.”

There are references to the many myths, legends and stories of the Iberian homeland, as well as colloquialisms from the ‘new’ homelands like Turkey, Bosnia and Greece.

“Some members of our audiences have recognized music that was sung to them as children or that was popular in their households and neighborhoods,” writes Johnson. “Some members recognize specific names of places in the poems (such as Sirkegi park in Istanbul) and have multi-layered reference points that I simply do not have, but I love looking for them!”

The concert will feature recorder player and Asian music specialist Annette Bauer, as well as Peter Maund, a specialist in early and ethnic percussion.

Performances are October 20 at First Presbyterian Church and October 21 at Congregation Agudas Achim. Tickets $5-$25.

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