Buried beneath the treacle of our modern commercial Christmas is a real holiday, one that evolved from ancient myth, with all the cultural overlays it acquired as Christianity spread around the world.
Crescendo, an award-winning performance organization that presents concerts in the tri-state area under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Christine Gevert, will explore some of those cultural roots at the end of the holiday season when it presents its third after-Christmas Early Music Holiday Concert.
This year, the pieces presented will explore the rhythms of Spain and Latin American, according to Gevert.
“Everyone does a Christmas concert and I think it is a wonderful thing to do,” she said. “But a week after Christmas, you have pretty much heard all the carols and maybe you are tired of them.”
So, she decided to take a broader stroke in Crescendo’s seasonal offering. “There is a subtext that is related to Christmas,” she said. “Some of the pieces tell the story of the three kings and their journey,” she said.
But the music is drawn from Spain and Latin America and is grounded in their musical traditions. “In Latin America, the boundaries between folk, court and church music are not as distinct,” she said. “Their folk music flows into church music and even the secular music of the elite. It tells stories in colorful ways. There are a couple of pieces that talk to the Baby Jesus in a direct way, telling him to sleep—a lullaby that maybe will put the audience to sleep. But then there is a piece at the end that will wake everyone up, I promise,” she added with a laugh.
She explained that villancicos–a poetic musical form of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America folk tradition popular from the late 15th to 18th centuries—and polyphonic Renaissance and Baroque compositions from the Iberian and Latin American countries are slightly different from music from other European countries. And Spain has a rich tradition of highly developed polyphonic music, which is represented by the motets on the program and which have a more contemplative character.
“You will hear the rhythm of Spain and Latin America,” she promised. “Spanish polyphony is incredibly developed. In the last 20 years these works are being rediscovered and we are doing quite a few pieces interspersed with other segments. Polyphony flows and has different flavors.”
Eighteen singers from the Crescendo Vocal Ensemble will be directed by Christine Gevert and a cast of period and folk instruments will accompany the singers in works by Guerrero, Morales, Araujo, Encina and Torrejón y Velasco and others.
The main soloists are the Venezuelan soprano and vihuela player Salomé Sandoval and the Chilean tenor Pablo Bustos. Other instrumentalists from New York City, New Haven and Hartford are Hideki Yamaya, vihuela and Baroque guitar; Scott Hill, guitar; Christa Patton Renaissance harp, shawm (a conical bore, double-reed woodwind instrument that originated in Europe in the 12th century) and percussion; and Carlos Boltes, charango.
“We have some specialists coming to perform,” said Gevert. “In particular, for this concert I chose plucking instruments, a harp, the vihuela, which is an early Spanish guitar, the harp and the charango, a small Andean stringed instrument of the lute family.
She explained that the Andean Indians attempted to replicate the Spanish guitar by making their own stringed instrument using armadillo shells. “It has a very bright sound,” she said. “Now, armadillos are protected and they have to use different materials, but the bright character is well-preserved.”
“It has certainly been fun (creating the concert),” she said.
Gevert holds a master’s degree in organ and early music performance from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany. Of Chilean and German nationalities, she had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in music theory from the Conservatorio Nacional de Chile. She also studied choral and orchestral conducting in Berlin, Germany and harpsichord in London. Currently, she works with and leads a variety of ensembles in New England and is music director at Trinity Church in Lime Rock.
The December 29th performance will be held at 6PM. at St. James Place, 352 Main Street in Great Barrington MA. It will be followed December 30th at 3 PM. by a performance at Trinity Church, 484 Lime Rock Road in Lime Rock. The snow date is December 31st in Lime Rock. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 860-435-4866 or click on the link below.