Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Early Music Now: East of the River, “Levantera”

On Saturday, March15th, we went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Zelazo Center to hear “East of the River” as part of the Early Music Now<> concert series. Augmented by three additional musicians, the group played a culturally rich, musically addictive program that traced the migration of Mediterranean, medieval music through the Balkans and into the Middle East and Armenia.
In the program called "Levantera" — which refers to an easterly Mediterranean wind — recorder players Nina Stern and Daphna Mor performed with violinist Jesse Kotansky, kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi and percussionist Luke Notary.
Stern and Mor performed on a number of different recorders and recorder-like instruments. The kanun, played by Mr. Pinarbasi, looks like a large autoharp without the chording bars. It is played by striking the strings with the fingers, and has a dulcimer-like sound. Complicated to play, it has a tuning lever for each string capable of setting any of nine “micro-tones” between notes, something unique to Turkey, where the instrument originates. Mr. Notary’s main instrument was a frame drum (similar to the Irish bohdran), but also played bells, rattles, and a wooden box about the size of a beer case, with a sounding hole on one side, that he used as a stool during the concert. (It has a formal name, which I didn’t catch, but I think of it as the “boom box”.)
The program opened with a 14th Century English Petrone, from the Robertsbridge Codex, but thereafter drew most of its material from Eastern Europe. Sources included Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Macedonia, plus Turkey, Syria, and Andalusia.
East of the River spent several days in residency in the West Allis schools prior to the concert. A large group of fourth and fifth grade recorder players from West Allis, along with their teachers, joined the group onstage for a number of selections, a Medieval “Cantiga d Santa Maria,” a “Caribbean Tune,” and “Ala De’Lona,” a traditional Middle Eastern tune. The recorder choir, conducted by Ms. Stern, played very well, with a solid sound, well in tune, and no missed notes that I could detect.
All of the music was new to us and very interesting. We were particularly struck by some of the Balkan folk dance music, which was described as having “asymmetrical or compound meters with various combinations of short and long beats.” (For example, the dance tune “Sandansko Horo” is in a 22/16 meter! “Krivo Sadovsko Horo” is in 13/8, and “Bucimis” in 15/16ths time.)
Ms. Stern and Ms. Mor had some of the loveliest recorder sound we have ever heard. They were well supported by their accompanying musicians, which made for a delightful concert.
This event was Early Music Now’s annual chocolate social and silent auction. They lay out an ever-changing buffet of chocolate cookies, brownies, truffles and bars (some of which are actually non-chocolate, for the averse--), intended to lure you into the auction room, where they always have a fascinating array of really classy donated items and gift certificates to be bid on. We enjoyed the chocolate offerings and looking at the swag, and purchased some books and an album to take home.

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