Camerata Mediterranea Presents Lecture/Recital at Boston College
On April 29, three core members of Camerata Mediterranea presented a lecture/recital at Boston College, co-sponsored by the Fine Arts and History Departments. Artistic Director Joel Cohen, board member Anne Azéma (director of The Boston Camerata, soprano, and medieval music scholar), and Boujema Razgui (internationally-recognized Arabic musician), took turns explaining and demonstrating the evolving modes and identifiers of Andalusian Music.
Below, Azéma explains the need for open-mindedness in cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.
Visit our Facebook page for more videos and photos of our Boston College presentation!
Artistic Director Presents Lecture at Wellesley College
On November 20, Artistic Director Joel Cohen was invited by Wellesley’s Frances Malino, Sophia Moses Robison Professor of Jewish Studies and History, to present an open lecture in connection with her course Routes of Exile: Jews & Muslims. Cohen presented “Minstrels in Distant Lands: Jewish Musicians in the Muslim World 1300-2000,” a topic very dear to his heart and one of his undisputed areas of expertise.
The lecture was very well-attended, and we are already planning similar lectures for the 2015 school year! If you are interested in presenting this or a related topic to your class or community group, please contact us at email@example.com.
A Colloquy on Sephardic Music
This November, Camerata Mediterranea joined forces with the Boston Musical Intelligencer to produce a roundtable dialogue on Sephardic music. Together, these two innovative organizations brought together some of Boston’s foremost specialists in early music to weigh in on the topic. At Boston’s Church of the Advent on the evening of November 29th, musicians and scholars discussed the definition of Sephardic music and tackled the tricky issues of who should be performing Sephardic music and in what manner.
A distinguished panel including Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Joel Bresler, Ian Pomerantz, Mehmet Sanlikol, and Camerata Mediterranea’s own Joel Cohen as moderator, came together to discuss the history of Sephardim, Sephardic musics, and issues relating to its performance.
A 9000 word transcription of this roundtable conversation is available for viewing at the Boston Musical Intelligencer’s website HERE.
Please stay tuned for more such collaborative presentations in the Boston area!
Camerata Mediterranea comes to the US
Since 2009, Camerata Mediterranea has been producing international events as a French non-profit organization. Today it is my great pleasure to announce that we are now also a legal non-profit corporation in the United States!
Not only does this new status allow us to accept tax-deductible contributions from our wonderful US-based supporters, but we are also now in a position to collaborate on a more substantial basis with relevant US-based organizations.
As we are now an American non-profit with a distinguished American board and staff, we qualify for valuable grants and funds to support the types of exciting programs that are essential to our mission of research, dialogue and education. For example, we can now partner with American universities and cultural institutions to bring the inspirational colloquia we are known for directly to US audiences.
We are also exploring scholarship opportunities for American college students, as well as sponsored research trips for American professors and music specialists.
To kick off our new American status, we have developed a program of musical and intercultural exploration for our American audiences. Presented by distinguished US-based musicians and scholars, the program encompasses several topics that are at the heart of our mission. The program is ready to start touring the Massachusetts area this spring, and these events will be available to all individuals, organizations and groups.
We invite all interested organizations and individuals to contact us today to learn more about these opportunities. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 617-396-1439. We would be very happy to hear from you, and we look forward to working together with you towards our common goals!
Golden Legends: Saints of the Languedoc and Elsewhere
September 17, 2011, Lapidary Museum of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert
February 6, 2012, Abbey of Saint-Sauveur Aniane
Anne Azema, voice and hurdy-gurdy
Joel Cohen, voice, gittern and lute
Inspired by the lives of great saints of the late Middle Ages, Camerata Mediterranea presented two concerts of poetry and music of the 12th and 13th centuries: St. Benedict of Aniane, Saint-Gilles du Gard, Saint-Guilhem Desert, St. Mary Magdalene Sainte-Baume in Provence, and St. Léochade, venerated in Vic Gardiole. These passions, miracles and deeds were sung and narrated in Occitan, Latin and French.
Anne Azema, voice and hurdy-gurdy
Susanne Ansorg, vielle, gittern and lute
This concert, presented at the Lapidary Museum of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert On October 16, featured Occitan, Spanish and Italian music of the Middle Ages. In the 12th and 13th centuries the cult of Mary was in full bloom in France, as with much of Europe. The Virgin Mary is all the more revered and popular because she represents a direct link between humanity and God. This concert, solo voice with instrumental accompaniment, presented great songs, narratives, spiritual songs and dance from different regions of the north shore of the Mediterranean basin. Each of its kind and its language (Old Occitan, Galician, Italian) carries the hopes, prayers, desires and complaints to she who, “star of the sea,” “gate of heaven,” “dawn,” serves as a mediator, ambassador and guide.
A summer letter from the Artistic Director
To all friends of the Camerata Mediterranea:
We have lots of good news to share with you as Camerata Mediterranea grows, and continues its innovative work.
First of all, we have a new home! Since June 2010, we have been “in residence” in the magnificent, Mediterranean pilgrimage village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. This is the place that welcomed our first international colloquium of June, 2009, and the experience was so exhilarating for all concerned that relocating to this extraordinary place, a treasure of medieval architecture and civilization, seemed like the most self-evidently natural thing in the world to do. And so, we have done it. Our thanks to Philippe Machetel, mayor of Saint-Guilhem, and to his munipal council, for extending to us this precious invitation. And a special tip of the hat to Daniel Kuentz, a tireless defender of Saint- Guilhem’s unique cultural patrimony, and Camerata Mediterranea’s new treasurer.
Next, we have a new season to announce, at Saint-Guilhem, within the walls of the twelfth century Abbey of Gellone. We have four events planned for the “Weekend du Patrimoine,” September 18 and 19, 2010. You can read more about them here.
More good news still: we’ve received generous subsidies for 2010 from the commune of Saint- Guilhem-le-Désert, and from the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC) of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. These funds help us to maintain our activities, and we are deeply grateful.
Finally, at least for the moment, a discographic event: Warner Classics in London will be issuing a 3- CD box entitled “Troubadour Songs,” consisting of the following reissues: “Lo Gai Saber” and “Le Fou sur le Pont” by Camerata Mediterranea, and “Provence Mystique,” recorded in the Abbey church of Saint Guilhem, by Anne Azéma. All these titles earned critical plaudits when they first appeared on the Erato label, and we are delighted to have them back in circulation. Our London friends tell us the boxed set will be available in time for the live events of September.
We’d be happy to see you in the beautiful Languedoc at that time. But, even at a distance, and at any moment, you can help Camerata Mediterranea in its work. Please consider becoming a member of our nonprofit association (Loi de 1901). And if you wish to make an additional financial contribution, your funds will go towards some very important and much-needed projects. For more information about how to join and contribute, please click here.
With thanks and best wishes,
Camerata Mediterranea, in residence at Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert:
“An architectural heritage, sounding forth its true resonance, as it rediscovers the voices for which it was originally intended.” — Midi Libre, September 2009
Camerata Mediterranea has moved to the beautiful village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert!
Please click here for our full mailing address.
Click here to view Camerata Mediterranea’s recent joint publication in Early Music America!
Click here to see a new video interview with Joel Cohen
2010 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT
Four Events, September 18-19
Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (Hérault, France)
In September 2010, during des Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days), Camerata Mediterranea and the town of Saint Guilhem-le-Désert will present, in the Abbey of Gellone, a series of four new conference/concerts, under the direction of Joel Cohen.
1. What is “Andalusian” in Arabo-Andalusian Music?
Conference with music, September 19 at 4:00pm, in the Museum Auditorium.
2. The Virgin Mary in Mediterranean Music.
Concert with commentary, September 18 at 8:45pm, in the Church of the Abbey.
3. The Roots of Sephardic Music.
Conference with music, September 19 at 4:00pm, in the Museum Auditorium.
4. Tot ço qu’ieu volria: Feminine Desire in Occitan Music and Poetry
Concert with commentary, September 19 at 8:45pm, in the Museum Auditorium (soloist and guest speaker: Anne Azéma).
Afternoon Conferences (1 and 3): free admission, voluntary donation
Evening Concerts (2 and 4): Admission, 12 Euros
Susanne Ansorg, vielle
Anne Azéma, voice
Joël Cohen,voice, lauta
Boujemaa Razgui, voice, oud, percussion
With the support of:
The Languedoc-Rousillon Office of Cultural Affairs
The Community of Saint Guilhem-le-Désert
Le Désert Imaginaire
For More Information:
+33 (0)6 08 98 79 46
Camerata Mediterranea’s first international colloquium was, according to all accounts, a magnificent musical and intellectual success, culminating in a standing ovation from the capacity audience in the abbey church of Saint-Guilhem.. It was also a beautiful moment of human encounter and exchange. I would like to thank all the participants — musicians, scholars, and scholar/musicians — for giving their absolute best. It was something rare and unforgettable.
Our thanks also go to Sabrina Bossa, our tireless and infinitely resourceful onsite assistant, to Alain Durel and Inge Thaes of the Camerata Mediterranea, to Daniel Kuentz and Le Désert Imaginaire, and to mayor Philippe Machetel and the town of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert. Our institute is richer for the friendship and support of such wonderful people.
A special word about the locality and the welcome it offered us. Saint-Guilhem is one of the most famous and most visited villages in France. But its permanent population is only a couple of hundred, and an operation of this nature required countless hours of preparation and enormous concentrated effort in order to succeed. Philippe Machetel especially showed his utter dedication and comittment to this project, putting in what appeared to be 25 hour days on behalf of its success. We were awed, and grateful.
This was our first such event, and there will be more! Be sure to check back here for additional documentation of the colloquium, and for further news and developments.
Best wishes to all,
To see some images of the colloquium, please click here.
An American In Paris
On the 10th of May, I flew in to France for a full agenda of Camerata Mediterranea meetings in Paris, Chaville and Dordogne. Within the first few days of my visit to the city of light, I was introduced to many members of our French Advisory Board and met with our French Project Coordinator, Faïza Mohamed-Zeïna.
The artistic Director Joel Cohen and I also met with French videographer Stephane Ginet and developed a plan for a Camerata Mediterranea public relations DVD, set to be released later this summer. The video will feature clips of relevant presentations by Mr. Cohen and the Boston Camerata, and will include an insightful interview with Mr. Cohen himself on the essence and the importance of the institute’s mission.
On the 14th I traveled with Mr. Cohen to the picturesque village of Saint Amand de Vergt in the Dordogne region, where we met with the President of our Board of Directors, Alain Durel. In the photo to the left, taken at the Durels’ country home, Joel Cohen is on the left, Alain Durel (the former director of the Opéra de Lyon) is in the middle, and I am on the right. Together, we developed a set of comprehensive and concrete project proposals including specific subjects, projected budgets, and schedules for educational lecture-concerts on the main themes of our institute. To view these project proposals, please click here.
These initial subjects of choice are not only adaptable to many religious and secular audiences, but also serve as perfect examples of how much each of the Abrahamic religions (and therefore the vast majority of the Mediterranean cultures) truly have in common. For more information on these topics, or to speak with someone about hosting an educational project through your group or organization, please browse through the information in our Related Links Page, or contact the Project Coordinator in your country. Faiza and I will be happy to respond.
Upon our return to Paris, Mr. Cohen and I met with Hervé Méudic, the Director of the Atrium of Chaville where Camerata Mediterranea is in residence. Mr. Méudic granted me a full guided tour of the facility, and I was impressed by the full libraries, art galleries, modern auditorium, expandable conference spaces, and floor after floor of opportunities for the community to enjoy cultural programs, events and classes. Guy Perrocheau, the Atrium’s Director of Cultural Programs, showed us their full menu of educational and cultural presentations by internationally-acclaimed scholars, which are free and open to the public.
We presented our educational project proposals to Mr. Perrocheau, and after some fancy scheduling footwork, Camerata Mediterranea is slated to present a series of four lecture recitals in the month of March 2009 at the Atrium. For updates on precise content and available seating for this lecture series, please keep an eye on our Project page! Discussions are still underway for a full-scale colloquium in the year 2009, and developments on this project will be available for review on our Projects page as well. If you are interested in speaking to someone in more detail about such a collaboration, again please feel free to email the Project Coordinator in your country!
I am now back in the states, and have received word that both the retired ambassador from Spain and the deputy mayor in charge of culture in Neuilly sur Seine in Paris are meeting with our Artistic Director this week with interest in Camerata Mediterranea’s mission, and our promotional video shoot took place on Tuesday the 3rd of June, with editing scheduled for the end of the month. Big developments are underway for Camerata Mediterranea, and we are all excited to be a part of it.
If you would like to learn more about the institute’s upcoming projects and stay up to date with our latest developments, please be sure to sign up for our free monthly newsletter! To sign up, please email your local Project Coordinator or click on the link at the top of this page. Our debut edition will be sent out in the next few weeks, so sign up soon!
An Intercultural Classical Music Institute
Outline of a Proposal
I. The need
As the world changes, the notion of what constitutes shared culture also evolves rapidly. On the one hand, American-inspired mass culture penetrates everywhere, superficially uniting all peoples of all countries in a common set of signs, products, slogans, and values. On the other hand, this mass culture weakens and undermines the old, traditional, and “high” art of every country it touches, (sometimes even physically destroying the artifacts). At the same time, political, religious, and ideological movements seek to emphasize the rifts and gaps among the various world civilizations. These various movements are pernicious, and frequently very effective. The need is strong, therefore, for positive cultural forces to counter the negative ones.
The world of “high” or “classical” culture needs to respond to these changes by identifying the elements that can contribute to growth and revitalisation in contemporary life. Rather than allowing itself to be marginalised and fossilised, the world of “classical” music needs to draw on its own heritage, without pandering and without demagogy, emphasising those dimensions of its past and present being that most forcefully address the urgent needs of people today.
II. Finding a subject of common conversation
A. Too many current barriers to understanding
We are all of us on this planet living in close quarters, much closer than a few generations ago. It is no longer possible to isolate cultures from each other. The interactions will be either nocive or fertile, but they are inevitable. The challenge therefore is to make the interactions good ones rather than bad.
Our concern is musical art, where walls are built high and thick. The “high” musical art of America/Europe, and the “high” musical art of non-Western cultures rarely interact in a serious, developing way. Individual artists, of course, take inspiration from the diversity of civilisations around them, and the mass culture industry has manufactured many a “world music” product to respond to the movements of the marketplace. On both the “high” and the “pop” levels, there have been good examples of intercultural ebullition, and well as failures. These experiences and efforts, however, are not sufficient to meet a pressing need for greater renewal and understanding among coexisting cultures.
There are a number of possible ways to encourage and nurture the meeting of serious musicians and genuine musical scholars from different cultural horizons. What I am proposing here is one such, its particulars drawn from my own professional and personal interests, and from successful beginnings along these lines with the Boston Camerata, the Camerata Mediterannea and the Abdelkrim Rais Orchestra of Fes, Morocco. I would hope that the particulars of this proposal could serve as a paradigm for other intercultural endeavors.
B. The paradigm of medieval Spain
Much has been written about the many-faceted and multiconfessional civilisation of medieval Spain. Few of us, however, can claim to understand more than a small part of that civilisation.
While Western musicians and musicologists study the notated musical sources of the Christian courts and churches, they only rarely have detailed and intense contact with the Arabic musical repertoire of Morocco and Algeria. According to the tradition of those countries, the “Arabo-andalusian” music still heard there is the repertoire of the Islamic courts of medieval Spain.
Similarly, Arabic musicians of the “high art” tradition learn their local repertoires — largely different from each other in Morocco and Algeria, though with many points of contact — without much detailed awareness of the neighboring countries’ music. And hardly any of these musicians has a detailed knowledge of Christian Spanish practices of the period.
The North African countries of the Maghreb also nurtured a Judaeo-Arabic and Judaeo-Spanish repertoire that claims descent to some degree from medieval Iberia.
Here, therefore, is a logical and organic “place”, a moment in history that was “multicultural” before the buzzword was invented. Let us build on this moment of common historical experience. More of us need to have an informed and balanced view of the whole. We need to educate ourselves beyond the current boundaries.
III. Creating an institutional space to meet, reflect, and create
What is required is a “light” institutional structure — either standing alone or as part of a university, conservatory, arts center, festival, or similar organization. An executive project director and an administrator would be sufficient paid staff on an ongoing basis, to be supplemented by other personnel on a per-project basis.
Activities to be organised would include (but not necessarily be limited to):
-Colloquia (duration from a week to several weeks) reuniting recognised scholar-specialists and professional musicians. For instance: A long meeting on Arabo-Andalusian musical and poetic forms, in relation to medieval European musical practices.
-Teaching semesters or mini-semesters. For instance: a semester-long course on Arabo Andalusian music for European musicians.
-A semester-long course on medieval European music for professional musicians of the Maghreb.
-Language and poetry study sessions Classical Arabic for Western musicians and scholars.
-“Scholarships” for proven professionals to study firsthand outside their field For instance: the opportunity for European-trained musicians to study with and work with Arabic music specialists onsite in North Africa.
Evetually, the new institution could help conceive and organize performance and recording projects, even on a large international scale. But the first step is to increase and diffuse knowledge. This done, we can put the knowledge to work intelligently.
The need is real, and the hour is late. Those of us who care about the role of high culture in the interdependent world civilization of tomorrow have an opportunity to build something new using the solid materials of our common and precious past.