Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: La Convivencia II | Orchestra of New Spain | Zion Lutheran Church

Coexisting in Music

The Orchestra of New Spain launched its season with music of the Iberian peninsula betweeh the eighth and 14th centuries.

published Thursday, October 4, 2018

Michelle Alany


Dallas — What the Orchestra of New Spain does exceedingly well is, without question, research and curate. Artistic director Grover Wilkins III is skilled at bringing together a rich collection of music and providing historically and culturally engaging context. Such is definitely the case with the group’s performances of La Convivencia II last week, a celebration of music from the Iberian peninsula during the period between 711 A.D. and the end of the 14th century.

Known as “convivencia,” which translates from Spanish as “cohabitation,” this period was marked by a beautiful confluence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities living and working together peacefully, resulting in a wealth of intercultural influences on art and music.

Photo: Thulasi Kakkat
Jamal Mohammed

Featuring a panoply of Medieval instruments, the ONS collaborated with guest Michelle Alany, internationally known violinist and vocalist who specializes in Sephardic and Mediterranean soul music, and a group of world musicians led by the locally-based Jamal Mohamed.

The concert consisted of two halves, each divided into three distinct sets: Cantigas de Santa Maria, Sephardic songs, and Middle Eastern songs—a delightful combination of sacred liturgy, modern poetry, and traditional folksong traditions executed in a dynamic mix of languages, including Galician Portuguese, Judeo-Spanish, and Turkish.

With technical precision, this group of musicians showcased the energy and nuance of performance practices that can seldom be found elsewhere. Audience members were treated to expert demonstrations on exotic, historically accurate instruments like the oud (an Arabic lute), the vielle (a Medieval type of fiddle), shawms (a Renaissance-era wind instrument and ancestor to the oboe), the santour (Persian hammered dulcimer), and the baroque guitar.

Together, the troupe offered a robust mix of sounds, ranging from solemn and reverent to light and jovial. The use of the Karslima (a popular dance rhythm characterized by a 9/8 time-signature used frequently throughout the Middle East) was prevalent throughout, giving certain pieces an strikingly lively sort of bounce. Alany led the group on many of the folk-based pieces on violin and with vocals that were clearly tuned for this genre of music. In Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) and Turkish, she sings songs of love, cultural celebration, and traditional children’s songs.

In contrast, the Orchestra of New Spain’s four-part vocal ensemble, which featured two mezzo-sopranos (Katrina Burggraf and Kayla Nanto), baritone (Patrick Gnage), and bass (Joshua Hughes), offered thick and weighty tonality to the total sound. With Gregorian-like straight tone, they evoke an early-music sound that made the Cantigas de Santa Maria beautiful and poignant.

Jamal Mohamed and his group, which featured Mohamed on percussion, Jonathan Jones on woodwinds, Ehran Matoori on the santour, and Michael Nesuda on the oud and guitar, were exciting and invigorating to watch. It was clear that these musicians possess a love for the world music genre as they performed. Like a globally-sourced jazz ensemble, they provided audience members with rich Mediterranean tones and exciting Middle Eastern and North African dance rhythms.

Orchestra of New Spain’s mission is to introduce audiences to little-known repertory through the “exploration of the Hispanic heritage” and to “educate the public on the importance of the repertory and its cultural implications.” In this sense, the organization fulfilled its goals thoroughly with La Convivencia II this past weekend. In quaint and casual fashion, Wilkins invites audiences to partake in this obscure and fascinating genre of music and history at a time when most of us could surely stand to benefit from experiencing intercultural cohabitation and artistry. With all the rhetoric of ethnic and cultural divisiveness flooding the mainstream media these days, finding this nugget of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cooperation was truly refreshing.

 Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Coexisting in Music
The Orchestra of New Spain launched its season with music of the Iberian peninsula betweeh the eighth and 14th centuries.
by Richard Oliver

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :