Early Music Concert offers window into medieval culture

Hannah Manning
Connector Editor

Using modern instruments, the TellTale Crossing Ensemble gave UMass Lowell students as well as the general public a chance to be transported into Medieval Portugal with their arrangements of troubadour love songs.

Held in Durgin Concert Hall on Thursday, March 2 at 8 p.m., the concert featured renditions of 12 love songs delivered by the five-piece ensemble.

The event has hosted by the Saab-Pendroso Center for Portuguese Culture & Research, Music and World Languages & Cultures Departments and the Medieval & Renaissance Studies Program in conjuction with the BPF/Consulate General of Portugal in Boston. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Tošic referred to the songs as the group’s “archeological work,” using modern intruments to portray old melodies, to dust them up and bring them to life for audiences to enjoy.

The night also featured a theme of multiculturalism, with some Sephardic and Galician love songs played as well. The ensemble’s rendition of “Et Dodim,” often heard at Jewish weddings, was joyous and one of the night’s highlights.

Dr. Frank Sousa, a Portuguese professor and director of the Saab-Pendroso Center, was instrumental in arranging the event and bringing TellTale Crossing Ensemble to Lowell. He was thrilled about the opportunity to present medieval Portuguese music to the University for the first time. While he says that the University has arranged concerts for contemporary Portuguese music in the past, this is the first occasion in which medieval music has been represented.

“It always enriches you when you learn something you didn’t before. So that is really what motivated us to do this… it’s not very often you hear medieval Portugese music anywhere in this country,” said Sousa.

The concert was comprised of two sets, the first featuring numerous songs celebrating love of all kinds from religious love to pining for a love from long ago. The final set of the show featured the group’s rendition of the Cantigas de Amigo, a tale of a young woman waiting on the shores of Vigo, a port town on the coast of Spain, to await her lover.

The ensemble utilized a banjo, double bass, ukelele, guitar and numerous percussive intruments to evoke a medieval feel, as well as compliment the two singers, Tošic and soprano Cristi Catt.

Takaaki Masuko was masterful on percussion, and the musical stylings of Richie Sterns on banjo and Corey DiMario on the double bass worked quite well together. The strongest points of the night were often moments in which Masuko, Sterns and DiMario were given space to play and construct the atmosphere of a Portugal from long ago.

The TellTale Crossing Ensemble will be touring universities around the region, sharing their archeological work with students. “I think it’s great to listen to music you haven’t listened to before, and I dare say that until today the students who were in the recital [Thursday afternoon] had never heard Medieval Portuguese music before,” said Sousa.

Hannah Manning

Hannah Manning is the managing editor of the UMass Lowell Connector. A native of Haverhill, Mass., she is a junior working towards her bachelor's in English with a concentration in journalism and professional writing. She likes hockey, music and her fellow staff members at the Connector.

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