Showcasing the music of Jews, Christians and Muslims

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2012 - 6:40 PM

The Rose Ensemble will deliver lessons on diversity and tolerance through a program featuring the music of Spain circa 1200 to 1400.

The Rose Ensemble was established in 1996 and has released nine albums.

Photo: Michael Haug Photography

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During the Golden Age in medieval Spain, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in shared cultural, political and social harmony.

On Saturday, members of the Rose Ensemble will take listeners back to that era during "Music From the Land of Three Faiths: Discovering Ancient Harmonies Across Cultures, Borders and Religions," a free program at Woodbury's Stafford Library exploring the music and culture of medieval Spain.

"It's highly informative and highly educational," said Jen Krook, the education outreach coordinator for the St. Paul-based ensemble. "It's a topic that is not typically discussed, and it gives a good overview of how those types of music influenced those cultures and how they got along."

The one-hour program will feature Spanish villancicos, Galician cantigas, Sephardic laments and Arab-Andalusian songs, and will expose concert-goers to Middle Eastern instruments that include the riqq, a percussion instrument similar to a tambourine; a dumbek, a goblet-shaped hand drum, and the rebec, a pear-shaped string instrument.

"Kids like it because the music is lively and unique," Krook said, and "they get to see instruments they have never seen before."

A narrator will talk about the eclectic music selections and instruments during the program, which is part of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency's Live at the Library series.

Founded by Jordan Sramek in 1996, the critically acclaimed Rose Ensemble specializes in medieval to modern music that can date back as far as 1,000 years and that covers 25 languages. Its mission is to bring together rarely heard pieces from around the globe that deliver a fresh perspective on history, languages, politics, religion and world cultures and traditions.

Over the years, the Rose Ensemble has won the Chorus America Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and a blue ribbon from the 2007 Tolosa International Choral Championship in Spain, which was part of the European Choral Grand Prix. In 2010, Sramek received the 2010 Louis Botto Award from Chorus America "for entrepreneurial zeal."

The Rose Ensemble has released nine albums and is heard regularly on American Public Media and the European Broadcasting Union. It also has three educational programs and workshops that members present in schools and libraries. They include a program highlighting Hawaii and its musical traditions, and another exploring American hymns, ballads and dances.

On Saturday, five or six of the ensemble's 12 members will deliver lessons on diversity and tolerance through music of the 1200s to 1400s.

"We hope people will have a better understanding of what music was in that time and how it has been transformed into today," Krook said. It also will show "how cultures were important during that time and how they got along."

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039, Twitter: @timstrib

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