Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Music From Peru

The Friends of the Saint Paul Library sponsored a program by the Rose Ensemble called the Portraits of Peru. I like the Rose Ensemble very much and was excited to find a performance for free at a library.

When the program began, the master of ceremonies told us none of them were with the Rose Ensemble. Well, we should have figured that out because the Rose Ensemble is a choir group. We learned these were the instrumental musicians helping the Rose Ensemble with the programs they are doing in the next few days. As the program developed we learned the musicians specialized in music from Spain and Latin America. They come from Pittsburgh, New York City, Atlanta, Boston, and Melbourne, Australia.

We learned the Peru program is based on the Trujillo Journals. These journals come from 1780. At this time the bishop in Trujillo, Peru was ordered to do a "visita" around Peru. Among the people who traveled with him was an artist who did 7 watercolor journals.

The master of ceremonies, who is a faculty member at Wellesely College, showed pictures from the journals to help us understand a bit about the culture of that time, but primarily to help us see musical instruments from that time. The particular scene below was something about devils trying to scare a saint, and is only one piece of a much larger picture. Primarily the speaker wanted us to see the instruments.

Most of the musical instruments of this time came from Europe and primarily Spain. But each musician took the time to explain how their 18th century instrument was different from the modern one we would see in an orchestra today. 

The instruments that didn't come from Europe were primarily percussion. These came from the indigenous people -- for example, a shaker or what we call a maraca in Mexican music. Peru had African slaves, and, just like in North America, the drums which had become important in many African cultures were forbidden. So the African slaves made percussion instruments out of other things. In the watercolor above the musician on the right is tapping rhythm on a small wooden box.

An unusual way to do percussion is to use the harp.

In the photo above the harpist is playing the melody by plucking the strings, and the percussionist makes a rhythm by tapping on the wooden base of the harp with his knuckles.This is not made-up in the 21st century. Indeed the watercolor journals of 1780 show someone doing this exact same thing.

Below is a video of one musical selection. It features only two members. The flute type instrument is played by the master of ceremonies/professor. He explained that while traveling in Peru a couple years ago he recorded the song on his I-phone and then came back to the United States and transcribed it.

The video below shows the entire group playing together.

What a lovely splendid time we had!

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