Music

Power of the voice

Concert delves into history of Sephardic Jews, conversos and crypto-Jews

By Tempo staff
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 3/20/19

An unusual concert is planned that delves into the rich and varied history of Sephardic Jews, conversos and crypto-Jews' 600-year process of identity transformation. The recital will …

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Music

Power of the voice

Concert delves into history of Sephardic Jews, conversos and crypto-Jews

Posted

An unusual concert is planned that delves into the rich and varied history of Sephardic Jews, conversos and crypto-Jews' 600-year process of identity transformation.

The recital will take place Sunday (March 24), 3 p.m., at St. James Episcopal Church, 208 Camino de Santiago in Taos.

This lecture-recital program consists of words and music that delve into Sephardic Judaism starting with the Golden Age of Spain (10th-14th centuries) through the Spanish Inquisition, the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain, all the way up to this day and age in Colorado, New Mexico and the greater Southwest region, a statement reads.

Performing artists in the program include soprano Christina Martos, pianist Debra Ayers and composer Ofer Ben-Amots.

"In the 10th and 11th centuries," a statement reads, "Spain flowered into a golden age, as Muslim, Jewish and Catholic peoples achieved new heights in science, philosophy and the arts. Four centuries later, the vaunted tri-culturalism had deteriorated into dissent, segregation and riots, forcing Jews either to leave the country or convert to Catholicism. Despite continued persecution, the Jews persisted -- sometimes as upright Catholic conversos, sometimes as self-identifying 'crypto-Jews.'

"Emblems of that struggle for cultural identity appear even today: a Star of David carved into a tombstone in a Catholic cemetery; oral histories of tangled roots; Hispanic villages where genetic clusters speak to Jewish lineage. The music itself is a series of songs and ballads in the Judeo-Spanish language known as Ladino, which spans over the many centuries. An offspring of the three cultures, the lyrics and melodies of these ballads serve also as a reflection on the harmony between the three religions as well as the ensuing long and thorny historical developments."

Ofer Ben-Amots was born in 1955 in Haifa, Israel. He gave his first piano concert at age 9 and by 16 was awarded first prize in the Chet Piano Competition. Later, following composition studies with Joseph Dorfman at Tel Aviv University, he was invited to study at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland.

Upon his arrival in the United States in 1987, Ben-Amots studied with George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his doctorate in music composition. Currently, he is chair of the music department at Colorado College, where he teaches composition, music theory and and a wide variety of liberal arts subjects.

"Ben-Amots' works have been repeatedly recognized for their emotional and highly personal expression," the statement continues. "The interweaving of folk elements with contemporary textures, along with his unique imaginative orchestration, creates the haunting dynamic tension that permeates and defines Ben-Amots' musical language." For more on the composer, visit oferbenamots.com.

Singer Christina Martos has appeared with the Washington National Opera in the roles of Giannetta in "L'elisir D'amore," Nella in "Gianni Schicchi" and Barena in "Jenufa."

Concert engagements include appearances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony in Miami, the Marilyn Horne Foundation Festival at Carnegie Hall, Beethoven's concerto for voice "Ah! Perfido" with the Yale Philharmonic and Beethoven's Ninth with the American Youth Symphony at Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

She has performed with the New Mexico Performing Arts Society, the Chatter music series in Albuquerque, the world premiere of Ron Strauss's "Los Bufones" at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and Mozart's "Great Mass" with the Santa Fe Community Orchestra, the Montage Music Society, the Abiquiú Chamber Music Festival and the Taos Chamber Music Group. Martos moved to New Mexico in 2008 and resides in Los Alamos.

Debra Ayers performs internationally as a recitalist with instrumentalists, singers and chamber music ensembles. Pianist and director of Montage Music Society, Ayers also performs with Abiquiú Chamber Music Festival, Albuquerque Chamber Soloists, Serenata of Santa Fe, Sunday Chatter and Taos Chamber Music Group.

Ayers can be heard on a number of critically acclaimed recordings, including Montage Music Society's "Starry Night Project … music based on visual art" (MSR), "Music of Ernst Krenek" with soprano Ilana Davidson and "Music by Ofer Ben-Amots" (Milken Archive). Montage Music Society's new recordings music inspired by Ben-Amots and Bruce Wolosoff will be released in fall 2018.

Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and free for youth under age 18.

For more information, call (575) 758-2790.

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