“This recording aims to bring together musicians from diverse traditions (Middle Eastern, European, American) and diverse religious backgrounds (Christian, Muslim, Jewish) around a common celebration of the
Christmas theme. The musical sources are for the most part quite ancient, but given the course of current events, the human and social context is intensely contemporary. We tend to forget how deeply our common roots in the religions of the Middle East go. The music and poetry of this recording is intended to draw together the various elements of culture, art and belief that we have in common.” (Joel Cohen)
A Mediterranean Christmas savours Christmas in Spain, Italy and Southern France, countries that belong to our Western-Euro-American heritage yet that have maintained a connection over time with the cultures of the near-east. The musical programme, spoken and sung in early versions of Spanish, Judaeo-Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Occitan/Provençal, Hebrew and Arabic, offers a rich mixture of material from the 12th to the 19th century. There is a wide range of melodic styles as well as evidence that the various peoples of the Mediterranean basin influenced one another’s modes of expression.
A Mediterranean Christmas is the latest recording for Warner Classics by The Boston Camerata, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004-2005 with major events in Boston and Paris. They are led by Joel Cohen, a leading authority on medieval and renaissance musical performance, who has directed the ensemble’s teaching, research, recording and concert activities since 1968. The Boston Camerata aims to preserve and reawaken human memory as expressed through the art of music through live, historically informed, professional performances of European and American music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras. The ensemble has maintained an international presence since 1974, having performed in recent seasons in Canada, the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Singapore, Israel, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Japan. Their numerous recordings for Warner Classics have won critical acclaim, awards and distinctions in Europe and America.
Joining The Boston Camerata for A Mediterranean Christmas is the Arabic music ensemble Sharq, which is dedicated to preserving and presenting traditional and classical Arabic vocal and instrumental music and consists of young professional musicians from several cities in the Arab world and Turkey performing on original and authentic acoustic instruments.
The vocalists on this recording are Hayet Ayad, Anne Azéma, Equidad Barès and Anne Harley. Other soloists include Hazel Brooks (vielle), Joel Cohen (lauta, guitar, voice), Steven Lundahl (recorders, slide trumpet, shofar, voice), Karim Nagi (percussion, chifonie, voice), Boujoumaa Razgui (percussion, nay. raita, voice) and Kareem Roustom (oud, guitar, voice). This disc reunites some of the soloists who made the Cantigas de Santa Maria recording, which won the Edison Prize in 2000.