Friday December 1 in the United Free Church, Totnes, at 7.30pm
While Christopher Columbus was off exploring the New World, a fascinating project was unfolding in Spain. Over a period of decades, a collection of songs from across the newly united country was taking shape.
Known now as El Cancionero de Palacio (the Palace Songbook), and still extant nearly 500 years later in Madrid, more than 400 songs still survive from when it was compiled from the mid-1470s to c1520.
One striking aspect of the collection is the extent to which traditional melodies feature, or at least the influences of popular songs – from the simplest folksong arrangement to more sophisticated forms, and including the style known as villancicos.
The absorption of such popular elements into the songs heard at court contributed to the development of a distinctively Spanish song style.
The themes of the villancicos in the Palace Songbook are often quite original by comparison with other song traditions of the time, including lyrics seen from a woman’s point of view. Others are political, humorous or downright bawdy.
Bristol-based Rosafresca are three musicians with a passion for early Renaissance, Spanish, Moorish and Elizabethan music who have been playing together since 2009.
They will be joined by singer Hayley Guest to perform a selection of songs from the Palace Songbook on Friday 1st December at 7.30pm at the United Free Church in Totnes.
Tickets are £12 (£5 for under 18s), from www.dartington.org, and the Box Office (01803 847070).
Rosafresca’s musical director and founder member Steve Walter traces his interest in Spanish music back to a fascination with the classical guitar.
As his knowledge of early music developed, it seemed natural to progress to the vihuela, the forerunner of the guitar in Spain, which has eleven strings and movable gut frets. He will be joined by Carol Atwood and Heather Gillard, both experienced musicians: between them they will be performing on vihuela, recorders, percussion and viol.
Rosafresca’s programme Music from the Time of Ferdinand and Isabella is the latest in a series of six concerts from the Totnes Early Music Society (TEMS) in association with the Arts at Dartington.
Future concerts include baroque music for harpsichord and flute in January from the prize-winning harpsichordist Masumi Yamamoto and flautist Boris Bizjak and a programme of music from Restoration England to partner a lecture by historian Ian Mortimer in March, before the season ends in April with baroque music from rising stars Ensemble Moliere.
image: Rosafresca with Hayley Guest (left)
Philip R Buttall