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Traditions Series: Songs and Hymns

This week, the Harmonia Traditions Series explores traditional songs and hymns from many cultures…and a new release by the Bach Collegium Japan.

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man with lute

Photo: Anonymous

Eduardo Egüez, director of Ensemble La Chimera, which performs an arrangement of Ramón Navarro's "Chayita del Vidalero" from their release "Tonos y Tonadas."

The lutenist Vincent Dumestre summed up a thought in the preface to his ensemble’s recording of French traditional song that seems to encapsulate what song and singing means to us.  He echoes what many writers have expressed over centuries:

“Songs are a singular and universal echo of humankind, carried to us by the now silent voices of the parents, grandparents, and ancestors who sang them.”

In other words, songs are not just an expression of the individual we become and the family we belong to, they are part of an entire culture and history.  They exist simultaneously in the present and in the past.

Norway has a strong singing tradition in which songs have come down by both oral and written means—some of them even lack words.  The Norwegians call it “tralling” where the singer improvises or makes up consonants.

Early America had a rich tradition of congregational singing.  Songs could be heard at home and in church.  They gave thanks, praised God, or simply recollected experiences that strengthened one’s faith.  Collections of these songs, better known as folk-hymns, were very popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries. 

Spain and its colonies have a vast wealth of folksongs that date all the way back to the middle ages.

Our new release of the week brings us the Bach Collegium Japan‘s 38th volume in a series dedicated to recording the complete cantatas of J.S. Bach.

Here’s a video of the ensemble Musica Temprana performing the anonymous song “Entre dos álamos verdes”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNv627fpkpE

Here’s a video of Trio Mediaeval performing the traditional Norwegian song “Gjendine’s Lullaby”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lpoge9tEK9o

The music heard in this episode was performed by Le Poème Harmonique, Trio Mediaeval, and Musica Temprana.

Music Heard On This Episode

Johann Sebastian Bach: From Ach Gott, wie manches Herzelied, BWV 58
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki — Cantatas, vol. 38 (BIS , 2008)
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Johann Sebastian Bach: From Ach Gott, wie manches Herzelied, BWV 58
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki — Cantatas, vol. 38 (BIS , 2008)
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Anon.: Une jeune fillette
Le Poeme Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre — Aux marches du palais (Alpha , 2001)
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Anon.: En passant par la Lorraine
Le Poeme Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre — Aux marches du palais (Alpha , 2001)
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Anon.: Tjovane
Trio Mediaeval — Folk Songs : Ballads, Hymns, and Lullabies (ECM , 2007)
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Anon.: Folkefrelsar, til oss kom
Trio Mediaeval — Folk Songs : Ballads, Hymns, and Lullabies (ECM , 2007)
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Anon.: Springdans fra Vestfold
Trio Mediaeval — Folk Songs : Ballads, Hymns, and Lullabies (ECM , 2007)
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Trad.: Ya shadill el khan – Tsour Maguinenou
Various — Yedid Nefesh –Amant de mon âme (Alpha , 2004)
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William Billings: Africa
His Majestie’s Clerkes/Paul Hillier — Anthems and Fuging Tunes (HCX , 2001)
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Trad.: From The Social Harp (Georgia, 1855)
The Boston Camerata/Joel Cohen — New Britain: The Roots of American Folksong (Erato , 1990)
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Trad.: A la una
Brio — Romance (Dorian , 2007)
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Anonymous, 17th Century, Peru: Tonada.Yo se que no he de ganar
Musica Temprana — Avecillas Sonoras: Villancicos from 18th Century Latin America (Et’Cetera , 2007)
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Copla (popular song): Chayita del vidalero
Ensemble La Chimera — Tonos y Tonadas: Early Spanish Music and Folklore from South America (MA Recordings , 2006)
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Johann Sebastian Bach: From Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki — Cantatas, vol. 38 (BIS , 2008)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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