By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
On last year's Cantigas de Santa Maria, the French ensemble Alla Francescameticulously interpreted 17 pieces from the 13th-century Spanish manuscript written by the King of Castile, Alfonso X ("The Learned"). Originally, the Cantigasembraced 400 poems set to music in praise of the Virgin Mary, who was seen at the time as the purest embodiment of altruism, generosity, and tender compassion for the weak and the needy. With a desire to make the Cantigasaccessible to the plebeian masses, Alfonso X chose to have the poems written in Galician-Portuguese, a more common vernacular used in courtly lyrical poetry, rather than the Latin usually reserved for such lofty enterprises. It is perhaps this choice that allows the Cantigasto shift from ecclesiastical offerings of praise to euphoric tales of common people (a good lady who is the victim of jealousy, a knight who loses his fortune and makes a pact with the devil, a girl forced to marry against her will). Similarly, the music swings between the somber voices of heavenly choirs and darkened churches to the jubilant congress of flute, fiddle, and bagpipes that one might expect at a social dance.
It is difficult to achieve flawless musical interpretations of this complicated body of work. The musical notations within the original Cantigas are said to be as erratic as the lyrics, with further discrepancies arriving in the form of multiple versions of the same song. Happily, Alla Francesca's members are uniquely qualified to illuminate the music, each being a lecturer at the Paris Centre for Medieval Music as well as a recipient of numerous national awards of distinction. Subsequently, the group's recordings are meticulously annotated, making the stories and cultural background comprehensible even to a philistine such as myself. Meanwhile, the music avoids pedantry, especially thanks to the voluminous voice of Alla Francesca director Brigitte Lesne. Gracefully folding time, the music gives a sense of a divinity that rouses great emotion and soothes mundane worries.
Following Lesne's tour with the vocal ensemble Discantus, Alla Francesca will appear in three cities: Chicago, New York, and Berkeley. For these shows, Alla Francesca performs with Brigitte's brother Gerard Lesne, an award-winning artist with 23 classical recordings credited to his ensemble Il Seminario Musicale. Together, they will be performing music from D'Amours Loial Servant, a collection of French and Italian love songs from the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as pieces from Cantigas. This is no occasion for Ren Faire merrymaking, but a rare opportunity to hear how love might have sounded in another time. Alla Francesca appears on Wednesday, April 25, at First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way in Berkeley) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28; call (510) 642-9988.
Perhaps less impassioned and not as divinely inspired, the Bored Collective is a group of Bay Area musicians, writers, and artists determined to turn their apathy into art -- or, at least, entertainment. Once a month the gaggle will meet, drawing on its exhaustive experiences with drugs, deviance, and nightlife, and read stories, share memories, and sip cocktails in an atmosphere augmented by analogous music and visual effects. It's a rare opportunity to hear nightlife mavens such as Bay GuardianArts Editors Amanda Nowinski and Johnny Ray Huston, "Cocktail Clique" producer Camper English, DJ Shobhan, poet Cedar Sigo, music critic Sylvia W. Chan, and former London arts reviewer Billee Sharp speak in a public forum. The Bored Collective's resident musician, experimental techno producer Jonah Sharp, performs with O.S.T. this month; visuals are by Del Ray. The Bored Collective meets on the last Thursday of every month, starting on Thursday, April 26, at 26 Mix at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 248-1319.
Custom fit for today's Mountain Dew-saturated attention span, the Sixty Second Cinema Slamgives anyone with a video camera a captive audience for exactly one minute. Bring whatever you've got in VHS format -- animation, documentary, fictional narrative, psychedelic dreamscape, work-in-progress, work-long-since-abandoned, vacation footage, childhood home movie, amateur porn -- cued to exactly the beginning of your favorite scene. All tapes will be shown for only 60 seconds. After a brief intermission, prizes will be awarded to audience favorites and the winning entry will be played in its entirety, or for 15 minutes (whichever comes first). Nina Paley hosts Sixty Second Cinema Slam on Friday, April 27, at Artists' Television Access at 7:30 p.m. Ticket price is $5-10 and includes submission of one tape; call 824-3890.
In the sordid tradition of Trainspotting, the Edinburgh Castle Pub Theater presents John Godber's Bouncers, another witty and wry look at derelicts, delinquents, and working-class punters -- and the pubs that keep 'em going. Bouncersis one of the most widely produced plays in the United Kingdom; the Castle staff considers it to be among the most revealing plays about British culture ever written. (They should know.) Claudio Aronica directs Bouncers, which opens Friday, April 27, at 8 p.m. (and continues through May 27) at the Edinburgh Castle. Tickets are $10; call 522-9621.