The Yale Voxtet brought elements of Spanish culture to the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle’s Marquand Chapel through an evening of Spanish vocal music on Feb. 9. The concert served as a precursor to the group’s spring tour to Spain.
At the concert, the Yale Voxtet — which consists of students enrolled in the early music voice program, shared between the Institute of Sacred Music and the School of Music — performed a selection of Spanish vocal music. The program, titled “¡España!,” featured both solo and chamber vocal works that spanned the medieval period to the 20th century.
“Preparing this program of Spanish solo and ensemble music spanning many centuries has been a great way to familiarize ourselves with Spanish vocal repertoire, which is generally neglected in comparison to repertoire of other Western European countries,” said mezzo-soprano Ashley Mulcahy MUS ’19.
Baritone Edward Vogel MUS ’19 agreed that Spanish music is sometimes “overlooked and underappreciated.” He added that because Spanish music is researched less often than classical music from other Western European countries, the audience was unfamiliar with much of the program. Vogel said that he enjoyed “[delving] into this wealth of music and [sharing] it with the audience.”
Mulcahy noted that the repertoire of this concert featured a great deal of variety of compositional periods. The group moved between pieces without applause to create what Mulcahy described as a “kind of musical collage.”
Baritone William Doreza MUS ’18 also highlighted the variety of works on Friday’s program, from “bawdy medieval romps” to “ravishingly gorgeous sets of Golden Era songs” to contemporary art song.
Mulcahy said that much of the music on the program had strong ties to folk traditions. For example, the group performed songs by Federico Garcia Lorca inspired by Spanish gypsy traditions.
“They’re so simple, yet so emotionally evocative,” Mulcahy said of the Garcia Lorca songs. “As a trained musician, I keep having to remind myself not to kill the visceral spirit of these songs by overthinking them.”
Mulcahy noted that the majority of the small ensemble pieces on the program were from “cancioneros,” or 16th-century compilations of works into songbooks. The nature of these works allowed for flexibility in interpretation and voicing that the singers experimented with while preparing for this concert. While the individual lines in these works were fairly simple, Mulcahy said, they combined to create “intriguing rhythms.”
Preparations for the concert involved the help of guest director J. Arden Hopkin, who worked with the students during the week preceding the concert. Hopkin helped prepare the music with the singers, in both individual and group settings. The Voxtet also benefited from the assistance of music department lecturer Grant Herreid, who is familiar with the program’s repertoire and accompanied the group on the vihuela — an early Spanish stringed instrument — and the guitar.
Mulcahy noted that the quickly moving text in many of the pieces posed a challenge in preparing this program. Because Spanish is not a part of singers’ traditional lyric diction curriculum, she said, the singers had to spend additional time working with the language.
In working with the Spanish language for some of the early music selections, Doreza said, the singers also focused on historically and geographically correct pronunciations — a task Doreza said was made more challenging by the complex history of the Iberian Peninsula.
Vogel noted that working on this program has made him excited to explore Spanish culture in more depth in the future. His interest comes just in time for the Voxtet’s trip to Spain with the ISM, scheduled for the end of the spring semester.
The Voxtet’s director is School of Music professor James Taylor.
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