Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The missionaries who helped colonize the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries did more than spread the good word. They brought a musical tradition with them that, colored by native culture, produced a vigorous style.
A Newe Jewell, a Washington-based renaissance consort of three instrumentalists and a singer, brought a marvelous group of these pieces to the Pan American Union Wednesday. They ranged in style from a polyphonic "Dios itlaconantzine" by the Mexican monk Franco, a motet entirely in the mainstream of 16th-century European church music, to "Hanacpachap cussicuinin," a haunting hymn by a Peruvian Indian composer.
Kimball Wheeler, whose voice ranged from low contralto to the upper reaches of the soprano register in the course of the evening, sang this music with skill and understanding. Although her voice is a little too full and heavy to be ideal in the music of this period, she handles it well, particularly in the lower range.
Accompanying her on the requisite collection of viols, recorders, krumhorns, cornetti, percussion and the like, were Thea Cooper. Carlton King and Robert Stibler, all well versed in music of the period and all fine ensemble musicians.
Their arrangements of these pieces, many of which come to us as single lines of melody, were nice -- the sonorities varied and the textures interesting -- but always with an eye to proportion and simplicity.
The evening opened with eight of the myriad "Cantigas de Santa Maria" of Alfonso X, El Sabio of Spain.These rather secular 13th-century songs to the Virgin have a compelling folk quality that this performance preserved nicely, without being as polished as these pieces sometimes sound.
Spanish music from 1500, a set of pieces by Josquin and songs from the "Glogauer Liederbuch" (Germany) completed the program.