Spanish music reaching back as far as the 13th century, with roots extending even farther into the medieval ages, filled the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater last night.
The Waverly Consort, whose instrumentalists play such wondrous sounding things as the gemshorn and shawm, the dulcian and the oud, the vihuela and a bunch of medieval fiddles, one of which is called the nun's fiddle, was on hand to offer the very scared and extremely secular songs and dances that were popular in Spain in the medieval and renaissance years.
There is a singular attractiveness in the unison of voices that threaded their way through the Songs of Holy Mary, which date from the 13th century court of Alfonso X, "the Wise." And a sinuous shape in the fiery improvisation on the vihuela, a forerunner of the guitar, reminded the audience of the thousands of Spanish Jews who fled Spain to settle the southern and eastern shores of the 16th-century Mediterranean.
Love and marriage, not necessarily always at the same time, were as much topics of discussion back then as they are today, but the songs that have come down to us on both subjects sound better than those of today.
Each of the five singers, having made a marvelous chorus, came off equally well in solos, while the mixing of the dozen or more instruments ranged in moods from quiet revery to frenzied delight. The audience increased its enthusiasm as the musicians stepped up the intensity of their performances, all of which had a special expertise.