FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2014
Skirball Cultural Center presents
GUY MENDILOW ENSEMBLE
Award-winning sextet explores the Sephardic musical tradition in all-new show,
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 8:00 p.m.
$20 Early-Bird Pricing | 30 General | $25 Skirball Members and Full-Time Students
Tickets available at www.skirball.org or (877) SCC-4TIX
“It's a folk music of hope and affirmation, sophisticated in its delivery but easily accessible to listeners anywhere.”—Chicago Tribune
LOS ANGELES, CA—The Skirball Cultural Center announces the Los Angeles premiere of the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, who will present their newest touring show, Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom, on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at 8:00 p.m.
The Guy Mendilow Ensemble is an award-winning sextet comprised of world-class musicians from a variety of national backgrounds: Israel, Palestine, Japan, the US, and the UK. Formed in 2004, the ensemble has been enthusiastically received in venues ranging from world and traditional music festivals to performing arts centers, progressive Jewish organizations, and universities.
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom takes the audience on a musical trek to kingdoms long forgotten and bustling towns now vanished—through the Balkans to the Middle East, beginning in Sarajevo and winding through Salonica and Jerusalem. Stories of vagabond queens, pauper poets, and lovers lost to the sea are woven with spellbinding arrangements of old Sephardic songs, replete with soulful flamenco harmonies, the melancholy sounds of Portuguese-style fado, and heart-pounding percussion. The tour celebrates the ensemble’s latest album, Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed.
Playing with the East Coast–based ensemble are faculty members of leading music schools such as the New England Conservatory and Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and musicians who have toured and recorded with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, and Simon Shaheen.
There has been a recent resurgence of musicians who perform traditional Sephardic songs—music derived from the Jewish communities expelled from Spain in 1492 that settled across the Ottoman Empire. For composer, researcher, and seasoned performer Mendilow, the music perfectly complements his gift for connecting audiences from many different cultures. Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom enlists the captivating magic of the endangered language of Ladino, but audiences need no prior knowledge of Ladino music and culture. “These songs and stories just sweep you away, whatever your heritage,” Mendilow says.
Though some of the lyrics predate 1492, the music itself is primarily from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is because these songs are true folk music, preserved aurally but not written until recently. (When dealing with Ladino music, the 1800s are recent.) “We’re fairly certain that some of these songs were sung hundreds of years ago,” says Mendilow. “But we have little idea as to the melodies, rhythms, and ornamentations used back then, and with a long history of adapting to homes across borders and languages we can hardly even guess.” One thing is for certain: many of these songs were sung by women, unaccompanied except perhaps for a drum. “That’s largely because women’s hands were so busy with other things while they sang,” laughs Mendilow, “like so many household chores, or caring for children.”
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom benefits from thorough research, but it deliberately departs from traditional interpretations, choosing instead to draw on the ensemble members’ expertise and on a twenty-first-century global aesthetic to make the stories come to life in ways that resonate with modern audiences. “There’s a greater responsibility when we work with music that is so old and rich,” Mendilow adds. “We must be careful to know and respect the tradition, even as we use a modern musical toolbox to bring these songs to life in a way that will capture the imaginations and hearts of listeners today.”
For more information about programs at the Skirball, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org.
About the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through an interactive family destination inspired by the Noah’s Ark story; and through outreach to the community.
Visiting the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049. Free on-site parking is available; street parking is strictly prohibited. The Skirball is also accessible by Metro Rapid Bus 761. Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays. Museum admission: $10 General; $7 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $5 Children 2–12. Exhibitions are always free to Skirball Members and Children under 2. Exhibitions are free to all visitors on Thursdays. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org. The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, jewelry, and more.