La Moresca Antica - Li Turchi Alla Marina
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La Moresca Antica
Li Turchi Alla Marina: Antiche Musche Italiane Della Tradizione Marinara 2
Folk Club Ethnosuoni (

cd cover It sounds like a potential recipe for disaster- a collection of rustic Italian seafaring songs interpreted by an "early music" ensemble. Such groups have a reputation for squeezing the life out of traditional folk music. But not this time. Italian ensemble La Moresca Antica have beautifully captured the essence and spirit of songs that honor St. Nicola, the patron saint of sailors. The disc's opening song, "Sanda Nicole," is traditionally sung during the feast of St. Nicola, when the saint's statue is taken to the harbor for the blessing of boats. The recording has a live, open-air sound that immediately transports you to the seaside wharf where the singers perform. Other songs include sea chants and sailors' work songs that tell stories of the many miracles performed by the saint. (Interestingly, this 3rd century sainted Turkish bishop is the basis for the Scandinavian Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus.) A common theme of this collection of songs is the threat of seafaring "Turks," or Saracen pirates. To the people who wrote these songs they represented danger arriving from the unknown. The stories and music reflect this trepidation, but also praise for the many miracles of their sainted protector.

La Moresca Antica bring impeccable musicianship and a contagious energy to this ancient Italian folk music The instrumentation is varied, incorporating period instruments such as vielles, recorders, violas da gamba, harps, guitars, cornamuses and percussion. But what shines throughout this recording are the poignant vocals, expertly delivered by the ensemble, often with rich harmonies. The vocal pieces are complemented by a variety of Renaissance instrumental dance tunes that weave an ever-changing tapestry of moods and colors. At times, this disc reminds me of another gem on the same label, La Notte di Natale by Ensemble del Doppio Bordone.

The extensive liner notes provide additional engaging historical context to these captivating songs. They invoke ancient yet timeless images from a culture that has always been inextricably linked to the sea, with all its wonder, danger, and longing. -Barry Hall

CD available from cdRoots

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