SonDeSeu - Mar de Vigo
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Mar de Vigo
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cd cover The track record of the folk orchestra can be spotty. Sometimes the performances languish at a distractingly apprentice level. Sometimes the musical tradition simply doesn't support a large ensemble approach. But this group of 35 students of the Traditional Music Conservatory of the Vigo School of Arts and Trade in Spanish Galicia has got it just right. The mix of instruments - zanfona, harp, gaita, flute, violin, and the traditional pandeireta vocal chorus - insures varied tonal texture and the performances are flawless. The tracks are long but complex thematic developments, and innovative stylistic flourishes support and justify the duration. The underlying grandeur of Galician music simply thrives on the large ensemble; think of it as folk music in Cinemascope.

The title track, a medley, begins with zanfona drone and melody, joined by massed female chorus on "Danza de San Adrian de Cobres," breaking into "Xota de Sequieros," a swinging march with military percussion, harp chording, and melody carried on zanfonas and gaitas, in unison first time through, then in thrilling harmony. "Grixoa" kicks off with staccato violins and a repeating zanfona line prefiguring the vocal chorus, followed by a harp and violin collaboration on a shimmering, watery variation on the theme before the chorus returns. Drums enter on an altered beat, a stringently unsyncopated 6/8, gaitas taking the melody, harps pulsing the background. The entire sequence is repeated, with all three themes joining in the end.

"Noite," composed by one of the gaita players, starts with tinkling harps and violin drone, a haunting female chorus in deep reverb, then moves to the main melody by chorus over bouncy waltz harps and smooth violin, with a trademark Galician segue to a fluent gaita passage over military drums, reprising the theme on zanfonas with pandereita percussion, chorus completing the track with shuffling drums. The medley "Rumbas de Monzo e Vergara" represents a considerable change of pace, with a mixing of styles that is both lively and challenging. Its brisk beat, heavily syncopated with emphases on one, two-and-a-half, and four, is in high tension with the choral line in "Rumba de Monzo," and the harp uptake on "Rumba de Vergara" resembles Mexican harpa grande music from Jarocha. The whoops and hollers at the end of the last track, "Carmiņa No Berbes," shows that the performers are having as good a time as the audience.

The booklet provides lyrics in Galician, brief notes in Spanish and English, and thumbnail pictures of the entire cast, which includes a member of the band Avalon. The high spirits, fine performances, and sophisticated arrangement of Mar de Vigo make it a recording worth repeated listenings. - Jim Foley

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