On Monday evening, as members of a Spanish ensemble gathered to make some music at the India International Centre, the audience was quickly transported to the hallowed cathedrals and domed castles of medieval Spain. Yet, instead of the lavishly gowned operatic singer, and men in medieval tights playing harps, the artistes kept to modern outfits. Capella de Ministrers, a unique Valencian ensemble responsible for reviving the medieval Spanish music (from the 12th to 19th century), gave its debut performance in the Capital.
Founded in 1987 by Carles Magraner, the ensemble is a part of an extensive project spearheaded by him, based around the musicology of Spanish patrimony from the medieval era to renaissance, of which no recordings are available but only some manuscripts to refer to. Interestingly, the project has not only revived the music, but also the instruments. “There are illustrated manuscripts from the 15th century, which show the earliest instruments. I used those musical iconographies to reproduce instruments,” says Magraner, who started his project with baroque but soon moved to sonnets of the medieval past. Just two years ago, Magraner discovered frescoes inside the domes of Valencia Cathedral that showed angels holding all the 12 musical instruments. He reproduced all of them. “We not only have to know the story behind the music, but also the tools (the instruments),” he adds.
While the members of the ensemble don’t stick to a uniform number (“It could be 40 or even four”), the Indian performance saw five musicians enthral a select audience. An aulos (an ancient Greek double flute) accompanied a campana (a bell), drums and oud (a Moroccan stringed instrument), complete with the voice of an opera singer.
For now, the artistes have an agenda to explore Old Delhi, since the archaic music of qawwals has fascinated them, and they intend to buy some musical instruments as well. “It’ll be very interesting to have a jam session with the qawwals,” says Magraner.