Celtic Cantigas  /  Gerald Trimble

medieval.org | worldcat.org
Troubadour  TRB 1001


"Quero seer oy mais seu trobador"
I want to be her troubadour - Alfonso X

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the divine feminine,"Celtic Cantigas" is based on the Cantigas de Santa Maria and other Marian songs of the Middle Ages, combined with Celtic music from Scotland and Ireland.This music is performed entirely on period instruments using progressive arrangements which reflect the connections between medieval musical culture, the Celtic World, and the Orient.

The Cantigas de Santa Maria are more than 400 popular sacred songs compiled by King Alfonso X (known as El Sabio - the Wise) of Castile, Leon and Seville (1221 AD to 1284 AD). They are the highest expression of Marian devotion, which flourished in the Middle Ages and whose influence lasted until the Baroque period.Their texts are miracle stories and praise songs of Our Lady written in Portugese-Galician, a dialect of the Celtic people of Northern Spain and the favored poetic language of the time. Many melodies, rhythms and verse forms show distinct Moorish influence.The Islamic presence in Spain lasted over 700 years, the westernmost outpost of a world culture that stretched eastward to central Asia, India and China. It was the primary conduit for scientific and cultural knowledge into Europe from the Dark Ages onward to the Renaissance. Indeed, it was Muslim and Jewish minstrels who developed music in Medieval Spain from roots in Persia, Byzantium and the ancient world.

This music, the instruments to play it and the ideal of romantic love, which reached its pinnacle with the art of the troubadours, was first transmitted to Provence in southern France by the Moorish minstrels who were steeped in the philosophy of Sufism (the mystical aspect of Islam which emphasized love). From there they eventually spread throughout Europe.

The Cantigas de Santa Maria speak to us of a time when Christian, Muslim and Jew lived peaceably together. Mary, of Jewish origin, is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is mentioned more often in the Koran than in the Bible. Indeed an entire chapter of the Koran, Sura Maryam, is devoted to her. She, and the music which honors her, symbolizes this common cultural heritage — which, if reclaimed now could lead us to a new Renaissance for this music shows us that we are all linked and we are essentially all one. — Gerald Trimble

1. Maravillosos   [7:08]   CSM  139
Gerald: vielle and vocals  ·  Maria: vocals  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Phil: tabla and dholak

2. Quen omagen da Virgen   [6:09]   CSM  353
Gerald: vielle  ·  Bob: bandora  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Phil: tabla

3. Santa Maria valed ay Sennor   [7:57]   CSM  279
Gerald: vocal, bass and treble viola da gamba, lauta  ·  Maria: vocals

4. Gigues   [3:43]   CSM  77   CSM  119 / Maire Bhean Og
Gerald: vielle  ·  Bob: bandora  ·  Julia: lauta  ·  Phil: tabla

5. Morag / Tres morillas   [9:16]   /   Cancionero de Palacio, 17
Gerald: vocals, bass and treble viola da gamba, vielle, lavta  ·  Bob: bandora  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Maria: vocals

6. Irish Reels   [6:45]   Mary Grace · St. Ann's Reel
Gerald: vocals, vielle, bandora  ·  Phil: vocals, tabla and dholak  ·  Maria: vocals  ·  Doug: bodhran

7. Santa Maria strela do dia   [6:25]   CSM  100
Gerald: vocals, vielle, bass viola da gamba  ·  Maria: vocals  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Phil: tabla and dholak

8. La mora de Borja   [6:22]   CSM  167
Gerald: vielle  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Bob: bandora  ·  Phil: tabla and dholak

9. Cuncti simus concanentes   [5:07]   LV  6
Gerald: vocals, bass viola da gamba  ·  Maria: vocals  ·  Julia: lauta  ·  Phil: tabla

10. Se ome fezer de grado   [6:15]   CSM  207
Gerald: vocals, vielle, dutar, cura saz  ·  Julia: lavta  ·  Maria: vocals  ·  Phil: tabla and dholak

11. The Holy Land   [2:42]
Gerald: bass and treble viola da gamba, lavta  ·  Misty: bendir

Gerald Trimble
Maria Wolfe
Julia Thro
Bob Brostoski
Phil Hollenbeck
Doug Goodhart and Misty Bernard

Notes on the Music

1. Maravillosos (Song) (CSM 139) 7:08
This cantiga begins with a vielle improvisation reminiscent of oriental performance practice known as "taksim". The original time was probably 6/8 but inspired by the French musician Henri Agnel,who first arranged the chorus of this song in 5 beats, we expanded this to include successive cycles of 5, 7, 9 and 11 beats. Five is a number sacred to Mary and this meter was employed in Moorish Spain. Interestingly the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras once employed a similar technique using five languages in five successive verses.
Gerald: Vielle and vocals; Maria: vocals; Julia: Lavta; Phil: tabla and dholak.

2. Quen Omagen da Virgen (Instrumental) (CSM 353 ) 6:09
Our instrumental version of this popular cantiga shows the versatility of these ancient melodies with a treatment that utilizes early instruments. Improvisation is highlighted here as seems historically likely in medieval performance practice which drew heavily on oriental modes and techniques.
Gerald: Vielle; Bob: Bandora; Julia: Lavta; Phil: tabla.

3. Santa Maria Valed Ay Senor (Song) (CSM 179: 279) 7:57
This cantiga is a troubadour's lament beginning with Persian inspired vocals and a song arrangement reminiscent of modern Celtic folk music.
Gerald: Vocal, bass and treble viola da gamba, Lauta; Maria: Vocals.

4. Gigues (Instrumental) 3:42
This instrumental arrangement combines two tunes, the first is from the Cantigas de Santa Maria (77 & 119) and its 6/8 time signature shows it to be an ancestor of the jig. It is linked to the second tune in the set, a Scottish tune titled Maire Bhean Og (Mary Young and Faire), circa 17th to 18th century. The harmonic structure of the second tune is an archaic survival of early renaissance music. It finds its origins in the Cantigas and other medieval instrumental dances with Moorish roots.
Gerald: Vielle; Bob: Bandora: Julia: Lauta; Phil: tabla.

5. Morag/Tres Morillas (Air and Song) 9:12
Morag is an ancient Scottish air and a Gaelic name, which means Sarah, who is also the Black Madonna of the Gypsies, honored at various sites in southern France and in Spain. This tune goes well with Tres MoriIlas, a song that is, in some ways, the pivotal point of this record. Collected not from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, but from the later "Cancionero de Palacio" of the 15th century, the origins of this song can be traced back to 9th century Baghdad and it survived into the 20th century in folksong form.As suggested by Julián Ribera, it reflects a poetic, musical and spiritual link between the Arabic world, early European music and modern times and was used by the Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi to illustrate the stages of divine love.
Gerald: Vocals, bass and treble Viola da gamba, Vielle, Lauta; Bob: Bandora; Julia: Lavta; Maria: Vocals.

6. Irish Reels (Instrumental with vocals) 6:45
These two Irish reels, Mary Grace and St. Ann's Reel, are arranged in traditional fashion but represent a new interpretation in that they are played on early instruments including medieval vielle and bandora. Juxtaposed between these two tunes is a musical interlude which draws on the Irish form and overlays Indian rhythms and vocals utilizing spoken "bols" (the Indian method of vocalizing rhythms) and "sargams" (an Indian version of solfeggio). There is a deep connection between India and Ireland spanning thousands of years and reflected in Celtic mythology, poetry, music and language.
Gerald: Vocals, Vielle, Bandora; Phil: Vocals, tabla and dholak; Maria: Vocals; Doug: bodhran.

7. Santa Maria Strela do Dia (Song) (CSM 100) 6:25
A very popular cantiga,"Mary, star of the day, show us the way to God". The Galician-Portugese language of the cantigas is well suited to this version which incorporates elements of Brazilian rhythms and style.
Gerald: Vocals,Vielle, bass Viola da gamba; Maria: Vocals; Julia: Lavta; Phil: tabla and dholak.

8. La Mora de Borja (Instrumental) (CSM 167) 6:22
Here is a cantiga which works well as an instrumental dance piece on which the melody was probably based. The rhythmic cycle of this tune is 9 beats, which gives it an unusual feel.
Gerald: Vielle; Julia: Lavta; Bob: Bandora; Phil: tabla and dholak.

9. Cuncti Simus Concanentes (Song) 5:05
The Libre Vermell de Monserrat (1400 - 1420 AD) is another medieval collection of Marian songs, sung and danced to by pilgrims to the shrine of the Black Madonna at Montserrat, Spain. Salinas, an early Spainish "musicologist" transcribed some of these songs as late as the 16th century, as well as various other tunes of Moorish origin. Some were still being sung to Arabic words at that time.
Gerald: Vocals, bass viola da gamba; Maria:Vocals; Julia: Lauta; Phil: tabla.

10. Se ome fezer de grado (Song) (CSM 207) 6:11
Another cantiga that is based on dance melody, this features a vocal interlude inspired by Qawwali - a style of Sufi mystical singing from India and Pakistan, with origins in the middle ages and historical links to the troubadours of Europe. When we were playing this song at a sound check for a Kansas City music awards program, someone tossed a Jewish prayer cap (yarmulke) onto the stage.The man identified himself as Pedro Castillo, a Sephardic Jew whose family had arrived in New Mexico in the 16th century. He said the cap was a gift because "my grandfather used to sing that song" We thus finish with a link to the past more profound than any manuscript.
Gerald: Vocals, Vielle, Dutar, Cura Saz; Julia: Lavta; Maria: Vocals; Phil: tabla and dholak.

11. The Holy Land (Instrumental) 2:42
An aptly named Irish reel which features an instrumental break in the mode "hijaz". The Holy Land is also the name of a middle eastern café in Lenexa, Kansas, just around the corner from Airborne Audio where this recording was made.
Gerald: bass and treble viola da gamba, Lavta; Misty: bendir

The Instruments

Medieval Vielle, by John Pringle, Efland, NC, 2001;
Bandora, by John Pringle, 1977;
7 string bass viola da gamba by Walter Johann Schmidt, Wien, Austria, 1998.
7 string treble viola da gamba, John Pringle, 2000;
Lavtas, Sadettin Sandi, Ankara,Turkey, 1996;
Dutar, Anonymous, Turkmenistan, c.1950;
Cura Saz, Anonymous, Istanbul, Turkey, 1995;
Tabla by Bashiruddin,Varanasi, India, 2000;
Dholak, Anonymous, India, 1999;
Bows by Ralph Ashmead, John Pringle and Linda Shortridge;
Strings by Damian Dlugolecki
Instrument Repair and Maintenance: Ken Beckman, Beckman Violins, Merriam, KS;
Joel Dyke, Aras Gallery, Kansas City, MO; Keith George, Lawson, MO; John Pringle, Efland, NC

For all the careful research that a luthier may put into the re-creation of an early instrument, and however beautiful the end result may look and sound, in the end it will only come to life in the hands of a musician who understands the similar influences that shaped the music, and who is sensitive to what the instrument can teach him. Gerald is such a musician. His experience as a traditional musician in many cultures makes him both knowledgeable in the old ways and open to the new in a way many classically trained Western players cannot be. Improvisation was as much a part of European art music until the late 18th century as it still is in the East and Middle East, or in jazz.When Gerald picks up an instrument I feel that sense of continuity in his playing that I strive for in my instrument building. An antique instrument contains within itself some part of all the music and musicians it has served. I like to think that at least some of my instruments may last long enough to see new music become old music.

The challenges confronting a luthier who attempts to reconstruct medieval instruments are many. The most obvious, perhaps, is the lack of information that has come down to us concerning the construction techniques employed by medieval builders, especially on the insides of the instruments.There is plenty of iconographical information about their outward appearance, though even this can be misleading and often contradictory and must be approached with caution.What if, in future centuries, the only evidence for the existence of the Spanish guitar was a Picasso painting?

Having decided on a shape, and perhaps the number of strings, and whether the instrument is to be played on the shoulder or on the knee (a crucial question for bowed instruments), there remains the matter of size, pitch and tuning. Because of the physical properties of the string material (sheep's gut) the one will, to some extent, determine the other. If you decide on a particular tuning the pitch of the highest and/or lowest sounding string will prescribe parameters for the length of the strings. Conversely, if, as one might, one decides to build an instrument from an iconographical source basing its size on its relation to the figure playing it, then the possible pitch and tuning will be governed by that size. It would be foolish to expect a violin-sized instrument to work tuned like a double bass! But then one often has to ask questions about the size of angels or deities versus human beings, or kings and heroes versus lesser mortals. Artistic license is as significant as draughtsmanship.

In practice, of course, the musician who will ultimately play the instrument often decides some of these questions.This is true in the case of the instrument I have built for Gerald. For the vielle he had in mind a tuning, and that it was to be played on the knee.Thus we began with a pitch / size relationship, and also a more likely relationship of string length to body size. Instruments played on the knee generally have a longer string/neck length to body ratio than instruments played on the shoulder, which are simply limited by the length of the player's arm.

The treble viol is based on an English instrument from about 1600 by an otherwise unknown maker named John Stronge which is now at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. The bass viol da gamba Gerald plays was made by Walter Johann Schmidt in Vienna, Austria, 1998,and is based on an instrument made around 1600, sometimes attributed to John Rose. (Although technically a Renaissance instrument these viols feature seven rather than the usual six strings. A treble with seven strings was unusual but not unknown in the Baroque period. Seven-string basses represented the last flowering of the viola da gamba as a solo instrument at the turn of the eighteenth century.) Both instruments are of the so-called festooned shape, that is having pointed corners in the upper part of the body, and multiple incurves round the lower part. Apart from their intrinsic beauty of line, I believe these shapes appealed to the old makers as both antique and exotic. The surface decoration on some old instruments, as well as the flaming sword soundholes, was distinctly arabesque, while the Celtic knot is frequently seen in the interlacing geometric designs on others. Thus using both on Gerald's instruments conforms to the decorative grammar of the originals as well as symbolizing the synthesis of the same influences in his music. Similarly the carving of heads on the top of the instrument was very common. Often the heads depicted mythological characters of some musical significance such as Orpheus or Melancholy, so Gerald's Buddha and Black Madonna again fit into that tradition. The Bandora, which I made in 1977, is based on the exquisite John Rose original made about 1580, has been converted from 12 strings to 10 using Gerald's original and highly influential cittern tuning (G D A D A).

For the medieval Vielle, the actual shape we used is based on the illustration from an early 12th century English manuscript. Apart from giving the instrumelit five strings instead of three (there are plenty of illustrations of five-strings) the two knowing departures from the model were the addition of a raised fingerboard and a curved pegbox. Neither feature is a complete anachronism. The one extends the range of the instrument and the other makes it much easier to keep it in tune! The eight-pointed star mosaic inlays on the soundboard are actually taken from a Gothic church in Verona, but are distinctly Moorish in style. The use of polychrome painting is in the tradition of much European sculpture. The Lavtas (or Turkish fretted lute) one five course and one four course, were made for Gerald by Sadettin Sandi, Ankara, Turkey, 1996. Finally, the medieval bow, which very closely follows that original manuscript, was made from the broken limb of an archery bow! Linda Shortridge, Albuquerque, NM, made the two Renaissance bows, one of yew and one of snakewood. And the baroque bass bow, also of snakewood, was made by Ralph Ashmead,Tuolumne, CA — John Pringle, Efland, NC

I have known Gerald Trimble since he was 11 years old. We have shared a lot of music over the last 30 plus years. He had a successful career starting in the late 1970s establishing himself as the foremost cittern player in Celtic music. His three previous recordings are now considered classics and they represent the standard by which players of that instrument are measured. Traveling and living in the British Isles and Europe brought him into contact with many cultures and developed his sense of the musical link between east and west. In 1985 he began studying with Indian sitar master, Roop Verma, who encouraged him to develop a new musical style blending Celtic and Indian traditions. Further learning included vocal studies with Hema Sharma in Kansas City, and training in Turkish music with noted dancer/musician Bora Özkök. Extensive travel and living in Turkey, the Republic of Georgia and eastern Europe led him to collecting and becoming expert at playing numerous eastern string instruments. A large part of his unique collection is now on display at America's Shrine to Music Museum at the University of South Dakota.

It is this background that he brings to the viol family, which because of its origins and technical similarities to eastern instruments allows him to meld his hard won expertise into a masterful blend of east and west that reaches across the ages. It establishes him as a singular and pioneering innovator instrumentally, vocally, and in terms of his musical vision. He is truly a troubadour for our time. — Dave Brown

Phil Hollenbeck is a master of North Indian percussion. He started his training in Benares in 1969 and has studied and performed for over 30 years. He has even been admitted to the exclusive province of drumming families whose playing goes back generations. On this album he plays the tabla - the two drums of traditional Indian music - and the dholak, a popular two-ended drum known throughout Asia. Skillfully he transforms ancient traditions into new forms. He lives in Taos, NM.

Special Thanks:

to Malika Weil and Patrick Neas (KXTR Radio),who contributed to the idea for this record;
to all the luthiers and craftspersons whose skill and generosity provided the tools to make this music;
and also to Tim Knight, Greg and Mary McCoy;
Father Paul Cook and St Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, MO;
Rev. Vern Barnett - the CRES Foundation;
Eileen Chase and Sefchik; Paul Pattison;
James Helyar, of the Spencer Library at the University of Kansas for introducing us to their facsimile copy of the Cantigas De Santa Maria;
Channette Kirby of the Library for additional research assistance;
Chef "Don" Pepe Hernandez of El Patio Restaurant, Kansas City, MO for help in translating from the Portuguese.

Produced by Gerald Trimble and Don Miller
Recorded at Airborne Audio, Lenexa, Kansas
Engineer - Don Miller
Executive Producer David W. Brown
Photography by Terry L. Evans, Olathe, KS • Graphic Design and Layout - Dave Brown

© 2001 TRB Company, LLC  /  Troubadour