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|Bio of the Artist|
|The word CANTIGA means 'song' in the language of Alfonso X, the 13th century Spanish king whose royal court was a haven for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish musicians. Following in their tradition, the members of Cantiga are dedicated to the inclusive spirit of improvisation which has flourished among musicians in cultural crossroads throughout history and continues to be celebrated in today's diverse Global Village.|
So here's how it all started...
Harpist Martha Gay, fiddler Malcolm Smith and flute and recorder specialist Bob Bielefeld joined forces at the Texas Renaissance Festival in the early 70's with a common love for ancient melodies and a flair for jamming. Their passion proved a marvelous alchemy as they were joined in the 80ís by cellist Max Dyer and later by Chilean multi-instrumentalist Conrado Garcia. Founding member Malcolm Smith died in 1996 to be succeeded by Boston fiddlers Mark Caudill and Michelle Levy.
Cantiga teamed up with troubador Owain Phyfe in 1990, to form the "New World Renaissance Band", performing and recording early music for modern ears.
Our CDs with Owain include "Live the Legend", "Where Beauty Moves" and "Odyssey". You can get "Live the Legend" at CD Baby. The other two are available at Nightwatch Recording.
About the Artists...
MARTHA GAY studied harp with Mildred Milligan and later with Derrick Bell of the Chieftains. She brings an intense love of history to her music, a love which formerly led her to Oxford University where she studied Archaeology.
BOB BIELEFELD performs as a festival and theatre performer. He plays flute, fife and specializes in the ancient instruments of the recorder family. His musical experience includes a wide spectrum of influences ranging from classical to jazz, ethnic to barbershop quartet. Bob has a large repertoire including European, Celtic and English Dance melodies. Cantiga's resident musicologist, Bob's research gives birth to many of Cantiga's arrangements. He has published a music book "Renaissance Festival Favorites" with Mel Bay - available now in the US and UK!
CONRADO "CHARRY" GARCIA is from Chile and is an accomplished and sought-after multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. Charry specializes in the music of Central and South America and plays charango, pan pipes, birinbao and a number of equally exotic noise makers Charry joined Cantiga in 2001.
MICHELLE LEVY, Cantiga's newest addition hails from the Boston area. A true Renaissance woman with several areas of brilliance, Michelle is not only a fine fiddler and classical musician, but also an accomplished illustrator with a degree in fine arts from The Rhode Island School of Design. Michelle studied classical viola at Brown University with Consuelo Sherba and David Reubenstein and learned fiddling from Jeff Titon, also at Brown.
Since college, Michelle has worked as a puppeteer and puppet maker and has been a driving force in creating street theatre and many children's shows. Now back into music full time, Michelle radiates an engaging stage presence. We are lucky to have her!
MARK CAUDILL A fiddler of great versatility and charm, Mark brings infectious musicality and a sunny personality to the group. From Boston, Mark graduated from Harvard as a geology major before returning to full-time music making, joining Cantiga in 1999 and has recently moved to Hawaii with his wife and young son.
MAX DYER has been cellist with Cantiga since the mid 80's and looks forward to playing with Cantiga each Fall at the Texas Renaissance Festival, as well as at various concerts. He works behind the scenes producing Cantiga's recordings and maintaining the webpage. He also plays with the the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera and enjoys playing all kinds of music. His wife Corky is also a cellist and they have 3 boys.
JAMAL MOHAMED has been a featured artist in many international music events throughout the world. He was born in Lebanon and grew up in the Chicago area, where he was exposed to rich blues and jazz traditions as well as the Middle Eastern music he heard at home. Known for his virtuosity on the doumbek, Jamal has worked extensively in dance, theater, film, television, and music therapy and has performed and recorded with many artists including Sting, Simon Shaheen, Mark O'Connor and Giovanni Hidalgo. He has presented percussion clinics at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the University of Hong Kong, the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Jamal is currently a percussion instructor and dance musician at Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts. In addition to performing and recording with Cantiga, Jamal performs with the World Music group "Brahma", the Middle Eastern Jazz ensemble "Beledi", and the percussion group "D-Drum".
About the Music...
Most of our tunes at this point come from Bob's research. He loves to spend long hours in early music libraries at Rice, Cornell, UT and Eastman, and zeroxes tons of interesting looking stuff. Then it's a slow process of figuring out how to decipher what is often a very sketchy notation- he and Martha and Charry add pretty chords- a shameful modern imposition to an early music purist, but necessary for a folk group. Then Bob makes his own little chart, the band runs it, changes it, runs it again and then plays and jams repeatedly on it until it slowly comes to "fruition"... often a few years! Then, every year in November and May we go into the studio to try to get a few new keepers for the next project. It's a matter of hoping for a lucky take. The tunes are always played differently each time so it's like jazz in that sense. And it always stays fresh!
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