About Rosafresca’s Music
The Golden Age of Spanish Music
The late fifteenth century was a time of transition for Spain. From the eighth century this was a largely Muslim country. The Christians gradually gained supremacy culminating in the triumphant wedding of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the recapture of Granada from the Moors in 1492.
These events heralded vast imperial expansion and the ‘Golden Age’ of Spanish music which married European elegance with the passion and exuberant rhythms of Moorish Folk music. From this fusion came a unique songbook, the Songs of the Palace. The songs speak of the changing fortunes of Moor and Christian in a time of great upheaval. They celebrate the lives of ordinary people, pilgrimages and festivities, food and wine, animals and crops. And above all they tell of the universal human concerns of desire, love and loss – in bawdy verse or through subtle erotic imagery.
One of the attractions of Spanish court music from the Renaissance is its use of melodies from the popular folk tradition. The lyrics are often simple and direct and in this case describe the passions of a young woman burning both from within and from the heat of the Andalucian sun.
My pain is from love
Go out my lady, from under the orange tree
Since you are so beautiful,
Burn yourself in the air
My pain is from love
It was a common practice for musicians in the Renaissance to improvise accompaniments to songs as jazz or blues musicians have done in this century. In this song, Rosafresca have continued the tradition by providing their own accompaniment in a Renaissance style. One important development of the group is the composition of new pieces based on ancient Moorish folk songs where only the melody and the words have survived.
Whether your interest is in early music, folk or jazz, we hope you will discover the spontaneity and excitement which Rosafresca bring to these songs and dances in one of our future gigs.
One of the attractions of Spanish court music from the Renaissance is its use of themes from the popular folk tradition combined with lyrics that are often simple and direct. It’s amazing how relevant some of the songs are today to a country such as Britain, far removed in time and place from their origin.
One song tells of a shepherd who has carelessly lost all his flock and who complains to a friend:
I never sleep, I always work hard
and hence am so weary that the crumbs
freeze between my hand and my mouth.
Whatever money I earn here,
I would willingly give to free myself from this anxiety.
Apart from the obvious link with the difficulties experienced by hill farmers over the last decade, one can see a parallel with people today who have opted out of high pressure jobs and who are willing to forgo large salaries for additional leisure time and the peace of mind that can accompany this change of lifestyle.
Symbolic imagery also plays an important part in these songs; symbols that would have been readily understood by a sixteenth century audience. The apparent innocence of a song such as In the spring of the rose bush, which describes a girl and a young man washing each others faces, takes on greater meaning when it is understood that cool running water was associated with passion and in particular with satisfied lust.
A number of songs have no pretensions to being anything other than crude, although rarely resorting to banned words. A celebrated example by Juan del Encina describes the exploits of three village girls on the rampage looking for a man who can satisfy all three.
There are also examples of songs which poke fun at the religious establishment, a potentially dangerous game for the composer. He would not have exactly endeared himself to the Inquisition who guarded the orthodoxy of Catholics in Spain chiefly by the persecution of heretics.