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Theatrical concert is a multi-media experience

(Photo provided) A 12-foot puppet of Mary is part of the “Pilgrim Trail: Miracle Songs from Medieval Spain” concert, which will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston Nov. 6.

(Photo provided) A 12-foot puppet of Mary is part of the “Pilgrim Trail: Miracle Songs from Medieval Spain” concert, which will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston Nov. 6.CHARLESTON—Large puppets will move through the darkened Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to the sound of ancient music played on antique instruments on Nov. 6 at 8:30 p.m.

The choir of Christ the King Church in Atlanta, and the Atlanta Camerata will present “Pilgrim Trail: Miracle Songs from Medieval Spain,” a theatrical concert which recalls the age of medieval pilgrim journeys to the great monastic shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat near Barcelona. A consort of viols, recorders, shawns, harp, dulcimer and percussion will accompany the singers. The music is drawn primarily from the Llibre Vermell, or “red book” for its crimson binding, a 14th century collection of songs for pilgrims to Montserrat, along with works from Sephardic sources, cantigas and the Las Huelgas Codex.

Pilgrim Trail is directed by Kevin Culver and staged by Kelly Morris, a Charleston native now based in Atlanta, who grew up in the Cathedral and was an altar server. The production played to enthusiastic audiences in Atlanta in 1997 and 1998.

The Charleston presentation will employ lights, slides, and huge puppets including a 12-foot Mary and Archangel Gabriel with a 16-foot wingspan.

“It begins with the music, which is strikingly theatrical and evokes a world far from our own,” Morris said. “We want to use the puppets and cathedral space to help people see and hear and feel this music, to taste its joy and dread and awe.”

Music of this program dates from the 14th century and earlier. During this period most of lower Spain (Al-Andalus) was under Islamic rule, including large populations of (Mozarabic) Christians and Jews.

“The music is wonderfully strange and beautiful,” Culver said. “You can hear traces of Sephardic and Islamic influences that make early Spanish music distinctive and somewhat un-European. It’s always delightful, often surprising, and sometimes terrifying.”

About half the pieces are clearly dance numbers.

“The pilgrims, while holding night vigil, sometimes have the desire to sing and dance, so a number of suitable songs have been written for this need. They should be used in a respectful and moderate manner,” according to the Llibre Vermell.

These works give a fascinating glimpse of the rich mix of classes and cultural strands that met in the courtyard at Montserrat, where travelers gathered to pass the night.

Culver and Morris have presented spiritual productions at the Cathedral several times in past years, notably “The Play of Herod,” Hildegard von Bingen’s “Ordo Virtutum,” and “The Mother of Sorrows.”

The Cathedral is located at 120 Broad St. The suggested donation for the concert is $15.






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