Alex, Jamal, Max, Sick, Martha Bob
Alex, Jamal, Max, Sick, Martha Bob
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 80’s 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, gamba/lute player Alex Korolov, and most recently, Austin TX based fiddler Sick. The spirit of Malcolm's music lives on in Cantiga. His fiddle playing is featured especially on our "Magic Steps' CD. Visit the Malcolm Smith Memorial Website
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 80’s 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, gamba/lute player Alex Korolov, and most recently, Austin TX based fiddler Sick.
The spirit of Malcolm's music lives on in Cantiga. His fiddle playing is featured especially on our "Magic Steps' CD. Visit the Malcolm Smith Memorial Website
Malcolm Smith (1951-1996)
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.
Owain Phyfe Cantiga is joined by drummers Ray Dillard, Nestor Prieto and most recently Jamal Mohamed for recordings and concerts, and together we have recorded four critically acclaimed CDs: "Once Upon a Time", "Magic Steps", The Otter's Pool" and "Martha's Dragon".
About the Artists...
BOB BIELEFELD is a veteran 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 is publishing a music book "Renaissance Festival Favorites" with Mel Bay Publications that will be released in Summer of 2006.
MARTHA GAY is a founding member of Cantiga. Martha attended Rice University and Oxford University where she majored in archaeology and has made her life in the Renaissance Festival circuit since the 70's. She studied harp with Mildred Milligan and with Derek Bell of the Chieftains. Martha recently returned from a 500-mile trek through parts of France and Spain on the Camino de Santiago—an ancient pilgrim road leading to Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of St. James’ bones as well as the origin of the Cantigas de Santa Maria. On foot, Martha towed her harp through the high mountain passes so that she could play the cantigas in the ancient churches and villages along the way. Encountering fellow pilgrims from many lands, she followed in the footsteps of those much earlier musicians who also shared the cantigas on the Camino.
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 played with Cantiga 2001- 2009.
MICHELLE LEVY, Cantiga's newest addition is 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 and fiddling at Brown University. 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. Beginning fall 2006 Michelle left Cantiga and returned to life with a roof over her head so she can pursue her varied interests. We miss you Michelle!
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 living in Hawaii with his wife Holly and their son Sky.
MAX DYER plays cello in every context from opera and chamber music to folk, jazz, and world music. He looks forward to playing with Cantiga each year at the Texas Renaissance Festival, as well as at various concerts. He works behind the scenes producing Cantiga's recordings and maintaining the webpage. As a classical cellist, he performed for three years with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and has played with Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet Orchestra since 1984. During the summer of 2004, he was solo cellist with the Broadway musical "The Lion King" and has recently been selected to join the performer’s roster for Cirque du Soleil. As a studio musician, he has recorded for many major labels as an orchestral player and as an improvising cello soloist on Grammy nominated albums. Max holds a Masters Degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he studied with Shirley Trepel. His wife, Corky is also a cellist and they have three boys.
Special thanks to Ted Young for these wonderful illustrations!
ALEX KOROLOV has had the good fortune of being a student of early music from a young age. He began his studies under his father Alex Raykov, and has since graduated from Indiana University with a degree in early music performance, having studied viola da gamba and renaissance lute. Alex has performed around the United States and Canada with a number of ensembles and as a soloist at events such as the Bloomington Early Music Festival and the Boston Early Music Festival. He is glad to have the opportunity to play with Cantiga again, an ensemble that he has known for most of his life.
JAMAL MOHAMED has been a featured artist in many international music events, including festivals in China, Indonesia, Europe, Egypt, Korea, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. Jamal 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 incorporated many innovative Jazz and Latin styles with this ancient instrument. He designs and builds many of the instruments he plays and has worked extensively in dance, theater, film, and music therapy.
Sting, Simon Shaheen, Mark O'Connor and Giovanni Hidalgo are among the many artists Jamal has performed with and his music has been featured on recordings for the television documentaries "Ramses the Great", National Geographic's "Lions of Darkness", and the film biography of Robert Johnson, "Can't You Hear the Wind", starring Danny Glover and Keb' Mo'. 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, and performs with the World Music group "Brahma", the Middle Eastern Jazz ensemble "Beledi", and the percussion group "D-Drum".
About Our Name...
The word CANTIGA means 'song' in the language of Alfonso the Wise, the 13th century Spanish "King of the Three Religions" 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 musical improvisation which has flourished among musicians in cultural crossroads throughout history and continues to be celebrated in today's diverse Global Village.
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- we jam around with the melodies and try various chords- a shameful modern imposition to an early music purist, but necessary for a folk group. Then Bob makes a 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. The tunes are always played differently each time so it's like jazz in that sense. And it always stays fresh!