Ancient Airs, Cantigas & Dances for Flute & Guitar

Other Books

Back to the Books

During the thirteenth century, there was a "Mary Mania". Thousands of miracles were attributed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and there were many songs composed celebrating them. For example, in the thirteenth century a collection of poems titled "Les miracles de Notre Dame" was composed by Gautier de Coincy. The collection also contained 37 songs praising Mary.

The Cantigas of Santa Maria were composed, collected and published in book form circa 1280 by King Alfonso X. There are over 400 Cantigas in the collection, and they contain both words and music. Every tenth piece was written in praise of Mary. Many of the others detail miracles and well-known legends of the blessed mother, as well as other subjects such as trade and travel in the times. The words are in Galician-Portuguese.

The courts of powerful rulers were often very good places for musicians, scholars, scientists and historians to be employed, and there were few courts better than that of Alfonso X (1221-1284), who was also known as "el Sabio" (the Wise). He was King of Castile and Leon in the thirteenth century; his court was located in Toledo. Alfonso X was a learned man and a supporter of the arts. His staff did important translations, and he brought to his court the best scholars he could hire, including Muslims and Jews as well as Christians. Such religious diversity was very unusual. An astronomers' handbook, "The Alfonsine Tables," was developed by his court; it gives coordinates of celestial positions and was a standard reference for all astronomers. King Alfonso was a benevolent ruler and was revered by the people.

The musicians in King Alfonso's employ composed many of the melodies for the Cantigas especially to fit the lyrics, and the King is said to have composed some of the music himself. A few of these melodies existed previously as troubadour songs, and others have a folk or pagan origin.

Review of "Ancient Airs and Dances CD"

One Person that bought just the CD says of it "Allan, Allan I love it! It's stupendous. My feet are freezing because you and Jessica truly knocked my socks off! I can't stop playing "Quest for the Seven Rings" -- it must be that 7/8 time, I don't know (remember I'm not a musician), but it's beautiful, hypnotic, lyrical, so old and yet so new -- wow -- truly mystical/magical! And I love the Cantigas, in particular your "700" which of course hearkens back to "Quest" (have I told you how much I love that???).... I have to admit that although I have a lot of Medieval music in my collection (including some treasured recordings of the New York Pro Musica, which I wish they'd reissue on CD), my first love has always been the Renaissance. I also (in my ignorance) always felt that the recorder was the instrument of choice for early music -- ignorant, stupid me. I see (or
rather hear) now that the lyrical quality of the flute and the suppleness of the guitar complement each other perfectly. The music that you and Jessica create together is simply the most incredible fusion of sounds and times and places. I get the most wonderful images in my mind when I hear it. I can't sort it all out yet, but I truly, truly love it.... Ellen - Philadelphia PA

Back to Top

You can Order Direct from Allan Alexander or from the link below

ADG Productions
15517 Cordary Ave.
Lawndale CA 90260-3528
To Order In the US 800 748-5934 / To Order In Canada 800 627-0823
Visa and Mastercard Accepted

Back to Top

"Ancient Airs, Dances & Cantigas" contains 27 pieces

Many of the melodies in this book are more than nine hundred years old; yet these pieces are as vibrant, as exciting, and as seductive as they were centuries ago. This music is fun to play. It’s addictive. You will find yourself humming it, and you’ll come back to play these pieces again and again.

Each piece in this collection has its own powerful personality. Many of the Cantigas have an indefinable feel we have not heard in music from other periods... It’s like a texture that fills the room, it permeating the air and painting pictures in your mind. You hear it and you feel it down to your toes. This is music that follows you and begs to be played again and again.

If you are an intermediate player, you will find that most of these high-quality pieces are readily accessible. If you are a professional, you will find this book to be a resource that you will draw on repeatedly. If you just like to play for yourselves, it will be a great source of entertainment. For us, this collection is all of the above. These pieces work for concerts, for weddings, and for restaurants. There are many that are perfect for liturgical settings. This is some of our favorite music.

A poem written by Australian poet and author Liam Guilar is printed near the beginning of the book. It is one of our favorites.

Back to Top

Available with CD

You can purchase the book with a high quality digital compact disc of Jessica Walsh playing all of the pieces in the book. This is not just a learning CD, it's music that intended for listening.

Back to Top