The annual concert series under the musical direction of Jordi Savall at the Abbaye de Fonfroid, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 11th Century near the city of Narbonne in the south of France, is a source of pure delight for aficionados of Early Music. Savall is a master of the viola da gamba and Hesperion XXI, the group that he founded over 40 years ago, is the gold standard when it comes to Renaissance music and similar forms. If we could afford to attend every evening during the week-long event, we wouldn't hesitate. This year, we chose to attend the concert entitled The Road of Slavery. With narration describing events from the 15th through the 20th Century, master musicians from Latin America and Africa joined Hesperion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya (the choir founded by Savall 30 years ago to complement Hesperion) for two lengthy sets, music and narration without pause, shifting from Mexican to Brazilian to Andean to African rhythms with seamless ease.
As a music presenter of world music on WDIY-FM, the NPR affiliate in my old Lehigh Valley stomping grounds, I was particular pleased to learn that the African contingent included master kora player Ballake Sissoko, Rajery on valiha (African tubular harp), and the commanding vocals of Kasse Mady Diabate.
This was heady stuff, performed with skill and energy, hopping back and forth across the Atlantic, keeping the crowd in the ancient main chapel at Fontfroid enthralled in spite of the oppressive heat - easily topping 90F (32C) even though the concert didn't begin until 9:30 in the evening. The performance was taped for possible broadcast. If you have the chance, don't miss it.
By the way, the YouTube clip above gives you a taste of type if not scale. There were about 30 voices and instrumentalists on stage last night. Jordi is the guy with the silver beard.