Paz, Salam and Shalom
Noches buenas [6.18]
Miragres fremosos [2.33]
Des oge mais [8.47]
El Rey de Francia [5.26]
La estrellas de los cielos [9.43]
Por alli paso un cavallero [4.08]
Santa Maria, Strela do dia [4.35]
Danza Ritual [4.00]
Ir me quiero, Madre [6.09]
Todo los Santos [1.47]
Uskuder [6.31]
A la una haci yo [5.35]
Muito az gran ero [10.02]
Canticum Novum/Emmanuel Bardon
rec. 7-10 December 2010, church of Pommier, France
AMBRONAY AMY033 [75.31] 

Canticum Novum is a group with a message. The CD booklet states that their “founding principle … is to convey through music a message of mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance of the Other.”
The ensemble is based in the Loire department in France and has been resident at the Opera Theatre de Saint-Etienne since 2007. The ensemble was founded by Emmanuel Bardon in 1996. Bardon originally studied cello but then moved to vocal studies. His article in this CD booklet describes this disc, “Paz, Salam & Shalom” as “a point of departure, a place where the dialogue, the encounter with the Other and spirituality spark off the process of transmission”.
I must confess that I don't really quite follow. But this doesn't actually matter as the recital itself is infectiously involving.
The centrepiece is a group of Sefardic songs from the 15th/16th centuries sung in Ladino: 'Noches buenas', 'El Rey de Francia', 'La estrellas de los cielos', 'Por alli paso un cavallero', 'Ir me quiero Madre,' 'A la una naci yo'. Ladino was the language spoken by Spanish Jews, comprising a mixture of medieval Spanish and Hebrew. When the Jews were expelled from Spain, they travelled to the eastern Mediterranean. There, isolated from Western Europe in the Ottoman Empire, the Ladino language and their songs survived; the Ladino language acquired loan words from the host countries. The songs on this disc come from Turkey, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Sarajevo.
These are contrasted with a selection from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a remarkable collection of medieval poetry and music from 13th century Spain: 'Miagres fremosos', 'De oge mais', 'Santa Maria Strela do dia', 'Todo los Santos,' 'Muito faz gran ero'.
Finally there are two items from the Muslim tradition: 'Danza Ritual', from Argella, and 'Uskuder' from Turkey.
The group consists of three singers and eight instrumentalists: Barbara Kusa, Emmanuel Bardon, Yves Berge (vocals), Valerie Dulac (viele, lire d'archet), Gwenael Bihan (flutes), Philippe Roche (oud), Remi Cortial (oud, bandolim), Aroussiak Guevorguian (kanun), Henri-Charles Caget (percussion). The instruments include a bandolim (a Portuguese mandolin) and Tibetan bowls, not authentic but intended to widen the range of colours and timbres available.
The arrangements are lively and infectious. The Sefardi songs are often full of longing and regret. The opening song, 'Noches buenas', is typical with its haunting exotic languor. It is given a strong rhythmic underpinning which is common to all the arrangements. Many of the songs are given with slow introductions and only eight are sung, the remaining five are purely instrumental.
This disc covers similar musical ground to Jolaresa's recent disc “Dancing girls of Granada”. The approach of the two groups is slightly different; Canticum Novum's arrangements, though rhythmic, don't feel quite as infectiously danceable as those of Joglaresa.
The CD booklet includes articles by Gilles Granouillet and Emmanuel Bardon with full texts and translations for the songs which are actually sung. It might have been helpful to have had the words for the songs which are performed purely instrumentally.
This is rather an enchanting disc. You might be put off by the flowery language of the CD booklet, but the performances are thoughtful and engaging.  

Robert Hugill
Thoughtful and engaging.