International music ensemble to bring lost Mediterranean sounds to Western

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble will perform “Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom” at 7:30 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 1 at the Western Washington University Concert Hall; the group is comprised of musicians from Israel, Palestine, Argentina, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Guy Mendilow was inspired by songs and stories carried by Sephardic Jews as they moved from Spain and settled along the Mediterranean’s northern coast to Greece and Turkey. The music arrangements are original, but played on traditional instruments.

Mendilow traveled and researched the history of the “Ladino” language – also known as Judeo-Spanish – a language derived from medieval Spanish, with influences from such languages as Aragonese, Astur-Leonese, Catalan, Galician-Portuguese, and Mozarabic. Ladino includes vocabulary from Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, French, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian. The language was widely spoken by Sephardic Jews, but has dwindled almost to the point of extinction as a spoken language.

“We know so much about certain areas, but very little about what happened in areas like Greece, Bulgaria, or Bosnia,” says Mendilow. “Some of the music we are premiering on this tour was written during World War II — one of the pieces was written in Auschwitz about a harrowing cattle-car ride from Salonika.”

“If you went to Salonika in the early 20th century, say, you would never have heard these arrangements,” says Mendilow. “You’d hear women singers a capella, mostly in the home while going about chores, or in community celebrations. There’s lots of research and scholarship behind what we’ve done, but it’s a stylized project to make the stories come alive today.”

The performance is presented as a partnership between the Western’s Music and History departments. Tickets are $11-$22, and all students are free with photo ID. Information and reservations are available at, or by calling the WWU Box Office at (360) 650-6146.

Friday, September 11, 2015 - 10:59am