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LiveOak delivers transcendent evening of music


The Pilgrim's Road: Dances, Miracles,

and Devotional Songs from

13th Century Spain.

Nancy Knowles and Frank Wallace.

Lindsey Chapel, Emmanuel Church,

8 pm, Feb. 23.


IN 13TH CENTURY SPAIN, pilgrims flocked to shrines such as the one at Montserrat, and the pilgrim's road was peppered with song, much of it in devotion to Mary, symbol of all good. LiveOak brought an inspiring program of dances, miracle tales and devotional songs to life last Saturday night, playing to a packed audience in Lindsey Chapel of Emmanuel Church. The church's reverberant acoustics caught the blissfully intertwining sounds of Nancy Knowles and Frank Wallace, and lifted them to new heights.

The concert opened with a Cantiga de Santa Mar'ia, which began with a mystical flute solo from Knowles, darkly colored and soothing in its religio-hypnotic way. And then her voice arrived, plaintive as

it was pure, transporting one and all to a holier world.

In medieval Spain, many miracles would be attributed to the intervention of Mary, and one of them -- of her calming of a volcano -- was recounted next. The rhythmically rich Toller Pod'a Madre was delivered with an element of astonishment, the earthy sound of the tar -- a hand drum -- propelling the piece along. Held at one point behind Knowles' head, the drum made for an effective halo.

Frank Wallace sang the cantiga, Virgem Madre Gloriosa next, with depth and controlled vibrato, well-received by the reverberant acoustics.

Hui Matin `a la Journ'ee had a splendid lilt to it, Wallace singing with life and rhythmic fire. He played a citole, a violin-shaped, guitar-sounding instrument with four maliciously non-tunable gut strings which Wallace nonetheless tamed and played to perfection. Its bright, plucky sound went well with the chirpiness of Knowles' flute.

Knowles recounted stories "like fisherman's stories where the fish gets bigger and bigger" from telling to retelling. She sang of a cripple cured with wide-ranging color. Wallace sang of the ailing King Alfonso pleading with Mary to ease his illness: The pain in his voice came through palpably, sharpened by the piquancy of Knowles' flute.

Knowles and Wallace joined in glorious polyphony for Laus Deo. After tales of a wily liar and a pilgrim thief -- who gets frozen in his tracks for his wicked efforts -- the concert came to a close, leaving the audience elated, rested and spiritually refreshed.