Barry Ebersole is a musical archeologist of sorts. The founder of the Toledo-based medieval music ensemble Jubilatores, Ebersole hunts through ancient manuscripts and studies contemporary traditions from around the world. He looks to reconstruct and preserve a musical style that once nearly faded into oblivion.
Jubilatores performs at 7 tonight in the Toledo Museum of Art Cloister.
The difficulty with reconstructing medieval music is that no one is quite sure what it sounded like. Written sources provide only minimal help, Ebersole said.
"We study the living music of the Middle East, Balkans, Mediterranean, India, and folk music of Europe as windows to the Middle Ages. Then we work backward," said Ebersole, who holds a PhD in medieval organology from England's Buxton University.
"Oral tradition allows a tremendous amount of freedom in the way that a musical style happens. The reality is that even when you read from a modern manuscript, the notes can't all be there," he said.
"The difficulty in learning this music has more to do with understanding the style than with playing the notes. Imagine reading the music to 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and then being told to play it in Dixieland style. Then imagine that you have never heard original Dixieland. That's our problem. This music takes a tremendous amount of research to understand."
Tonight's free concert features a variety of fiddles, harps, psalteries, flutes, recorders, double-reed instruments, and percussion. Song texts are in Arabic, Old French, Old German, and Latin.
Ebersole founded Jubilatores 20 years ago in San Diego and has built many of the ensemble's instruments. He has lived in Toledo since 1997.
Jubilatores' free concert is at 7 tonight in the Toledo Museum of Art Cloister.
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