Guy Mendilow Ensemble to Perform November 16

  • Guy Mendilow Ensemble

On November 16, 2017, at 7:00 pm, the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, in partnership with Charter Oak Cultural Center, brings the Guy Mendilow Ensemble to Hartford to perform The Forgotten Kingdom. As part of the Center's Scholarship and the Arts initiative, this performance is made free and open to the public!  

Visit Charter Oak's website for detailed information on directions and parking. 

About the Guy Mendilow Ensemble

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble is an award-winning quintet with a cast of world-class players who mesmerize audiences with their skill in playing a wide variety of instruments, including the berimbau, jaw harps, and thumb piano.  Their unique performances combine premier musicianship with cinematic storytelling, conjuring voices lost to war and upheaval, whisking audiences to distant times and picturesque places and, ultimately, inspiring the motivation to explore lesser known cultures and histories as they recreate the music of the Sephardic diaspora and tell the stories of lost cultures.

The ensemble specializes in deep community engagement and has been artist-in-residence with Celebrity Series of Boston since 2014. In 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts selected the Guy Mendilow Ensemble for Art Works, a grant for the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of music schools like the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, Snarky Puppy, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, the Video Game Orchestra, Amanda Palmer, and Simon Shaheen. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble is based in Boston and New York.

About the Show


Rendering stories and songs of an older age with drama, humour and heart, The Forgotten Kingdom finds highly resonant, deeply moving connections to contemporary struggles, debates, and dilemmas. By digging deep into Sephardic scholarship and revitalizing the sound recorded on gritty field recordings, Mendilow and company bring tales to life, intertwining voices, percussion, and soulful playing to render these songs in all their color, drama, and heart. The Forgotten Kingdom is a musical trek through a nearly lost world as the audience journeys through former Ottoman lands starting in Sarajevo and winding through Salónica in a narrative-driven performance that reimagines the historical record of Sephardic communities of the Balkans and Mediterranean.

Director’s Note


70 years after the end of WWII, American craving for stories about this global war persists, evidenced by the volume of WWII novels, Hollywood films and documentaries released yearly. However, ask the average American what s/he knows about Spanish-speaking Jewish communities in Greece, Bulgaria or Bosnia, and you will most likely receive a blank stare. Why is it we know so much about the plight of certain communities in WWII, yet others are virtually ignored?

I first heard Sephardic songs from Balkan and Mediterranean communities in my boyhood Jerusalem home. Yet it wasn’t until later that I started listening through other artists’ interpretations to the traditional songs and their tales —and got hooked by the meandering modes, by stories that harken to Tolkien (and, it turns out, on which Tolkien based some of his work) and by a riveting history of integration, migration and adaptation. These are great stories. Not because they are Jewish or Mediterranean or Balkan, but because they present near-universal themes that continue to captivate today. And the story of the stories—a case study in shifting identities due to migration, the evolution and change of tradition, of resilience and struggle—is alive and relevant today, too.

The story of Ladino mirrors experiences that I, and most of the artists in the Ensemble, live personally, as an immigrant to this country. The same is true for many of our audience members. My hope for Forgotten Kingdom is to spark fascination with these stories, their communities, and ultimately their meta-story, through arrangements and storytelling that create an emotional experience strong enough to sweep audiences away, even if they know nothing about Ladino culture. The stories are too good to be ignored, and the communities from which they come too important in terms of what they represent—from models of integration and interfaith cooperation to their own rich heritage—to be dismissed.

— Guy Mendilow

What People Are Saying of hope and affirmation, sophisticated in its delivery but easily accessible to listeners anywhere” — Chicago Tribune


a resurgent force …explodes with artistry, refinement, and excitement” — Yvon Shore, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati OH international tour de force.” — Bethlehem Morning Call


The Guy Mendilow Ensemble was magical! They performed superbly and let us dream throughout the Mediterranean world.” — Peter Steinfeld, ACES Series, Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA


…The ensemble takes you on a tour through an almost lost world that is filled with stories, beautiful melodies, and traditions. Guy and his ensemble have a way of capturing this tradition while making it accessible and engaging for a contemporary audience...the music has a broad appeal that reaches in a way that’s entertaining and enlightening. Simply said, you come to enjoy a concert, but the cultural experience and learning is much deeper. From his showmanship to his skill as a convener, teacher, and cultural explorer, Guy Mendilow is reviving an important culture though his music, one that I believe has much value throughout the world.” — Laura Mandel, New Center NOW, Boston, MA