Le Mystère Des Voix Rekindling the medieval
sounds of the Bulgarian hilltops, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares
pushes the female voice to bizarrely beautiful limits through
daring chords, irregular rhythms, and Byzantine harmonies to create
a strong, piercing audio tour de force. Formed 50 years ago, the
22-member, all-female choir makes its Santa Barbara debut on
Monday, March 6 at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. One of the premiere
women’s choirs worldwide, the group has collaborated with musicians
from Stevie Wonder to the Tuvan Throat Singers since its 1987
introduction to the West. Singing in a six-part vocal arrangement
and mostly a cappella, Le Mystère employs elements not normally
found in Western styles, all while dressed in traditional village
attire. Harmonies from both the Middle Ages and modern music are
incorporated into nonstandard scales and vibrato-free melodies.
Often considered folk, the music is actually highly sophisticated
choral compositions from esteemed Bulgarian composers including
Philip Koutev, Krasimir Kyurkchiyski, Nikolai Kaufman, and Petar
Lyondev. The women’s bell-like sound is produced through special
vocal techniques unique to medieval Bulgaria. To project calls
among mountaintops, singers constricted their throats so that air
must be forced out through the vocal cords, creating an intense,
focused sound. A technique harmful to the throat due to air
tension, the vocal range is restricted to only an octave to
preserve the singers’ vocal cords. While this seems limiting, it
allows for avant-garde harmonies and innovative chords. Selected
from the rural corners of Bulgaria, each member acts as an informal
ambassador to regional techniques. Conductor Dora Hristova seeks to
meld the sounds of the archaic world with modern voices by
emphasizing Le Mystère’s Byzantine and Thracian roots. Two of their
four albums were nominated for Grammies, including one win for
their 1990 self-titled record for Best Traditional Folk Recording.
Call 893-3535 for tickets.  — Stephanie Cain


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