“fountain” or “source”
into a new era.
the new sounds
FONTIS represents a novel collaboration across ten centuries between artists, genres, and technologies. In 13 tracks, words and music from the chapels, courts, and countrysides of medieval Spain and France travel forward in time to share the limelight with contemporary jazz, rock, folk, and classical music. Each song inhabits its own sound world, enhanced by computer processing, loops, and the latest in recording studio techniques and effects. Fontis is performed by VOXFIRE — an ensemble comprising vocalists Samela Aird Beasom, Christen Herman, and Susan Judy, and composer/arrangers and instrumentalists Nick DePinna and Ross Garren.
With this production, DePinna and Garren bring their mastery of traditional and non-traditional instruments, synthesizers, and computer processing to Voxfire’s latest explorations. Their accomplished skills as composers and arrangers further augment the ensemble’s signature focus on medieval song — now elevated and expanded by modern harmonies and probing textures — transporting the listener to a multidimensional world that celebrates the timeless beauty of this art form.
For this album, Voxfire is excited to be working with Grammy Award winning producer, Peter Rutenberg, and to be joined by guest artists Hitomi Oba, Jens Kuross, and Noah Meites of L.A. Signal Lab. We also are honored to be associated with Orenda Records, because we see the label as truly bold and visionary.
Producer: Peter Rutenberg
Audio Engineer: Talley Sherwood
Additional Engineering & Editing: Miles Senzaki, Nick DePinna, Ross Garren
Mixing Engineer: Talley Sherwood (Tracks 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13)
Mixing Engineer: Keith Armstrong (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12)
Mastering Engineer: John Polito, Audio Mechanics
Executive Producers: Samela Aird Beasom and Susan Judy
Associate Producers: Nick DePinna and Ross Garren
Principal recording: Tritone Recording, Glendale, California, on November 10, 2015 and July 15, 2016.
Additional recording: Grandma’s Dojo Studio, Los Angeles, California, on August 18 and October 26, 2016, and January 23, 2017.
All arrangements and recompositions by Ross Garren and Nick DePinna, except track 5 arranged by Jens Kuross, Nick DePinna, and Ross Garren.
Vocal arrangements by Susan Judy, except Track 10, arranged by Susan Judy based on a vocal arrangement by Cheryl Ann Fulton, and Track 13, arranged by Susan Judy based on a Catalan tune selected and arranged by Susan Rode Morris, both recorded by Ensemble Alcatraz and Kitka and used by kind permission.
Samela Aird Beasom — voice, cello, marimba, percussion
Christen Herman — voice, marimba, harmonium, percussion
Susan Judy — voice, marimba, percussion
Ross Garren — piano, harmonica, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, accordion
Nick DePinna — trombone, ukelele, piano, synthesizer, percussion, live effects processing
Hitomi Oba — saxophones, flute
Jens Kuross — drum set, electronic drums
Noah Meites, Assisting Artist, Track 1 — trumpet, flugelhorn
Mark Beasom, Assisting Artist, Tracks 1 & 2 — percussion
1. FONTIS 5:35
Chant, Las Huelgas Codex, late 13th c., sung in Latin
A philosophical journey, the riddle-like text describes a ruler’s strong and solid leadership, which flows from the source of wisdom and must be captured and tended with care. As the title track of the album, FONTIS is a fitting metaphor. From the simple melody of an ancient chant, is spun a wondrous web of voice and modern instrumental accompaniment, capturing the promise of a fathomless future of sound.
2. VELLA E MINA 2:47
Cantiga Nº192, Cantiga Nº 180 text, by Alfonso X (1221-1284), sung in medieval Galician-Portuguese
An ancient Christian praise song, from the 13th-century “Cantigas de Santa Maria,” exhorting all – young and old, rich and poor — to join in honoring the “Holy Mary.” Jazzy trombone chords kick off the track’s ecstatic energy, and a rich sonic tapestry captures the intensity of the whirling and clapping worshipers. One can imagine they would be right at home with the multitude of electrifying instruments accompanying the singing, if only they had had them.
3. ONDAS 4:57
Song from Cantigas de Amigo, Martin Codax, mid-13th c., sung in medieval Galician-Portuguese
This song is the kind of lament that has been echoed from its time forward. A mournful maiden asks the sea: will her loved one — most likely a fisherman in peril — ever return? The accompanying trombone — poignantly courageous, yet sad — the slightly menacing distant tapping of a drum, and the incessant, low-pitched drone echo the melancholy that hangs in the air. At the end, the voice sinks into the watery background as, perhaps, the despairing one joins her lover in the waves.
4. SEN CALAR 4:51
Cantiga Nº 380, Alfonso X, sung in medieval Galician-Portuguese
Another early praise song. The text lists the reasons that everyone — “without silence nor delay” — must honor the “Holy Mary.” Her virtues and nurturing, protective attributes are shouted to the heavens from the somewhat raucous worshipers below. At first, the harmonica is perhaps calling one and all together, and later becomes utterly enthralled with the rhythmic, roiling, escalating religious ecstasy.
5. A CHANTAR 5:24
Troubadour song, Beatritz, Comtessa de Dia, late 12th c., sung in medieval Provençal-Occitan
A cold and haunting harmonica melody introduces the noble and intelligent lady, whose rebuke to her faithless lover betrays her broken heart and wounded pride. The bitterness in the voice’s protestations becomes increasingly intense, reflected by the harmonica’s keening cries and the piano’s deep and relentless chords.
6. LAUDEMUS I 5:34
Pilgrim song, Llibre Vermell, late 14th c., sung in Latin
A song with a simple melody that could be sung by the faithful as they traveled their medieval pilgrimage road to the shrine of the Virgin. A mesmerizing vocal round of praise, confession and supplication. From the beginning sonic spark, a meditative swirl of sound propels the worshipers intently toward their goal, with a blissful ending worthy of a cinematic scene of the miraculous.
7. ESTA MONTAÑA 4:18
Sephardic romance song, 14th c., sung in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish)
A heartbroken one sits on a mountainside, writing of her woes with Nature’s assistance. Her lament opens in a lonely, cavernous sonic space and is later echoed by a soulful sax and sympathetic, softly commenting piano. The sax and piano riffs intensify with the voice’s increasing desperation, then subside with its inevitable resignation, like trees blowing in a passing storm.
8. LAUDEMUS II 3:49
Instrumental fantasy of Laudemus I, arr. Nick DePinna & Ross Garren
A shimmering mantra emerging from the memory of Laudemus I. The Laudemus melody reappears and repeats mysteriously, as a piano’s own repetitive pattern plays out — all surrounded by gentle sonic bursts and tinges. From this amalgam, a simple, modal piano melody appears, and the accompanying swirling, silvery alloy transports one to a place of nirvana-like peace.
9. POLORUM 4:52
Pilgrim song, Llibre Vermell, sung in Latin
A song from the Middle Ages that uses call-and-response and round singing to entertain pilgrims on their journey to the shrine of the Virgin. This song of supplication focuses on the virginity of the Mother Mary and uses its repeated phrases to instill the travelers in the mysteries of their faith. The piano’s sweetly arpeggiated chords running throughout, along with the soft sax interjections and gentle background sax choir, serve to reassure the pilgrims of the bliss lying ahead at the end of their journey.
10. ROSA DAS ROSAS 3:17
Cantiga Nº 10, Alfonso X, sung in medieval Galician-Portuguese
This pilgrim song is clearly another ode to the Virgin, though she is never actually named in the text, but rather is referred to as “rose of roses, flower of flowers, lady of ladies.” This setting perhaps reflects on the travails and dangers the pilgrims may have experienced on their journey. Picture them on a sea voyage, ardently reciting their repetitive lines as waves begin to roil around them in an upcoming storm. Their faith ever strong, their singing becomes more emphatic as their ship tosses and turns, and surely has kept them safe, as the gale ultimately subsides.
11. YA VIENE 3:51
Sephardic romance song, 14th c., sung in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish)
A saxophone paints a murky, overcast stage set from which the narrator’s hauntingly modal melody spins a sad and lonely tale. A group of slaves is being led through the countryside. The narrator’s vocal accompaniment, ominous drones of a trombone, and the sinewy strains of the sax echo the agonized emotions of the onlookers in a dream-like soundscape. As the procession walks by one slave girl’s home, she laments her destiny, and a wailing mother’s voice emerges amidst the sax’s plaintive cries.
12. TU SECRETO 3:50
Arab-Andalusian song, 13th or 14th c., sung in Arabic
Written & sung in Arabic (its title a translation into the Judeo-Spanish of its time). Picture a group of women, most likely courtesans, singing this song to the lord of the manor, perhaps teasing the court a bit with this enigmatic poem: “Your secret is your secret… don’t divulge your secret because the enemy is watching you. Who is your friend? Who your enemy?” A kaleidoscope of playful sounds swirls around the taunting melody like juggled objects of the court’s jesters and scarves of the dancing enticers.
13. POR DEUS 6:34
Troubadour song, Catalán tune, Martin de Padrozelos text, 12th c., sung in medieval Galician-Portuguese
A love song of aspiration. A young lady is begging her parents to allow her to go to town with her girlfriends. She is sure that, of them all, she will be chosen as most beautiful by the one who is the object of her affection. Her pleading voice is joined by those of her two friends and a simple piano accompaniment. Piano filigree and soft drum beats reflect the hopeful beating of her heart. The piano and drums become increasingly agitated, as the girl’s fantasy swirls in her head. The reverie-like trance builds and is finally interrupted by a piano melody of exquisite beauty, where the dreaming girl is transported to her lover, and the happily-ever-after ending is consummated.
Total running time 59:41
The source flows into the stream as a flavor that disappears, as a scent vanishes when steeped in a small vessel. So the ruler leads his people, like a mason’s fired brick, proving strong and solid, or shattering in betrayal.
2. VELLA E MINA
Refrain: Old woman and young girl, mother and virgin, pauper and queen, lady and servant.
In this manner should Holy Mary be praised, for God sought to give her all these things for betterment, that her like would never be found again; and thus we must praise her always, for she watches over us.
For old she is, according to the prophecy that Solomon foretold: she was created before the world so that her great goodness would never diminish; and even then, God who rules over all sought to incarnate her.
‘Maiden’ ought all men for all time rightly call her, for in goodness and beauty she grows each day, that to be rewarded so greatly by God, to save her, he came down to the world from his lofty throne.
For Queen, any man would have her who saw her Son raise her to heaven.
Waves of Vigo’s sea, did you see my friend? Alas,God! Will I see him soon?
Did you see my friend, for whom I sigh? Alas, God! Will I see him soon?
Did you see my lover, for whom I am greatly tormented? Alas, God! Will I see him soon?
4. SEN CALAR
Refrain: Without silence nor delay must man ever honor and praise Holy Mary.
For she dallied not but ran to our aid, releasing us from the prison where Eve had put us. She considers, cares for, and always nurtures us, the better to guide and elevate us to God’s throne.
For us who are hers, she takes away our sins and, as Mother of God, defends us when we err and transgress by folly, and pardons us every day.
To give her praise we have great reason, for God made her better in so many ways; she is without equal and without end. And who’s to say how many a troubadour singing her praises could convert?
5. A CHANTAR
I must sing about that which I would rather not, so much rancor towards him do I feel, because I love him, but it is never to be; he does not value my charity and courtesy, neither my beauty, nor my virtue, nor my intelligence: for I have already been tricked and betrayed to such a degree, as if I were being offensive.
My worth, my status, my beauty, and moreover, my true heart give me value, for that is why I send you, there on your estate, this song which will be my message; and I wish to know, my noble friend, why you are so hostile and cruel to me — is it pride or malice?
Mostly, though, I want my message to tell him that too much pride is the undoing of many great men.
6. LAUDEMUS I
We praise the Virgin who is the mother, and her son, who is Jesus. We bitterly lament our impiety, hoping for perpetual bond with Jesus.
Resplendent vessel of creation, be our advocate, O Virgin who gave birth. Beating our breasts, confiding our sins, may we be with the most high.
7. ESTA MONTAÑA
This mountain ahead of me is on fire and burning, there where I lost my lover will I sit and start crying.
Little flowering tree that I planted in my garden and tended til it grew large, now others are enjoying it.
Secrets I wish to uncover, secrets of my life, the sky would I have for paper, the sea for ink.
The trees would I have for pen, to write of my woes, there are none who know my sorrow — neither strangers nor kinfolk.
8. LAUDEMUS II — Instrumental
Heavenly Queen of us all, Morning Star, erase our sin. Before the birth, O Virgin, by God made pregnant; and in birth, O Virgin, by God made fruitful; and after the birth, O Virgin, laboring Mother, you remained ever inviolate.
10. ROSA DAS ROSAS
Refrain: Rose of roses, flower of flowers, Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.
Rose of beauty and refinement, And flower of happiness and pleasure; Lady, most merciful being, Lord, preventer of suffering and grief.
To such a one, a gentleman owes much love, that from every ill she can shield him, and from sins can she pardon him that he commits through his evil nature.
We owe her much love and service, with her hand she guards us from failing, and makes us repent our errors, that we as sinners make.
This Lady I have for Lord, and for whom I wish to sing praises, even if I can’t have her love, I will consign my other lovers to the devil.
11. YA VIENE
Here comes the captive with all the other captives; among them is the white girl.
It was neither dawn nor daytime when the white girl sang her sad song.
O what green fields, what olive groves, where my mother Grace washed and dusted.
O what white tombs, what tombs of ancestors do I pass over like a bird in flight.
12. TU SECRETO (sung in Arabic)
Your secret is your secret, says the proverb. Keep it in your heart and be sweeter than honey. If you tell another, you’re not being smart. Don’t divulge your secret because the enemy is watching you. Who is your friend? Who your enemy?
13. POR DEUS
For God’s sake, don’t worry, mother and father, about my going to San Salvador, for if today there are three beauties, I will be the one, well I know.
I pray that today I will go, and so as not to lie to you, if today there are two beauties, I will be the one, well I know.
There I have a friend, mother, who I want to see, to give him pleasure; if today there is but one beauty, I will be the one, well I know.
Peter Rutenberg is a Grammy®–winning conductor and record producer, a composer, and educator with 50 years as a musical professional. He founded Los Angeles Chamber Singers & Cappella in 1990, serving as music director and conductor for the ensemble’s 25-year tenure, with five CDs and numerous awards to their credit. A radio and record producer for 30 years, he was nominated as Grammy®Classical Producer of the Year in 2011; his productions have appeared on several labels, including Reference Recordings, Sono Luminus, Seraphic Fire Media, with several Grammy®nominations among them. Forthcoming projects include Christmas With True Concord and an all-Brahms disc with the Kansas City Symphony — both for Reference.
Rutenberg served as Director of Programming & Production at KUSC-FM, Los Angeles, covering the 1984 Olympic Art Festival, Berlioz Festival/LA, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Festival, New Music America, and all major arts organizations and festivals for the balance of the decade. His long-running national series on choral music, The First Art, won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Broadcasting in 1994. He has written extensively about music and the arts for over three decades, both as program annotator for several record labels and for the Los Angeles Master Chorale for six seasons, and served on the UCLA Music Faculty from 2006-2016. He has also served as guest conductor and clinician for several music festivals throughout Southern California and led the Phoenix Chorale’s 59th Season Finale in 2018. An active member of the Recording Academy since 1998, and a member of the Producers & Engineers Wing, he has served on numerous national committees.