27 October 2006

Making music

Family history clues are all around us, sometimes in improbable places.

While the Jewish community in the UK is now celebrating the 350th year of their return after expulsion, historians know that not only did some Jews never leave, but others were quietly welcomed in.

The Forward published an interesting article by composer Raphael Mostel about Jewish musicians in England during the exile. Shakespearean scholar Roger Prior has uncovered the Tudor Court’s secret Jews – the majority of court musicians. Henry VIII, he says, imported Jewish musicians from Venice to improve the royal music.

Some musicians’ names indicate Jewish connections:

    • John Anthony was posthumously identified as Anthonius Moyses.
    • Ambrose of Milan was also called Ambrose Lupo and founded a
      musical dynasty; one record calls him Ambrosius deolmaleyex, which Prior deciphers as a phonetic spelling of de Almaliach or Elmalah, a known post-expulsion Sephardic family.

Other tidbits: Famed violinmaker Amati was of Jewish descent. Shakespeare’s sonnets refer to a “Dark Lady,” whom Prior believes is Emilia Bassano, the daughter of one of the musicians – a poet who published her work in Elizabethan England.

For more, click here.

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