Hundreds of years ago an old form of Spanish known as Ladino was once a well-known language.
Ladino grew in popularity in the late 1400s and was spoken in parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Unfortunately, some 500 years later, the language is spoken by a few minorities groups and is on the verge of being lost forever.
However, residents of the Harbour City will have a chance to hear this dying language when the Guy Mendilow Ensemble takes to the stage at the Port Theatre.
“UNSECO considers it [Ladino] one grade above extinction,” Mendilow said.
The ensemble will perform Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom, a series of epic stories told through music, which will be performed in Ladino.
“We come together to bring each one of these tails to life, basically as though it were a movie,” he said. “They are fantastic tales. These are the types that would be found in any good cutthroat novel. It’s kings and queens and escapes by night and sailors who don’t make it back from sea and some who do. It’s a rich cast of characters who are brought to life through the music.”
The Guy Mendilow Ensemble was formed in 2004 and includes vocalist Sofia Tosello of Argentina, Tareq Rantisi of Palestine, violinist Chris Baum of the United States and multi-instrumentalist Andy Bergman, who is also from the United States.
Born to a musician father, Mendilow has been performing music to live audiences since he was a young boy.
“When I grew up we moved on a yearly basis and these were intercontinental moves, but my dad was a professional musician and we always had people in the house playing music,” he said.
Mendilow, who has lived in places such as the U.S., Israel and South Africa, said that while the languages and cultures around him changed frequently, there was always one constant.
“Music was the one thing that didn’t change,” he said.
Early in his life, Mendilow saw how music can bring people together from different backgrounds and races while he was living in South Africa during the apartheid.
“I got to witness the way that music can really affect people,” Mendilow said. “Coming from Israel it was strange to be invited to participate in any church, we had barley been to any synagogue much less a church, but there we fell into a community that brought us into their church and it was the only integrated church in Johannesburg at the time.”
At the age of 10, Mendilow became a member of the American Boychoir and has been touring as a musician ever since.
“A lot of the lessons that I learned touring with the American Boychoir are things that I live out on a day-to-day basis today,” Mendilow said.
Among the many lessons learned, he says one of the most important was being able to improvise on stage.
“If you’re in the middle of the show and if you have a hint from somewhere in you, God knows where, that you need to steer it in different direction for this audience. You don’t question it, you just do it,” Mendilow said. “Improvisation is the practice of saying yes over and over again. You can’t improvise if you say no.”
Mendilow can also perform in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Portuguese.
He says that while improvisation is important during a performance, it is much more difficult to do while speaking a foreign language.
“The ability to improvise in a different language, that is hard. There you have a lot prep,” he said “It is really difficult. The show comes off a little differently and it comes something else.”
The Guy Mendilow Ensemble performs on Monday (Oct. 5) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $5-$35. For tickets and information, please call 250-754-8550.