'Wassail, Wassail!' - Early Music Guild presents a holiday concert to savor
 

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posted Friday, December 21, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 51

'Wassail, Wassail!' - Early Music Guild presents a holiday concert to savor
by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

THE BALTIMORE CONSORT
TOWN HALL
December 14


In my book, they just don't come any better than the Baltimore Consort. Not only proficient in their early-music instruments, and not only unsurpassed as musicians, they also possess what so many performers lack, namely a communicated joy in music-making and in sharing it with an audience. This group has been performing for 33 years, and yet the energy and fun with which they played and sang in this Early Music Guild concert was like that of an up-and-coming band just hitting their stride.

This evening was entitled "Wassail, Wassail!" and presented a long list of old carols and dance tunes from the British Isles, France, Spain, Germany, and Appalachia. Many of these were familiar and were mixed in with less-known works.

It all began with "The Lord of the Dance" to the tune of "Simple Gifts" and words by Sydney Carter (1966). Those who have been attending EMG concerts for years will well remember the singer José Lemos, a countertenor (male alto). His voice is unforgettable and is produced with great ease and beauty. His vibrato is so fast and tiny that it is more like a shimmering gleam polishing every note. His diction and manner of address were such that one could not but get involved in what he was singing. Brazilian by birth, Lemos is an artist of the first rank. I will go out of my way to hear him whenever he appears in the Pacific Northwest.

The other featured singer was soprano Danielle Svonavec. Her vocal type was like some of the best Celtic singers - extremely clear and strong but at the same time ultra feminine and bright. Like Lemos, she showed tremendous range both vocally and dramatically, with an ease and agility throughout the soprano range. Her clarity well articulated her great sense of rhythm and liveliness.

Indeed, the whole ensemble might well be called "The Masters of Rhythm"! So keen was the rhythmic bounce of their playing that one could hardly sit still in the pews of Town Hall. Indeed, Mindy Rosenfeld, with her wooden flutes, whistles, and crumhorns did indeed dance within each musical phrase. The other instruments included viols, rebec, cittern, gemshorn (a real animal horn!), lute, fifes, pipes, and harp. There was not a dull moment, so well were these alternated and combined. The aural highlight for these ears was a trio of gnarly, nasal crumhorns as they danced around to the lively music. No fewer than 16 CDs by the Baltimore Consort (on the Dorian label) were listed at the end of the complete texts of all the songs. Because it will likely be a few years before they return to Seattle, it might serve you well to check out some of them, such as The Art of the Bawdy Song or The Mad Buckgoat: Ancient Music of Ireland. Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.



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