The Friday public program of the Madison Early Music Festival began with the “Participant Concert.”
The Festival is an intensive workshop for those interested in learning and performing early music, and the Participant Concert exhibits what has been learned in the week of the Festival, with more than twenty classes having prepared one or more pieces for the concert.
Memorable moments of the concert included the “Wake-up Bagpipes” playing Shepherd’s Hay, a Scottish air, and Ungaresca, a 16th century Italian tune.
“The Knot Untied,” a string group, played the “In Nomine,” by Pickforth, which was a unique piece of music. The lowest line, for violoncello, is played entirely in whole notes (four beats); the next higher (violas) are dotted half notes (three beats) and half notes (two beats); the violin lines are dotted quarter notes (beat and a half) and the “melody” line quarter notes. The overall effect was to be like the gearing of a clock, and the intricacies of its working were quite fascinating.
A trio of faculty members, Taya Konig-Tarasevich, Baroque flute; Charles Weaver, lute; Robert Eisenstein, bass viol, gave us two pieces, “Chaconne, Two in one upon a ground”, by Henry Purcell; and Sonata in G, by William Croft.
“Balanced, not Blended” presented some humorous rounds, again by Purcell. The audience particularly liked “T’is women makes us love/ T’is love that makes us sad/ T’is sadness makes us drink/ T’is drink that makes us mad!” (Each group chose its own name, some more creatively than others. This vocal group’s name reminds us that in music of this period, harmony was not common, but counterpoint was more common.)
Bard Notes presented songs referenced in Shakespeare. “Blacke Spirites and White,” was preceded by a reading of the famous witches “double, double, toil and trouble,” scene, complete with “cauldron,” a Weber barbecue grill overflowing with fumes of dry ice.
Gentle Ladies’ Ballad Society and Tea Club, gave us a gently bawdy song, “My Thing is My Own,” from the book “Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy,” which was very funny, and ended the concert on a definite “up” note.
We drove out to our hotel to check in for the evening, and got dinner at Ella’s Deli on the way back. Ella’s is always reliable, although far from haute cuisine. We’ve been going there on and off for more than thirty years and never had a bad thing. The Fairfield Inn, where we stayed last Saturday night as well, was clean, reasonably comfortable, and reasonably priced, especially compared with hotels downtown. Being out by the freeway past East Towne wasn’t terribly convenient, but not too bad.
The evening concert, “Sonnets 400,” was preceded by a lecture by Prof. Joshua Callahan, “Repackaging Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” which gave us an interesting piece of publishing history. The original 1609 edition of the Sonnets, published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, was a commercial flop and was quickly out of print. However, in 1640, a London publisher, John Benson, “repackaged” the sonnets as part of a volume titled Shakespeare’s Poems. This combined most, but not all of the Sonnets along with others of the Bard’s poems, plus works by other authors blithely gathered in. Benson changed the order in which the sonnets appeared, removed the numbering, added titles, and grouped two or more into single units of verse. Benson’s rough handling proved popular, however, and remained the definitive edition of the Sonnets until well into the 19th Century. Professor Callahan made the interesting argument that reuse of a resource, which he called “conservation,” can be as good for it in the long run as trying to maintain it in a pristine state (“preservation”).
The performance itself consisted of forty of the sonnets read by veteran actor Michael Herrold , with contemporary music between each set of three or four. The musical ensemble consisted of three members of the faculty, Grant Herreid, lute and cittern; Charles Weaver, lute and bandora; and Priscilla Herreid, recorder. They played dance music by Anthony Holborne, from Pavans, Galliards, Almains, and other short Aiers (1599), including such pieces as “Paridizio,” “Last Will and Testament,” “The Funerals,” and “The Fairie Round.”
Mr. Herrold read well, with good intonation, expression, and enunciation, but not overdramatizing. This was a very interesting and well-presented program which we enjoyed.