in: News & Features

December 3, 2018

Camerata Seasonal Renaissance Music: Legendary & Hot

by

The Green Mountain Man

Ever ready to assist in the marketing activities of our literate and resourceful presenters, we herewith take note of the potential Gloire, Sororité and Fraternité in Boston Camerata’s five forthcoming holiday concerts.

Artistic Director Anne  announces that she is pleased this year, to be unveiling a brand-new production, full of color and sweep. “Gloria: An Italian Christmas” will feature six vocal soloists, harp, lutes, gambas, organ, cornetto, sackbuts, and choir, performing some of the hottest music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Some cast members, like bass singer-lutenist Joel Frederiksen, and the legendary cornettist Bruce Dickey, are coming over from Europe to participate. We are also happy to welcome students from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. Such an adventure for us…

FLE:  Yes, there are performers and hot music involved, but what about composers?

We’ll be featuring the titanic Gabrieli and Monteverdi along with a plethora from the Renaissance A-list: Marenzio, Cipriano, Willaert, and others. And, to keep the Camerata tradition alive, there will be Christmas songs from country chapels and popular sources. We found a cache of these simple, beautiful carol melodies in a Florentine print of the 17th century, transcribed some of them, and will be premiering them for modern audiences, alongside the magnificent sound structures meant for San Marco in Venice, and other major-league places.

The Camerata has also an extensive repertory book of Christmas concerts, and you are continuing to share it with the public. When did this all begin for you?

Actually, it started long before I had even joined the ensemble. I think the year was 1979. Michel Garcin, the director of Erato records, Camerata’s label at the time, had a little summer music festival in a village of the Languedoc, and, despite the warm season, he had asked Joel Cohen and the Camerata to perform “A Medieval Christmas.”  I was a member of the audience in a tiny 12th-century chapel, a perfect setting, by the way, and I experienced that program of extraordinary Nativity music from France, Provence, Spain, England, and other places, for the first time. It made a big impression on me.

Are you then reproducing that memorable Camerata concert?

Yes and no. Joel’s original concept certainly has legs; the LP and subsequent CD sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and Camerata mavens will recognize in “Puer Natus: A Medieval Christmas,” the programming architecture, and the essential musical message, passed down from that early period in the ensemble’s history. But so much has changed since then!  For one thing, we are performing it not as a larger ensemble project, as it was then, but as a voyage of discovery for a handful of virtuoso soloists, all of them women. We’ve been touring nationally with a womens’ voices production for several Christmases now (sometimes even staging it!). We find that this way of doing and renewing it, including our performing by candlelight, gives the whole thing an angelic sheen, and of spiritual intensity.

And then, of course, the actual musical content of the program has evolved over the years, with a number of magnificent pieces that, for instance, you won’t find on the original recording. The continual revisions which have been brought to the production, season after season, have made the show much more concentrated and more profound. 

Anne Azema (no crank) with her organistrum (Boston Camerata Image)

The ecclesiastical venues should all allow the evocation of spirituality and candlelight mystery

Puer Natus Est: A Medieval Christmas

December 7 at 8pm – Hancock Church, Lexington, MA
December 8 at 8pm – First Religious Society, Newburyport, MA
December 9 at 3pm and 5pm – Gordon Chapel at Old South Church, Boston, MA

Gloria! An Italian Christmas

December 16 at 4pm – United Parish, Brookline, MA
December 17 at 8pm – First Church Congregational, Cambridge, MA

Tickets: $10-$63 | bostoncamerata.org

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