Ensemble salutes Shakespeare

Consort: An early music group will perform pieces dating from Shakespeare's time Sunday at St. John's College in Annapolis.

February 10, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Encounters with Shakespeare are supposed to be uplifting occurrences, and that's exactly how things worked out for the Ensemble Galilei.

The early music consort, so popular in Annapolis because of its annual concert series at St. John's College, recently began combing libraries and anthologies of 16th-century British music in search of songs and instrumental pieces that might have been heard during early performances of Shakespeare's plays.

The result of the group's efforts, a 65-minute compact disc titled "Come, Gentle Night: Music of Shakespeare's World," has just been released by Telarc International, the largest American-owned independent classical recording company.

Ensemble Galilei will be performing selections from "Come, Gentle Night" at St. John's this Sunday, February 13 at 3 and 7 p.m. as part of their Music in the Great Hall Series presented under the auspices of Chamber Music Annapolis. Wine and desserts will be served at a candlelight reception immediately after each concert.

Admission is $20, and advance ticket purchases are encouraged.

Listeners used to the traditional Irish and Scottish for which the Galileans have become known will hear the group stretch out in new directions at Sunday's concerts. Elizabethan fare has never figured much in the ensemble's programming until now.

The same could be said for vintage English selections such as "Mr. Isaac's Maggot," Henry VIII's rollicking "Pastime With Good Company" and the "Third Act Tune" from Henry Purcell's "Fairy Queen," a suite based on the Bard's "Midsummer Night's Dream."

But the fiddlers, pipers, harpists and penny whistlers of Ensemble Galilei have come at this new repertoire with customary brio and elan, and the results are absolutely delightful.

Rhythms zing with energy, phrasing is deft, and the instruments sound mellifluous and full in Telarc's Direct Stream Digital recording process.

Some of this Shakespearean repertoire consists of contemporary pieces composed by the members to evoke the various sonnets and dramatic situations that inspired them.

One of the loveliest of these is Carolyn Anderson Surrick's "Love's Winter Light," which ushers in a trio of period works that become "The Winter's Tale Set." Indeed, throughout the program, the new works blend seamlessly with the old, and the result is a tuneful, joyous melange of music and poetic expression that spans time, place and aesthetic preconceptions.

Such is music's power, as Shakespeare expressed it in "Two Gentlemen of Verona": "For Orpheus' lute was strung with poets' sinews,/Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,/Make tigers tame and huge leviathans forsake unbounded deeps to dance on sands."

Ticket reservations: 410-849-2494

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