Six Guys from New York

The New York a capella group Lionheart will perform an unusual holiday concert with music going back to Medieval times.

By - Dec 10th, 2014 04:47 pm
Lionheart. Photo courtesy of Early Music Now.

Lionheart. Photo courtesy of Early Music Now.

Celebrate the joy of Christmas at a concert – “Laude: Joy and Mystery” – sponsored by Early Music Now this Saturday and Sunday at St. Joseph’s Chapel. The concert will feature Lionheart, a New York a cappella group in a return visit to Milwaukee. This six man group composed of Lawrence Lipnik, countertenor, John Olund and Michael Wenger, tenors, Jeffrey Johnson and Richard Porterfield, baritonesand Kurt-Owen Richards, bass, combines an extraordinary blend of sound with personal scholarship into early music.

The concert will represent works inspired by followers of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). The program notes suggest, “Francis and his disciples denied themselves many worldly things, but indulged heartily in artistic pleasures, especially those of music and poetry. Franciscan humility, devotion, joy, and mystery find characteristic expression in the lauda, or song of praise…Following the exhortation of St. Francis to praise Jesus and his holy mother.”

Unlike music written directly for wealthy patrons or for church services, lauda became a middle class tradition. “Laymen in cities and towns organized performances of laude as devotional exercises. Taking part in the singing of lauda, and giving financial support to one’s local singing society, or compagnia, became an important part of social life in Italian cities.”

This music began with early plain-chant of the late Medieval period and evolved into the harmonies and polyphony of the Renaissance period – featuring some of the earliest Italian poetry that survives. Early notes are sketchy, requiring the ensemble to make critical choices for such basic elements as rhythm. In an interview, Porterfield told me that that although some of the music “is more meditative,” he finds most of the music “very much like folk songs (with a) perky spirit… very dance like.”

The unified sound of Lionheart wins consistent praise as “lyric, pure in intonation, and wonderfully blended.” An a cappella group has the opportunity to shape tone independent of fixed pitch instruments. Porterfield explains “we find what rings with the music and the space. Each of has to make our own contribution but we concentrate on the sound of the ensemble .. to find the color of our voices.” It helps, he adds, that the newest member of the ensemble “has been with us for a dozen years.” Porterfield calls the St. Joseph Chapel “one of the great spaces for our kind of music.”

Early Music Now will present Lionheart on Saturday December 13 at 5:00 PM & Sunday December 14 at 3:00 PM at St. Joseph Center Chapel (1501 S Layton Blvd). For further information, including complete performer details and program notes, see the Early Music Now website. Tickets may be purchased on-line or at 414-225-3113. Tickets are $28 – $44, but $10 – $15 for students. The best parking is accessed from South 29th Street at Rogers street — a large lot with entry to the building from the back. Parking is also available in the lot south of the convent building housing the chapel.

0 thoughts on “Classical: Six Guys from New York”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lionheart sounds like an intriguing concert! Thank you for this very well-written review!

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