Classical

The Crystalline Voices of Boston Camerata

Early Music Now presents Medieval concert that should be magical and meditative.

By - Dec 4th, 2019 04:41 pm
The Boston Camerata. Photo courtesy of Early Music Now.

The Boston Camerata. Photo courtesy of Early Music Now.

The Boston Camerata returns to Milwaukee in a Christmas concert this Saturday and Sunday sponsored by Early Music Now. The concert, “A Medieval Christmas: Puer Natus Est,” focuses on the devout celebration of the Nativity in the 10th to 14th-century Christian church.

Music is shaped by its social and historical environment. Returning to the past, Early Music Now presents concerts offering a deep dive into a historical milieu from a prior time and place. This weekend, the concerts offer an anthology of Nativity music from Medieval times drawn from France, Italy, and England.

The Nativity. Photo is in the Public Domain.

The Nativity. Photo is in the Public Domain.

The program includes a unified observance of the Nativity organized as a meditative service in song and text. The selection includes music of the church and songs of private devotion focused around the joyous theme of the Nativity, sung in Latin, Old French, Old Provençal, and Saxon and interlaced with Medieval English texts. Music representing pagan celebrations of the winter solstice is also represented. Much of the program can be previewed from an early Boston Camerata recording on YouTube. (A revised CD will be released in early 2020.) Preview the program notes online.

The Medieval period in Western music used limited musical notation, leaving speculative reconstruction of much of the music to scholarship by groups such as the Boston Camerata. Program notes for the concert observe: “The sketchy notational systems of the Middle Ages functioned perfectly well for performers back then — but in the intervening generations, contact with the living oral tradition has completely disappeared.”

Established in 1954, the Camerata has been led by French-born singer and scholar Anne Azéma since 2008. For this concert she will be joined by vocalists Deborah Rentz-Moore and Camila Parias accompanied at times by instrumentalists Allison Monroe and Christa Patton.

Medieval music features a purity of sound that adheres to the laws of physics in a way nearly abandoned by the Baroque era. A need to allow instruments to play flexibly in many keys led to the compromises demonstrated by J.S. Bach‘s Well-Tempered Clavier. That collection of preludes and fugues represents a groundbreaking demonstration of a new system for tuning and integrating instrumental ensembles.

A Capella music, such as Barbershop quartets, continues the older discipline of pure tones that leads to wondrously resonant music. In the St. Joseph’s Chapel venue, overtones can build upon the sound of crystalline voices reverberating through the stone hall. The Boston Camera has demonstrated their command of this space in previous Milwaukee concerts.

The Boston Herald honors the Boston Camerata for “A body of work that rivals the accomplishments of any ensemble.”  In a prior local concert by the group, Paul Kosidowski wrote in Milwaukee Magazine of “a power beyond words, elevating your heart with the music.”

Prepare for a magical and meditative evening.

This annual Christmas concert will be held at St. Joseph Chapel, 1501 S. Layton Blvd. The concert begins at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 7 and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 8. The Camerata will present a pre-talk one hour before the concert.

Parking is available in lots to the South of the Chapel. This venue is located on the Purple bus line (27th St.).

Tickets may be ordered online, by phone at 414-225-3113. Individual adult/senior tickets for Tier 1 through Tier 3 seating range in price from $29 to $59 dollars, with student tickets ranging from $10 to $20.

On February 8, Early Music Now will feature the instrumental and vocal ensemble Les Délices, in a concert “Myths and Allegories” at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zelazo Center. The ensemble will sing cantatas inspired by Greek mythology including selections by 18th-century French composer Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and Belgian composer Thomas-Louis Bourgeois.

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