Baltimore Consort Offers Old Fashioned Christmas
Lovely songs from centuries ago performed with original instruments and stylings.
Musicians may be the original recyclers: they are notorious for reusing tunes. That tradition is celebrated by the Baltimore Consort, the featured group for the Early Music Now series Dec. 2 and 3, with a concert entitled “Wassail, Wassail!” — which refers to holiday songs or drinks. This concert shares and enhances tunes originating in France, Germany and the British Isles. Audience members can expect “a lively, eclectic mix of early music on instruments that tickle the fancy, intrigue the eye and please the ear,” according to a reviewer.
Ballard said considerable research is the foundation of all Consort programs, including what she called “the Baltimore Consort’s Christmas gifts to its audience.” The Yuletide selections are drawn from sources as varied as composers Michael Praetorius, who published a compendium of 300 dance tunes in 1612, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who traveled through the English countryside three centuries later to collect and transcribe traditional songs. As an editor of The Oxford Book of Carols, Vaughan Williams created new carols by pairing religious Christmas texts with folk tunes. Among the examples on the program is “Rorate caeli desuper,” a poem by William Dunbar (c. 1459-1530), matched with an 18th century Scottish air, “Bright Day-Star.” Similarly, the Consort performs an instrumental version of a 16th century French dance tune, Branle de l’Official, re-popularized 100 years ago when an Anglican priest added words to create the carol now known as “Ding Dong Merrily on High.”
The festive vocal and instrumental delights of “Wassail, Wassail!” will be performed at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3 at St. Joseph Chapel, 1501 S. Layton Blvd. There will be a pre-concert lecture at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for both performances are available through the Early Music Now web site.