Gaude, mater Polonia: Music from Poland’s Golden Age

Gaude, mater Polonia“If the gods had let him live longer, the Poles would have no need to envy the Italians their Palestrina….” If you’ve never heard of Polish composer Wacław z Szamotuł, we’re not surprised – but get ready for a real treat!  This concert brings you the gorgeous, rare, and important music of Poland’s great Renaissance composers, performed on fiddles, bagpipes, viols, trombone, recorder, lute, and a consort of voices. Consort favorite, Chicago native and Polish-American Tom Zajac leads us in this new repertoire, guaranteed to open your ears to new sounds.

Presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Pre-concert lectures start one hour before each performance.

 

Click here for a copy of our press release: Gaude mater Polonia Press ReleaseFINAL

Reviews

chicago tribune

Consort performs ‘the subtle art’

The Newberry Consort's debut concert 26 years ago was devoted to an exploration of ars subtilior (the subtle art), a school of composition that flourished in France in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Directors David Douglass and Ellen Hargis and their colleagues returned to that seldom-heard medieval repertory for their first concerts of the season over the weekend. Continue reading “Consort performs ‘the subtle art’” »
2012-10-30T16:40:56+00:00
chicago tribune
If this makes the music sound overly intellectual, the subject matter – love songs, evocations of bird song and other pastoral scenes – is pure, sensuous delight.
madison early music festival

Newberry Consort runs gamut in Madison Early Music Festival

JULY 14, 2012 6:00 AM  •  JESSICA COURTIER | SPECIAL TO THE CAPITAL TIMES

 The Madison Early Music Festival has explored a range of programmatic themes in its 13-year history. The last two years' focus on North and South America has been a refreshing stretching of the boundaries of what is traditionally thought of as defining the category of "early music," and perhaps no concert in this year's festival stretches that boundary more than the one given by the Newberry Consort. Continue reading “Newberry Consort runs gamut in Madison Early Music Festival” »
2012-07-14T16:47:55+00:00
madison early music festival
Perhaps no concert in this year's festival stretches that boundary more than the one given by the Newberry Consort.
danse

Dancing Back in Time with the Newberry Consort

Friday, April 13, 2012

“In order to play dance pieces correctly, you must learn to dance it.” Thus spoke my recorder teacher this past Friday. A tall order, considering that Baroque dance has become a specialized and rarely-performed art inaccessible to most people. Thankfully, the next day, I had the thrilling privilege to “get up close and personal” with this alluring and elegant art form by attending the season finale of the Newberry Consort’s 2011-2012 season. Entitled Les Caractères de La Danse, this outstanding and highly memorable event not only featured some of the nation’s best period instrument players, but also two of the nation’s foremost Baroque dancers, Paige Whitley-Baugess and Thomas Baird. Continue reading “Dancing Back in Time with the Newberry Consort” »
2012-04-13T17:10:24+00:00
danse
Overall, this evening not only proved most enchanting and worthwhile, but it more importantly served as a hugely inspirational, life-changing experience...
Thomas Arne

Baroque Britisher Thomas Arne rules in Newberry Consort season opener

Mon Oct 04, 2010 at 9:11 pm

By Dennis Polkow

Though not as high on the cognoscenti radar as the Chopin and Schumann bicentennials, the tercentenary of composer Thomas Arne (1710-1778) was celebrated Sunday afternoon by the Newberry Consort in their season-opening program at Northwestern University’s Lutkin Hall. Continue reading “Baroque Britisher Thomas Arne rules in Newberry Consort season opener” »
2010-10-04T09:11:33+00:00
Thomas Arne
Mon Oct 04, 2010 at 9:11 pm By Dennis Polkow Though not as high on the cognoscenti radar as the Chopin and Schumann bicentennials, the tercentenary of composer Thomas Arne (1710-1778) was celebrated Sunday afternoon by the Newberry Consort in
Sirens

“Celestial Sirens” at the Church of the Covenant (March 20)

ClevelandClassical.com Previews, News & Reviews
promoting classical music in Northeast Ohio

by Nicholas Jones

celestial-sirens-chicagoThe overlapping musical talents and resources of Cleveland’s early music community were in full multi-tasking mode at the Church of the Covenant last week — with some help from Chicago and Tennessee.

The occasion was one event in celebration of the church’s magnificent new tracker organ, modeled on north German 17th-century organs. The organ was built by the Tennessee firm of Richards, Fowkes and Company and installed only this January. It replaces a small gallery organ in the back of the church. A stop-action video documenting the organ’s installation is online at YouTube. Continue reading ““Celestial Sirens” at the Church of the Covenant (March 20)” »
2013-03-28T13:33:52+00:00
Sirens
ClevelandClassical.com Previews, News & Reviews promoting classical music in Northeast Ohio by Nicholas Jones The overlapping musical talents and resources of Cleveland’s early music community were in full multi-tasking mode at the Church of the Covenant last week — with

The Newberry Consort Unveils Rare Spanish Treasures for BEMF

Boston Classical Review

In certain medieval manuscripts, music and image combine to evoke powerful religious feelings. Take, for example, the sources for the Cantigas de Santa Maria, where colorful drawings of musicians, saints, and nobles frame music and poetry that tell of miracles performed by the Virgin Mary. Gazing at the manuscript, one can catch a glimpse of the celebratory religious culture the authors were trying to convey from across the centuries.

Friday night at the First Church in Cambridge, the Chicago-based Newberry Consort and Boston’s vocal ensemble Exsultemus presented the sights and sounds of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, in a concert sponsored by the Boston Early Music Festival. English translations of the poems and projected images taken from the manuscript sources illuminated mesmerizing performances of fourteen songs from the Cantigas, one of the richest collections of medieval troubadour song.

Written in Galician-Portuguese, the Cantigas de Santa Maria were assembled at the court of Alfonso the Wise, king of Castile, León, and Galicia from 1252 to 1284. Most of its 427 songs—composed by anonymous poet-musicians and, likely, Alfonso himself—profess sincere religious beliefs about the Virgin Mary. As the cult of Mary was strong on Iberian Peninsula in Alfonso’s time, the Virgin was a constant presence daily life, and the miracles captured in many of the songs were viewed as solutions to everyday problems.

The manuscript sources themselves leave some elements to the imagination. The Cantigas were written as simple verse songs with a single line of melody. Friday’s performance added harmonies, counterpoint, and instrumental color to the texture, additions that served to highlight the dance-like character of the florid melodies and propulsive rhythms. The Newberry Consort’s method for adding richer textures to the music is, however, rooted in the source material. The instrumental ensemble—consisting of vielle, rebec, harp, flute, bagpipe, hammer dulcimer, and citole—was modeled on those depicted in the illustrations projected onto the giant screen placed center stage.

Two instrumental numbers heard Friday evening featured the subtle expressive powers of the consort. In “Deus te salva, groriosa” the musicians shaped the music in a color wheel of effects. The short piece opened with Mark Rimple performing a light, trickling melody on the psaltery, a plucked string instrument that resembles an autoharp. As if to blanket the texture in a silvery sheen, Jesse Lepkoff (flute), David Douglass (vielle), and Shira Kammen (harp) added layers of delicate countermelody and harmony. In “Toller pod’ a Madre de Nostro Sennor,” the instruments shaped the line into a bristly, Spanish-flavored dance. Douglass and Kammen punctuated the music with well-timed syncopations on dual vielles.

Other songs made theatrical use of the instruments. “Non sofre Santa Maria,” a humorous song that tells of the Virgin Mary leading hungry pilgrims to find a missing chop of meat, featured the spiky sonorities of Kammen’s rebec, played by bouncing the wood of the bow on the strings, and the twang of Tom Zajac’s mouth harp. In “Todo-los bees que no Deus,” Zajac’s tambourine added appropriate thunder to match the song’s description of an earthquake.

But the Newberry Consort’s greatest achievement as an ensemble was the smooth control of the phrasing and fine communication with the singers, effects that seemed to lay each song in a feathery bed of accompaniment.

The singing of the lead vocalist of the evening, soprano and Newberry co-director Ellen Hargis, made for fine storytelling. The longest song offered, “A Virgen mui groriosa,” tells of a man, who, enraptured by the beauty of a statue of the Virgin Mary, places a ring around its finger as a promise to serve her for the rest of his life. But he eventually strays and takes a wife, and, to reproach the man, the Virgin Mary visits him in a dream to remind him of his original promise. Hargis, singing with bell-tone clarity and light shakes of her voice, captured to fine effect the nervous energy laden within the song.

Supporting her were five singers of Exsultemus, who together sang with a creamy tone and pristine blend.

Their most affecting singing came in the songs that made up the second half of the program, many of which dealt with episodes of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. “Madre de Deus, ora por nos,” a prayer to the Virgin Mary on the Day of Judgment, unfolded in strands of haunting, free-flowing melody. The song’s wide leaps and winding melismas, dexterously handled by the singers, seemed to recall the music of Hildegard of Bingen.

“Subiu ao ceo o Fillo de Deus” tells of Christ ascending to heaven. Tenor Matthew Dean sang an affecting line, which Douglas and Kammen echoed and embellished with their strings. Throughout, the Newberry Consort and singers rendered the music with soft tones that seemed to echo at a distance, an effect that captured the mystery of the moment.

Also moving were the songs of praise to the Virgin Mary. The singers performed the gently flowing melodies of “Muito deveria” with warm, enveloping blend. The Newberry Consort and Exsultemus closed with an equally soft and delicate rendering of the most famous of the Cantigas, “Rosa das Rosas.”

 

 

Boston Classical Review

2015-02-07T13:37:38+00:00

Boston Classical Review

Boston Classical Review In certain medieval manuscripts, music and image combine to evoke powerful religious feelings. Take, for example, the sources for the Cantigas de Santa Maria, where colorful drawings of musicians, saints, and nobles frame music and poetry that
Musica Celestial CD

Ten New Classical Albums

Featuring Chicago Talent

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Newberry's nuns highlight recent classical albums

"Musica Celestial from the Covent of the Encarnacion." (Newberry Consort): The manuscript source of this attractive program of Renaissance and baroque rarities for women's voices, organ and other instruments is six valuable choir books preserved at Chicago's Newberry Library. Written for the singing nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Mexico City, the pieces suggest the richly diverse musical culture that was enshrined in the convents. Performances under the direction of soprano Ellen Hargis are fully worthy of the material, none more striking than the luminous eight-voice polyphony of Fabian Perez Ximeno's "Dixit Dominus," the album's central work.




 

You can purchase this CD directly from our website!

 

 

2015-05-21T10:06:05+00:00
Musica Celestial CD
Featuring Chicago Talent John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune Newberry’s nuns highlight recent classical albums “Musica Celestial from the Covent of the Encarnacion.” (Newberry Consort): The manuscript source of this attractive program of Renaissance and baroque rarities for women’s voices, organ
sirens

Review: Newberry Consort’s Singing Nuns

11:03 a.m. CDTMay 5, 2014

Choral music from an earlier period and of a far more specialized sort made up the season finale of the Newberry Consort.

Co-director Ellen Hargis and colleagues presented the second in a series of programs devoted to music from the trove of musical manuscripts at the Newberry Library known as the Mexican choirbooks. These priceless volumes include works by Old World and New World Spanish and Mexican composers, written for the use of nuns singing the mass and worship services in the former Convent of the Incarnation in Mexico City.

While the six surviving choirbooks contain known pieces by such familiar Renaissance figures as Tomas Luis de Victoria, a good many works are by obscure 17th century composers such as Juan de Lienas, Fabian Perez Ximeno and Fray Jacinto. All four composers figured in the absorbing concert heard Friday at St. Clement Church in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

Researching, editing, transcribing and (in some cases) reconstructing these hymns, motets, antiphons and polychoral pieces for performance required a great deal of industry on the part of Hargis and her assistants. But the musical results, sung by a total of 10 women's voices in various-sized configurations and accompanied by women playing chamber organ, viola da gamba, vihuela (early Spanish guitar) and bajon (a buzzy-sounding baroque bassoon), were fascinating, opening a window on a forgotten era.

The generous reverberation of St. Clement Church, like that of the chapel at Loyola, challenges the efforts of choral singers to communicate texts clearly. Still, one could follow the Latin words in the program book, and the ethereal effect of pure-toned female voices floating in a large, airy acoustic was atmospheric compensation.

The nuns of the Convento de Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion (to revert to the cloister's Spanish name) must have been well-trained musicians to master pieces as challenging as these.

The nicely blended Newberry vocalists did a fine job of balancing spiritual and temporal emotions, most notably in Ximeno's lively setting of the bellicose psalm "Dixit Dominus." The four instrumentalists made the most of their accompanimental and solo duties.

It's good news that the consort plans to release the program, "Celestial Sirens II," as a commercial audio recording.
2014-05-06T11:48:04+00:00
sirens
The nicely blended Newberry vocalists did a fine job of balancing spiritual and temporal emotions, most notably in Ximeno's lively setting of the bellicose psalm "Dixit Dominus." The four instrumentalists made the most of their accompanimental and solo duties.
Hyde Park Herald

Hyde Park Herald

Sounds of autumn: A 2014 music preview


By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

The Newberry Consort, affiliated with the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, draws on the library’s vast music collection and assembles local and international artists to perform music from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The Consort also serves as an ensemble-in-residence at both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. It has been a part the Chicago music scene for nearly three decades and is co-directed by violinist David Douglass and soprano Ellen Hargis.

In November they present “¡Música Barocca Mexicana! Music from the Durango Cathedral Archives,” a concert of eighteenth-century New World music, featuring voices, baroque violins, guitar, theorbo, harpsichord and cello. The program includes U.S. premieres of works by Ignacio Jerusalem, Santiago Billoni, Manuel de Sumaya and others. The event takes place on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Performance Hall at the Logan Center. Information at newberryconsort.org or 773-702-2787.
2014-10-01T09:59:45+00:00
Hyde Park Herald
Sounds of autumn: A 2014 music preview By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Newberry Consort, affiliated with the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, draws on the library’s vast music collection and assembles local and international artists to perform music
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Vividly imaginative Renaissance program a Newberry Consort delight

BY KYLE MACMILLAN

For Sun-Times Media, February 8, 2014

A concert program doesn’t necessarily need a theme to be successful, but sometimes a contextual format can provide a helpful entry point, especially if the music is little known, and enliven the overall experience.

That is certainly the case if the theme is as exotic and imaginative as the one that wonderfully animated the Newberry Consort’s 90-minute concert of Renaissance music Friday evening at the Newberry Library – “The Feast of the Oath of the Pheasant.”

The Chicago-based period-instrument ensemble delved into history and built a concert around a 1454 banquet hosted by the Duke of Burgundy, skillfully incorporating projections of period artworks and narration from an evocative memoir of the event by an attendee, Olivier de la Marche.

Given that de la Marche describes such extraordinary happenings as a backward-walking horse and a giant pastry filled with 24 musicians, it is hard to know what was fact and fancy. But what is clear is that this lavish party must have been an event for the ages, and it was vividly recalled in this concert.

Aside from three pieces mentioned in the memoir by Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1398-1474), the leading composer of the time, little is known about the music that was played at the dinner. So, Newberry co-director David Douglass expertly assembled a program of what might have been heard, emphasizing Dufay and incorporating pieces by other composers of the day like Gilles de Bins (called Binchois) and Robert Morton.

The result is a series of two dozen selections, none more than a few minutes in length, arranged in the order of events at the dinner. Although these pieces are surprisingly sophisticated, given that they are more than 500 years old, they possess a simplicity and directness that gives them considerable appeal.

Among the highlights are three works by Dufay: “Hé, compaignons, resvelons nous,” a spirited party song with the evening’s first appearance by the trombone; “Je ne vis onques la pareille,” with lovely duos by the soprano and countertenor, and the moving lamentation, “Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiæ Constantinopolitanæ.”

The six performers, who sang and played an impressive assortment of Renaissance instruments, were all first-rate. A particular stand-out, heard to advantage in Binchois’ fetching love song, “De plus en plus,” was soprano and Newberry co-director Ellen Hargis, whose gentle, faraway voice is ideally suited to this repertoire.

Also deserving mention was Rachel Barton Pine, a nationally acclaimed soloist who usually performs on a modern violin but showed herself to be equally adept on one of that instrument’s ancestors, the earthier-sounding rebec.

The only strike against the evening was the venue, which was more a meeting room and in no way a concert hall. The acoustics were adequate at best, and because the performers were seated at the same level as the audience, it was almost impossible to see them or their unusual instruments.

That said, Douglass writes in his accompanying notes that that he expects this thematic program to remain in the Newberry’s repertory for a long time, and there is every reason that it should.
2014-03-08T08:58:58+00:00
slide-ensemble
BY KYLE MACMILLAN For Sun-Times Media, February 8, 2014 A concert program doesn’t necessarily need a theme to be successful, but sometimes a contextual format can provide a helpful entry point, especially if the music is little known, and enliven the
Feast of the Pheasant

Chicago Tribune – Review: Newberry Consort looks back 460 years

By Alan G. Artner, Special to the Tribune


9:48 AM CST, February 8, 2014

FeastFriday night at the Newberry Library the Newberry Consort celebrated one of the most spectacular and outlandish banquets in history.

Almost 460 years to the day, the ensemble presented a 90-minute program of music, projections and narration to commemorate the Feast of the Oath of the Pheasant. This party, given by Philip, Duke of Burgundy, was to urge a crusade against the Ottoman Turks who nine months before had taken the holy city of Constantinople.

The early-music community has for decades presented such commemorations, purporting to recreate aural events associated with coronations, funerals, masses and weddings. Spiritedly played and sung, the evening devoted to The Feast of the Oath of the Pheasant is the Newberry Consort's modest entry to an ever-growing catalog.

Always such programs have involved varying amounts of research and conjecture. There is more than one written account of Philip's feast but only a single unhelpful image. So David Douglass, co-director of the Consort, had his musicians read aloud from the most vivid description, by chronicler Olivier de la Marche, and perform 22 short pieces assembled around the three by Guillaume Dufay that many (but not all) scholars think were included.

The visual backdrops, often accompanying translations of vocal texts, were brought together from illuminations and tapestries having no connection to Philip's party. In consequence, many details differed from what was described orally, though in the main the images complemented the texts to fine effect, amply conveying extravagance.

De la Marche's account cites at least 28 musicians, implying several more. Six made up the Newberry Consort, and they narrated and sung sometimes less pleasingly than they played. The primary vocalist was Consort co-director Ellen Hargis, whose authority shone not only in lively pieces but also Dufay's great "Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae," the banquet's conjectured high point

Thinness of texture was the chief disappointment, especially in more militant and festive pieces such as Conrad Paumann's "Fanfare." But to hear the ease with which Tom Zajac alternated among nearly a dozen instruments (including bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy) and the vigor with which Rachel Barton Pine attacked the rebec, a Renaissance ancestor of the violin, was to experience early music at its committed best.

Tom Zajac - winds, bagpipe, and percussion

Tom Zajac - winds, bagpipe, and percussion



Rachel Barton Pine, rebec

Rachel Barton Pine, rebec



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

2014-02-12T23:19:40+00:00
Feast of the Pheasant
By Alan G. Artner, Special to the Tribune 9:48 AM CST, February 8, 2014 Friday night at the Newberry Library the Newberry Consort celebrated one of the most spectacular and outlandish banquets in history. Almost 460 years to the day,
ema-logo-color

Early Music America – Fall 2013

ema-logo-colorA highlight of the (BEMF) festival was a superb multimedia presentation by the Newberry Consort in Jordan Hall on Thursday afternoon drawn from the 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria,a manuscript attributed to Spanish ruler and arts patron Alfonso X. This stellar Chicago ensemble, directed by David Douglass (vielle and rebec) and Ellen Hargis (soprano), performed a dozen richly multicultural cantigas, while projecting the brightly colored illustrations that originally accompanied them onto an overhead screen, along with translations of the lyrics. The effect was near total immersion in these stories devoted to Mary, with intricate polyphony improvised by the skilful ensemble, which was assisted by guest artists from the Exsultemus vocal ensemble.
2013-08-21T11:32:31+00:00
ema-logo-color
A highlight of the (BEMF) festival was a superb multimedia presentation by the Newberry Consort in Jordan Hall on Thursday afternoon drawn from the 13th-century Cantigas de Santa Maria,
The-Newberry-Consort-courtesy-BEMF

‘Cantigas’ Bloom Like Roses at Boston Festival

 

The Newberry Consort (courtesy BEMF)

The Newberry Consort (courtesy BEMF)

By Ken Keaton

There are few places on earth where an audience can enjoy a purely magical performance of Medieval song in a glorious hall. The Boston Early Music Festival is on that short list. The music: Cantigas de Santa Maria, by Alfonso X. The performers: the Newberry Consort with the vocal ensemble Exsultemus. The place: New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Continue reading “‘Cantigas’ Bloom Like Roses at Boston Festival” »
2013-08-07T08:45:18+00:00
The-Newberry-Consort-courtesy-BEMF
  The Newberry Consort (courtesy BEMF) By Ken Keaton There are few places on earth where an audience can enjoy a purely magical performance of Medieval song in a glorious hall. The Boston Early Music Festival is on that short