Press

Newberry Consort wraps season with a delightful French Banquet

Chicago Classical Review – Lawrence A. Johnson – April 6, 2019 In a world where even high culture is increasingly coarsened by banality, vulgarity, and political acrimony, there is, fortunately, always the Newberry Consort. Chicago’s most venerable early music ensemble is closing its season this weekend with “Le Jardin de Melodies”—a program of secular French music of the 16th-century. Friday night’s delightful concert at the Newberry Library displayed the graceful mix of vibrant music-making and lightly-worn scholarship that has made the Consort a favorite of Chicago music connoisseurs for over three decades. The thematic thread for the evening was the populist entertainments created by ménétriers(minstrels) that would be performed for French monarchs in the latter days of the Renaissance. The program offered a generous and varied selection of dances and the chansons a danser inspired by them, as well as some flamboyant polyphonic songs.  Even for aficionados, nearly every composer name featured in the program—save the prolific Anonymous—would likely be terra incognita. But, as always with Newberry’s musicological excavations, the selections were varied, consistently engaging, and performed with fizzing energy and dedication.   Indeed, with celebrated lutenist Paul O’Dette and ten other singers and period instrumentalists joining Newberry co-directors, soprano… Read more “Newberry Consort wraps season with a delightful French Banquet”

Lawrence A. Johnson

In luminous concert, Newberry Consort recalls music of Spanish Jews in Renaissance tumult

In 1492, while Columbus was unveiling a new world far to the west across an uncharted ocean, the Jews were being thrown out of Spain. Those who would not convert to Catholicism were ordered, on pain of death, to leave a land that had been their home for a millennium and a half. This suddenly banished people, compelled to find new lives around the Mediterranean basin and across Europe, took with them, besides their faith and their learning, a long and rich musical tradition nurtured in Spanish soil. The multifaceted musical legacy of the Sephardim – literally Spanish Jews – was the enchanting theme of the Newberry Consort’s first program of the season, heard Nov. 5 at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. If the exhilarating fare provided a reminder of the imagination, brilliance and earthy wit that permeates Sephardic music, it also pointed up the seriousness, vitality and mastery that the Newberry Consort consistently brings to music of the Renaissance and Middle Ages. The wide-ranging program, titled “Sacred Love – Songs of the Sephardim,” was put together by the American-Uruguayan soprano Nell Snaidas, a specialist in Latin American and Spanish Baroque music who also sat in with… Read more “In luminous concert, Newberry Consort recalls music of Spanish Jews in Renaissance tumult”

Lawrence B. Johnson

Review: Consort, Josefowicz seize the musical road less traveled

The mass diaspora that resulted from the infamous edict by Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella (remember them?) in 1492 expelling all Spanish Jews who refused to renounce their faith and convert to Catholicism spread the Ladino tradition of the Sephardic Jews throughout the Mediterranean. These highly evocative songs of the Sephardim later took root in the soil of more hospitable cultures, especially that of the Ottoman Empire, thereby preserving for posterity music that existed only in oral form and would otherwise probably have been lost to history. It was that rich and colorful body of Sephardic songs, dances, ballads and prayers — mingling the cultures of Jews, Christians and Muslims living in coexistence before the expulsion (later to incorporate Middle Eastern musical influences) — that the Newberry Consort celebrated in the first program of its 31st season, heard Sunday afternoon at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. “Sacred Love — Songs of the Sephardim” offered aural rewards of many sorts. The Newberry musicians are masters at making early music feel astonishingly fresh and involving. The nine instrumentalists and singers introduced the audience to compelling little tales of courtship and exile, songs of faith and family, funny… Read more “Review: Consort, Josefowicz seize the musical road less traveled”

John von Rhein

Early Sephardic music proves timeless in Newberry Consort program

Last year marked the Newberry Consort’s 30th anniversary season. The city’s oldest early music ensemble—and the nation’s second oldest—showed no sign of losing momentum as they embarked on their fourth decade of scholarly music-making this weekend with a series of concerts entitled “Sacred Love: Songs of the Sephardim.” Guest curated by soprano Nell Snaidas, Saturday night’s performance at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center was an engaging examination of 16th-century songs that, as always with Newberry, came across as highly relevant to the present day. By way of a prelude the concert opened with “Propiñan” from the Cancionero de La Colombina, a Spanish manuscript containing late fifteenth-century music. During this ominous instrumental prologue, the text of the 1492 Edict of Expulsion—which called for the expulsion of the Jews from Spain—was projected on a screen behind the players. The projections were the work of the astute musicologist Shawn Keener, whose compelling mix of supertitles, translations, and illuminated manuscripts have enormously enhanced past Newberry performances. The rest of the program was organized into sets of songs that explored different aspects of the Sephardic repertoire. The first of these was “The Land of Three Faiths,” referring to the period between the Muslim conquest… Read more “Early Sephardic music proves timeless in Newberry Consort program”

Tim Sawyier

Recommended Chicago-area classical concerts (excerpt)

Newberry Consort: Chicago’s flagship early music ensemble begins its 31st anniversary season with “Sacred Love,” music of faith and longing from Renaissance Spain and the Ladino oral tradition of the Sephardic Jews. 8 p.m. Friday, Galvin Recital Hall, Northwestern University, 70 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston; 8 p.m. Saturday, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St.; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, 610 S. Michigan Ave.; www.newberryconsort.org Read full article

John von Rhein

Newberry Consort to perform early Sephardic music at the Logan Center

The Newberry Consort will kick off its 2017-18 season with the first of a three-part series of concerts. The three themes for this season are: “Sacred Love,” “Forbidden Love,” and “Dangerous Love.” The second performance in the “Sacred Love” series will be held on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. at 8 p.m. “Sacred Love,” the first installment in the series, will focus on the music of Sephardic Jews in Renaissance Spain. The Newberry Consort is one of the premier groups specializing in early music. The group is co-directed by Ellen Hargis and David Douglass. In order to put out an authentic and captivating program, the Consort tapped Nell Snaidas as a guest curator for the first concert. Snaidas is an expert in Sephardic music from this time period. “They had been thinking about doing this kind of a program for quite some time,” Snaidas explained. “She [Hargis] said ‘I know you’re the person to come to for help on this because it’s not something we specialize in.’” Snaidas drew on her knowledge of the Sephardic music tradition to compile the pieces for the concert. However, arranging music from this unique tradition… Read more “Newberry Consort to perform early Sephardic music at the Logan Center”

EVAN HAMIN, Herald Intern

Music of Sephardic Jews comes to Chicago

The Newberry Consort will present the music of the Sephardic Jews in Renaissance Spain at their first concert of the season, taking place Nov. 3 to 5 at Northwestern University in Evanston, the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago and at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. NELL SNAIDAS, SOPRANO Entitled “Sacred Love – Songs of the Sephardim” the program will include traditional songs of the Sephardic Jews at the time when they were exiled from Spain in 1492. The program will be curated by Nell Snaidas, an American-Uruguyan soprano who specializes in Latin American and Spanish Baroque music. Snaidas has selected a wide range of music for the program, including Romances, ballads of love, loss and adventure, endechas (laments), Piyyutim (lyrical embellishments of prayers), and koplas, (strophic festival songs) – all of which will be sung in Ladino, the traditional Castillian language of the Sephardic Jews. Ladino is the ancient language spoken by Sephardic Jews and is still spoken in pockets of the world. “It’s like Yiddish in that it’s a blend of two languages, Spanish and Hebrew,” said Ellen Hargis, co-artistic director of the Newberry Consort. “You don’t always think of Jews as Spanish speaking,… Read more “Music of Sephardic Jews comes to Chicago”

Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News

Newberry Consort closes season with a tribute to a singular Swedish queen

The Newberry Consort enjoys an honored place in Chicago’s musical landscape, pioneering local early music performance on period instruments. The Consort is closing its 30th anniversary season this weekend with a typically offbeat program centered on Queen Christina of Sweden–a patroness of the arts who had a remarkable amount of music either inspired by her or dedicated to her. Friday night’s concert at the Newberry Library’s Ruggles Hall showed the graceful blend of scholarship and superb musical values that have come to characterize the ensemble under married co-directors Ellen Hargis and David Douglass. An informal preconcert talk by the University of Chicago’s Robert Kendrick nicely set Christina’s life in context. The masculine, pants-wearing Swedish queen was an unconventional individual who was as salty, petulant and demanding as she could be kind, generous and spiritual. Claims were made for the mannish Swedish royal as a lesbian or even a hermaphrodite during her lifetime—rumors that can obviously never be proven—but she was undeniably an eccentric and fascinating character. Christina (1626-1689) was orphaned at age 5 when her father King Gustavas II Adolphus was killed in battle, and she ascended to the Swedish throne at age 18. Catholicism was illegal in Lutheran Sweden,… Read more “Newberry Consort closes season with a tribute to a singular Swedish queen”

Lawrence A. Johnson

Review: A diverse and surprising program was devoted to the obscure music of 15th-century Austrian Oswald von Wolkenstein.

By Kyle MacMillan, Submitted by Lawrence B. Johnson While some unexplored or at least under-explored crannies of Baroque, Romantic or even modern composition can still be found, the music of the Middle Ages remains filled with buried treasure. For a set of concerts that ran Jan. 13-15, the ever-intrepid, ever-imaginative Newberry Consort delved into this rich period and hit pay dirt with a transporting and absorbing program devoted entirely to the little-known music of Oswald von Wolkenstein. The early 15th-century bard Oswald von Wolkenstein was a man of many parts. An Austrian soldier, nobleman, diplomat, traveler and avid lover, Oswald (1376-1445) led a fascinating, globetrotting life filled with adventures and misadventures, including imprisonment and even a shipwreck. On top of everything else, he was a gifted poet and composer who wrote forward-looking music that provided a bridge to the subsequent Renaissance era. The Newberry Consort’s artistic leaders pored through more than 130 of his songs, many of which Oswald preserved in two manuscripts, and selected 14 of them for this offering. Outside of some religious odes, such as “Ave Müter Königinne (Hail Queen Mother),” which ended the program, nearly everything that Oswald wrote had an autobiographical bent. That was especially true… Read more “Review: A diverse and surprising program was devoted to the obscure music of 15th-century Austrian Oswald von Wolkenstein.”

Kyle MacMillan

Review: Newberry Consort pays homage to the versatile Count von Wolkenstein

Sat Jan 14, 2017 at 1:49 pm By Tim Sawyier The Newberry Consort performed music of Count von Wolkenstein Friday night at the Newberry Library. The Newberry Consort presented the second program of their 30th anniversary season Friday night at the Newberry Library’s Ruggles Hall. Entitled “The Count,” the concert was devoted to music of Count Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376-1445), a peripatetic nobleman with the singular pastime of recording his personal exploits and musings in song. The performance successfully overcame the surface uniformity of Wolkenstein’s output, and was overall a compelling and expertly executed examination of his oeuvre. The Consort opened with the first verse of Wolkenstein’s autobiographical “Es fügt sich, da ich was von zehen jaren alt,” and four further verses punctuated the rest of the program. These covered such topics as the hardships Wolkenstein encountered upon leaving home, the places he visited, the languages he spoke, the instruments he played, and his time as a wandering monk. All these were sung exquisitely by countertenor Drew Minter, whose emphatic, bardic delivery made for evocative storytelling.  The Consort represented Wolkenstein’s bawdier side with selections such as “Frölich geschrai so well wir machen, lachen” and “Simm Gredlin,” the content of which bordered… Read more “Review: Newberry Consort pays homage to the versatile Count von Wolkenstein”

Tim Sawyier

Evening of scholarly clowning opens 30th year for early-music masters the Newberry Consort

Newberry Consort playing Elizabethan-era theatrical jigs, with Steve Player as the Shakespearean entertainer Jack Kemp, here with actress Ellen Hargis "The wife" on Friday. (Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune)

Review: A program of bawdy Elizabethan amusements performed by the Newberry Consort and period comedian Steven Player. By Lawrence B. Johnson For the perennially devoted followers of the Newberry Consort, which this season celebrates its 30th anniversary of presenting concerts of music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, the concert experience is a beguiling paradox: entertainment that’s very old and yet at the same time quite new. “For us, and we believe for our audience, this music is essentially about the thrill of exploring,” says Ellen Hargis, the Newberry Consort’s co-artistic director. “There’s something really exciting about listening to music with fresh ears, without expectation.   “I like seeing something I know as much as the next person. But going back into cultural history changes your world view. It’s not just about music. We have no aural history of this music, so we must glean information from the broader picture. We look at the poetry to understand how the music is constructed, and by replicating the instruments we gain some insight into how the music must have sounded. That’s what I find so interesting – these interrelated parts, this universe of rich possibilities.” Yet, while Hargis and her fellow performers… Read more “Evening of scholarly clowning opens 30th year for early-music masters the Newberry Consort”

Lawrence B. Johnson

Newberry Consort opens 30th season with delightful “stage jigs”

Tim Sawyier – Chicago Classical Review above – Steven Player performed in the Newberry Consort’s season-opening program Friday night at Ruggles Hall. Friday night in Ruggles Hall the Newberry Library hosted the opening performance of its eponymous Consort’s 30th anniversary season. The program, entitled “The Clown: Kemp’s Jig,” compellingly explored late 16- and early 17-century stage jigs as part of the Library’s commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this year. A “stage jig” is not an isolated dance but a full musical tableau with singing, dancing, and acting all interwoven. Performances of such works—“skits” as artistic directors David Douglass and Ellen Hargis called them in their illuminating program note—often followed productions of Shakespeare’s plays, and the professional clowns of acting troupes were usually responsible for putting together these humorous palate cleansers. William Kemp was one such clown who performed in Shakespeare’s company, and the evening opened with the Consort playing the tune Kemp’s Jig while taking the stage with the cast of singer-dancer-actors assembled for the evening. Headlining the latter group was guest Steven Player, an authority on Renaissance and baroque dance who created the program’s distinguished choreography. He took advantage of the new cabaret-seating arrangement in Ruggles Hall by circulating through… Read more “Newberry Consort opens 30th season with delightful “stage jigs””

Tim Sawyier
Chicago Classical Review

Newberry Consort sings the bawdy electric in spirited season opener

Newberry Consort playing Elizabethan-era theatrical jigs, with Steve Player as the Shakespearean entertainer Jack Kemp, here with actress Ellen Hargis "The wife" on Friday. (Brian Jackson / Chicago Tribune)

Early music groups come and go in Chicago, but the ensemble that started it all continues to thrive, setting an example of artistic integrity and sound management for the groups that have followed in its wake. Having survived a serious funding crisis in 1997 and the retirement of founder Mary Springfels, the Newberry Consort soldiered on, wisely staying small, flexible and true to its musical mission, dusting off forgotten but worthwhile preclassical instrumental and vocal works and presenting them in a fresh, invigorating manner. Without current co-directors David Douglass and his wife, soprano Ellen Hargis, and their equally committed colleagues, setting the bar high, Chicago’s early music scene would be a far less vital affair. For certain, Chicago would not be the Midwestern hub of historically informed early music performance it is today: We now have audiences and funders supporting a wide range of activity. The Newberry Consort launched its 30th anniversary season over the weekend by doing what it is known for, building a well-researched program around a nearly forgotten body of works. In this case, the audience was given a rare glimpse into the street theater tradition of Elizabethan England, timed to coincide with the Shakespeare anniversary year.… Read more “Newberry Consort sings the bawdy electric in spirited season opener”

John von Rhein, Contact Reporter

NEWBERRY CONSORT REVEALS SOARING MUSIC FROM MEXICAN CHOIR BOOKS

The Newberry Consort is completing its season this weekend by returning to the Newberry Library’s collection of choir books from the Convent of Our Lady of the Incarnation in Mexico City for a program of vespers music by Mexican Baroque composer Juan de Lienas. To say he is little-known is an understatement. Beyond the Newberry choirbooks, his music is found in only one other Mexican source, and no facts have emerged about his life. Apart from the music — an impressive collection of antiphons, motets and psalm settings for two or more choirs — all we have are some nasty epithets and a caricatured portrait drawing. But as an ensemble of 10 female voices and four instruments strikingly demonstrated Friday night at St. Clement Catholic Church, the shimmering, occasionally soaring music was enough, especially when so thoughtfully assembled and presented in a visually and acoustically satisfying setting. Research indicated that women alone performed music at the convent, singing the low parts, transposing them higher or playing them on a viola da gamba or bassoon. On Friday the ensemble did all three, and director Ellen Hargis chose pieces of such diverse character as to provide a fabric alternately pale and colorful,… Read more “NEWBERRY CONSORT REVEALS SOARING MUSIC FROM MEXICAN CHOIR BOOKS”

Alan Artner
freelance critic

A SPLENDID EVENING WITH THE NEWBERRY CONSORT

Lots of concerts are presented under an umbrella title that attempts to both accurately describe the links among the various works performed and offers an appealing concept to the public. But usually the concept is over-broad (“Love and War”) with the music unable to effectively support the dramatic idea. The Newberry Consort, on the other hand, offered a concept concert here in Hyde Park Saturday night at the Logan Center which was an entertaining story told in instrumental music, solo and ensemble singing, and spoken voice, all enhanced with projected visuals and translations. The concert was not only marvelous but had admirable focus. It’s no surprise that their performance of “Le Roman de Fauvel” fit together so well. It was drawn from manuscripts compiled in the early 1300s all concerned with a single idea: the tale of Fauvel (as told in a poetic parable by Gervais du Bus) with numerous musical works and color illustrations. All these things together told the story of a horse who represented the worst in man: greed, corruption, envy, cowardice and the like. The character of Fauvel was inspired by a corrupt official in the court of Philip the Fair, King of France. The concert,… Read more “A SPLENDID EVENING WITH THE NEWBERRY CONSORT”

M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

Newberry Consort brings scholarship and horse sense to delightful “Le roman de Fauvel”

The Newberry Consort brought the medieval Le Roman de Fauvel (“The Tale of Fauvel”) to life in a stellar production at the Logan Center for the Arts on Saturday night. The evening’s fourteenth-century romp was a showcase of rarified musicianship, meticulous scholarship, and humor running the gamut from genteel to obscene. Le Roman de Fauvel, something of a morality play, has come down to us in a fourteenth-century manuscript housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The title character is a horse, whose name is an acronym of the vices he embodies—flattery, avarice, variety, vanity, envy, and cowardice (lâcheté in French). Fauvel achieves an undefined position of power through the graces of Lady Fortune, and rules over a society of morally bankrupt sycophants. When Fauvel attempts to consolidate his ascendancy through marriage to Lady Fortune, she pawns him off on Lady Vainglory, and those two produce a brood of hapless offspring that disperse across France—a cautionary tale about the union of too many vices. The occasion for the work’s performance was the medieval January Feast of Fools, essentially a protracted carnivalesque affair where social order is playfully turned on its head. At Saturday’s concert, after the performers marched on stage… Read more “Newberry Consort brings scholarship and horse sense to delightful “Le roman de Fauvel””

Chicago Classical Review

Ten New Classical Albums

Featuring Chicago Talent 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!

John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune

The Newberry Consort Unveils Rare Spanish Treasures for BEMF

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… Read more “The Newberry Consort Unveils Rare Spanish Treasures for BEMF”

Boston Classical Review

Newberry Consort full of spirit, polish with program of rediscoveries

Two decades ago this month the Newberry Consort was among the first historically informed performing groups in the United States to revive the music of Baroque composer Johann Rosenmuller. But some artists successful in their own time nonetheless require periodic revival thereafter, and as consort co-director David Douglass said at Friday night’s concert opening the season at Newberry Library, “Rosenmuller is rediscovered every five years.” The all-Rosenmuller program drew heavily on the group’s 1995 compact disc, presenting five selections from an early dance suite written for students in Leipzig plus four sonatas and four vocal works from his maturity in Venice. The performances, spirited as well as polished, again went far to confirm Douglass’ assertion that Rosenmuller was “one of the greatest Baroque composers you’ve never heard.” The sonatas for two, three, four and five instruments proved a special pleasure. At their heart is a kind of fugal writing rich in melody. Episodes both dour and lively form a rapidly changing stream of string color marked by many antiphonal effects and dramatic pauses. The fabric achieved particular sumptuousness owing to the sounds of a bass violin, theorbo and the consort’s new Roland Digital Organ, which with unwavering pitch samples an… Read more “Newberry Consort full of spirit, polish with program of rediscoveries”

Alan Artner, freelance critic
Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Smooth control of the phrasing and fine communication with the singers, effects that seemed to lay each song in a feathery bed of accompaniment

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… Read more “Smooth control of the phrasing and fine communication with the singers, effects that seemed to lay each song in a feathery bed of accompaniment”

Boston Classical Review

Sounds of autumn: A 2014 music preview

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.

M.L. RANTALA, Classical Music Critic
Hyde Park Herald

Newberry Consort’s Singing Nuns

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,… Read more “Newberry Consort’s Singing Nuns”

John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: Review Feast of the Pheasant

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, 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… Read more “Chicago Tribune: Review Feast of the Pheasant”

Alan G. Artner, Special to the Tribune
Chicago Tribune

Feast of the Pheasant

“…spiritedly played and sung… early music at its committed best.”

Alan Artner
The Chicago Tribune

Early Music America – Fall 2013

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,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.

“Celestial Sirens” at the Church of the Covenant

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 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. The organ is still being adjusted, but from what I heard, it has a lively delicacy that suits both early solo music and the accompaniment of singers. Boston-based organist Frances Fitch played it to great effect.Oberlin’s James Christie will perform a dedicatory recital on Sunday afternoon, May 12, where no doubt the full range of the organ will be revealed. The singers were the esteemed Newberry Consort, based in Chicago and directed by the excellent early music vocalist and CWRU faculty member Ellen Hargis. In this concert, eight accomplished singers — many of them Clevelanders — took on the roles of nuns from the Renaissance, singing music… Read more ““Celestial Sirens” at the Church of the Covenant”

Nicholas Jones
ClevelandClassical.com

‘Cantigas’ Bloom Like Roses at Boston Festival

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. The Cantigas de Santa Maria consists of 420 poems set to music, attributed to Alfonso X, King of Castile, Leon, and Galicia during the 13th century. Alfonso was known as El Sabio, “The Wise,” and was not only a great political leader but also one of the finest scholars of his age, learned in all aspects of his world including poetry and music. His treatise on law became one of the guides for our nation’s founders, and he wrote an extensive history of Spain. These works, and the Cantigas, were unique to the age as the first major scholarly works written in the vernacular, rather than Latin. Whether he directly wrote all of these poems and set them to music, or whether he supervised their assembly, he very likely contributed a major amount. And that actually has little bearing on the fact that these are uncommonly beautiful works, particularly in the hands –… Read more “‘Cantigas’ Bloom Like Roses at Boston Festival”

Ken Keaton