Gleeful Purcell: hypothetical & unpretentious

Dido forgive me, but I had such a good time.

Tonight’s concert at Trinity St Paul’s Centre felt like an experimental combination of elements, and when I say that I mean it in a good way.  I like ambition, I like new perspectives & different approaches to works I’ve known a long time.

Tenor Bud Roach

Bud Roach’s group Capella Intima—without a guitar in sight—collaborated with Gallery Players of Niagara on a program combining Purcell’s best known opera —Dido and Aeneas–with shorter works by Purcell and at least a few light pieces you might never expect to find on such a program.

“The Longitude” by Benjamin Cooke is a “glee”, a multi-part song.  While originally they were sung by men we don’t have to be held back by such rules in the 21st century.  Hearing this I suddenly understand the attraction of glee-clubs.  Here are the lyrics, attributed to Jonathan Swift (and don’t be upset if it makes no sense, as there’s a story to explain it all):

The longitude: Missed on by wicked Will Whiston,
And not better hit on by good Master Ditton.
So Ditton and Whiston may both be bepissed on,
And Whiston and Ditton may both be beshit on.
Sing Ditton beshit on, and Whiston bepissed on.
Sing Ditton and Whiston, and Whiston and Ditton,
Beshit and bepissed on, bepissed and beshit on.

This was on the same program with two pieces from Purcell’s birthday ode for Queen Mary (“Sound the trumpet” and “Strike the viol”) Come, Ye Sons of Art.  Instead of counter-tenors we heard male voices, which actually made for an interesting effect (better? not sure… but a worthwhile experiment) when singing of and for once emulating the trumpet’s sound.

I’m reminded of the simplicity of Roach’s CDs in presenting Italian songs with guitar.  There’s a brashness there and again tonight in the willingness to combine these disparate materials.  It feels as though disciplines are being combined, in the meeting of something popular and something classical.  I may have mis-spoken in what I posted yesterday writing about the CD Dowland in Dublin, by La Nef & Michael Slattery, calling them inter-disciplinary, when in fact what I felt was the energy of crossover.  That’s clear to me tonight, in the way Roach comes at Purcell.  I’m disoriented by him because he can sing baroque (and play it too if his guitar is available) yet has the unpretentious approach of a pop singer.  He has none of the stodginess one sometimes encounters in classical music, perhaps because he’s having so much fun.  The fun was certainly contagious in some of the scenes of the opera, particularly when Roach’s Sorcerer took the stage.

As he explained the project to us, it was in the meeting of the two organizations (Gallery Players and Capella Intima) that the magic –whether we want to think of it as crossover or unpretentiousness—happened.  The original proposition, which was somewhat outside Roach’s usual comfort zone, was to present a well-known opera, namely Purcell‘ s Dido and Aeneas.  That was the second half of the program, with the first half an eclectic mix of instrumentals and vocals.

No wonder that the miniature concert version of Dido and Aeneas that followed felt so fresh.  Five vocalists undertook all parts, Jennifer Enns Modolo a very direct and eloquent Dido, David Roth a suavely understated Aeneas, Emily Klassen & Sheila Dietrich both brilliant at times, and Roach as an over-the- top sorcerer & sailor.  I’m still humming inside from so much lovely sound throbbing in the Trinity St Paul’s warm acoustic.  The five Gallery players –Rona Goldensher & Julie Baumgartel, violins, Brendan Chui, viola, Margaret Gay, cello and Borys Medicky harpsichord– made a wonderful sound, whether playing, singing or acting as extra chorus members.  There were no hard and fast rules, yet the musicianship was extraordinary in the retelling of a familiar story

The program is to be repeated this weekend, Saturday in Hamilton and Sunday in St Catharines.

This entry was posted in Music and musicology, Opera, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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