Last fall I made it a goal to try out as many classical music ensembles as I could afford this season. I was already set for the Columbus and Westerville symphonies as I’d already bought tickets, but I was hoping to try out some new (to me) ensembles as well, such as the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Columbus and Early Music in Columbus. On the events calendar for Early Music in Columbus was a Twelfth Night concert by Early Interval, a locally based early music ensemble that both sings and plays on a variety of period instruments.
The Twelfth Night is probably best known by patrons of the arts as a comedic play by William Shakespeare, one that was referenced at the end of the movie Shakespeare in Love.
O, had I but followed the arts!
– Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare
In the case of this event, Twelfth Night is usually referred to as the evening before Epiphany, i.e. the 12th day of Christmas. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Twelfth Night is:
The evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking.
And because it was something often celebrated, a Twelfth Night concert was performed by Early Interval. Performed in the gorgeous 1st Congregational Church in downtown Columbus, these talented musicians took us on a journey from France to Italy to Spain to northern Africa and what wonderful music they played!
And this is just what it looked like behind us! The stained glass was just beautiful. What a venue! Of course, being short, I was at the mercy of the guy in front of me to lean one way or the other. (Apparently he liked variety as he kept shifting throughout the concert. At least I could hear everything!)
The concert itself was wondrous in the it introduced us to a variety of new (ok, old) instruments, such as the vielle, crumhorn, rebec and nakers. Probably not the best descriptions, but a vielle is a precursor to the violin (sort of an elongated violin of sorts). A crumhorn is a double reed instrument that looks a bit like a shortened, upside down cane. A rebec is a stringed instrument that slightly resembles a thinner lute, but is played with a bow. Finally, nakers are a kind of percussion instrument, more or less a small pair of drums that sit in the player’s lap while played.
There were other fun and unusual (to our time period) instruments as well such as a chang, darabuka, medieval lutes, chitarone, and a variety of recorders that were played for us.
Early Interval has been performing in and around Ohio since the late 1970s. On the instruments were founding members Ron Cook and Janice Cook; Jim Bates, Sean Ferguson, Lyz Liddell. Tamara Seckel was a soprano who sang the majority of the solos throughout.
The concert began in France and started with some medieval cup bells, but progressed to a vocal piece for which all the musicians sang. In addition to playing a variety of instruments, each musician had a chance to put their vocal talents on display for us. From there it moved on to Italy where I especially enjoyed the Passacalle by Andrea Falconieri (an instrumental piece) and La Lavandara by an anonymous Italian composer.
In the second half of the program, we moved to Spain for some fabulous music such as Alta Danza by Francisco de la tore, Marsella / Marcellas by an anonymous Spanish composer and O regem caeli by Tomas Luis de Victoria – a gorgeous vocal piece in which Ms. Seckel showed such amazing vocal control. It was beautiful. From there we moved on to the music of medieval northern Africa in which traditional Arabic pieces of music were played – such as Taqsim en Maqam Hijaz Kar, Taqsim en Maqam Bayati Usayran and Longa Ussaq. The last piece had a great beat to it!
The music of Spain and Northern Africa ended up being my favorites, so I’m glad they were saved for the second half of the program!
Finally, as is tradition for Early Interval, the concert ended with the Gloucestershire Wassail which allowed everyone – including the audience – to sing along in a celebratory song for the Twelfth Night.
What a wonderful concert. I hope to be able to hear them perform again as I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their music.
If you’d like to enjoy some of the Early Interval’s music, you should check out their Mediterranean Twelfth Night Celebration CD available on CDBaby.com. Check out the music samples. It’s different – you’ll like it!