Newberry Consort artists-in-residence David Douglass and Ellen Hargis worked through more material from the Howard Mayer Brown collection at the Newberry Library this year, and toured with the wild Renaissance band Piffaro!, singling out music for Carnival in several concerts. This theme underscored their musical plan for the Early Music Ensemble as well, as the two directors led the group in a celebration of carnival-inspired Venetian music from the 16th and 17th centuries. The concert program included songs and dances by Gastoldi, Rossi and da Nola, and excerpts from Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnso, performed on recorders, viols, voices, lute and drum. The Early Music Ensemble performed with original instruments and historically-informed practices, including reading music from original notation in part-books, applying ficta, and creating new text underlay for strophic songs. Remarkably, as some audience members commented following the May 5th concert, it would be difficult to discern aurally when the group reads from modern vs. original notation, given the incredible sprezzatura of the performers.
Having started as a workshop several years ago, the Early Music Ensemble has grown into a performing group for amateurs and professionals alike, twenty members strong, with a variety of guest artists working with the ensemble along the way. Melissa Reilly sends a fond farewell to the ensemble as she steps down from her role as Early Music Coordinator at the end of the Spring Quarter to research abroad next year, but is content that the Early Music Ensemble will continue to fill a unique niche in the university’s performance community.