On Saturday, December 22, at 8pm Madregalia presented a Christmas concert featuring polyphonic choral Christmas music, including “This is the Record of John” by Orlando Gibbons, along with two double choir pieces, Hodie Christus natus est by Giovanni Gabrieli and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland by Michael Praetorius, as well as two Latin American pieces from the 1600’s, among others. The Pastyme Consort consists of such antique instruments as violas da gamba and violins, recorders and harpsichord, and special guests playing Renaissance drums, dulcian (an early bassoon), and well-known local traditional Jalisco harpist, William Faulkner.Music Director Jeff DeMarco started the program by introducing some of the instruments we were to hear during the concert. Although sackbuts and lutes were absent, we saw a variety of gambas, recorders, a spinet harpsichord, a dulcian, plus a renaissance type of harp and drum. DeMarco told us that gambas were the most common musical instruments found in families from the medieval to the Baroque era, although I had always thought that distinction belonged to members of the lute family. However, since I am one of the misguided creatures who prefers the “truly expressive” music of the 19th century, I defer to Mr. DeMarco’s more extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for music from the medieval to Baroque eras.
There was an informality about the performances during the first half of the program, and sometimes we were not sure whether we were hearing a performance or a rehearsal. However, as the program progressed from the medieval to the renaissance, the quality of the performances took on an ever-increasing polish, refinement and passion. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland and Hodie Christus natus est came across as deeply moving works and introduced us to outstanding performances by soprano Jody Lee, alto Laura Frank, tenor Mark Stevens and bass Frank Raab.
Similarly very moving was Verbum caro factum est by Heinrich Schütz, again with a fine performance by soprano Jody Lee with a violin obligato by Jacqueline Pierce and harpsichord continuo by MaryClare Martin. The most surprising work on the evening’s program was Convidando está la noche, a constantly unfolding variety of carols and dances with ingenious vocal and instrumental effects. This was at various moments entertaining and serious.
Madregalia is very much the vision and enthusiasm of its creator, Jeff Demarco. He loves and lives this music, and he manages to accomplish precisely what a music director should accomplish — to inspire music making by amateurs and professionals in our community. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to retreat back into my comfort zone of the “Truly expressive” music of the 19th century.
However, I will be looking forward to hearing the next performance by Madregalia, Musick of Sundrie Kinds, on June 1, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church in Monterey.