Rock Stars post-concert reflections

rockstars-web-graphic-300pxby CRSP journalist, Kenzie Love

The Calgary Renaissance Singers and Players marked the successful conclusion of another season with “Rock Stars of the Italian Renaissance,” performed April 12, 2014. Artistic Director Jane Perry praised choristers for their engagement in the music, lauding the performance as a milestone in her three-year tenure with the CRSP.

“This was the best concert we’ve done together since they hired me as a conductor,” said Perry, “and it was really gratifying to see them looking up, see them having fun, see them feeling confident about their music. And that translated into the sound, I thought.”

Choristers echoed Perry’s assessment.

“I think that we’re getting better at following Jane because she’s a very precise conductor,” said soprano Marcia Epstein, adding: “She’s wonderful to follow. Her whole face, her whole body gets into the conducting.”

Alto Brandis Purcell agreed preparing for the concert was lots of work, but made for “a real feeling of accomplishment.”

Palestrina presents a mass to Pope Julius III

Palestrina presents a mass to Pope Julius III (Wikimedia Commons)

“For me as a chorister, it was fun,” she said. “I love Palestrina, absolutely love Palestrina. He is the rock star, I think, of the Renaissance. Anything by him is a delight to sing, especially when you’re singing together. It makes you feel like part of a whole.”

Indeed, the concert was a collaborative effort from start to finish, with choristers suggesting many of the featured songs. Epstein wore two hats, composing and performing in a new madrigal, “Dopo la pioggia,” while soprano Racheal Cogan both sang and played the recorder in her debut concert with the choir. A small group of choristers also danced to Gastoldi’s “Amor Vittorioso.”

“It really took a village to put this concert together,” said Perry.

Following last winter’s “The English Invasion of the Sixties… the 1560s!” the concert continued the CRSP’s recent efforts to attract a broader audience with themes such as “Rock Stars of the Renaissance” and “Renaissance Meets Jazz.”

The coming season, in turn, will celebrate music of the last 50 years inspired by the spirit of the Renaissance.

“I’m always looking for new angles that might bring in people who otherwise would never come to a concert of Renaissance music,” said Perry. “I think a lot of people when they think of music of the Renaissance, they think of it as being stuffy and too intellectual and not accessible at all.”

“Rock stars of the Italian Renaissance,” however, showcased a more lighthearted side, even with serious works such as the Tu Es Petrus mass (the title a play on the Latin word for both “Peter” and “rock”). The concert also featured some “naughty” pieces such as Orlando di Lasso’s “Tutto lo di” in which a man bluntly tells his lover “I’d like you to be beneath me.”

“I liked the naughty ones too,” said Purcell. “When you consider having a mass and naughty songs together in the same program… But if there is a God, she created us as human beings in all of our many facets.”

While the choir’s twists on traditional Renaissance music have sought to appeal to the broader community, Perry says longtime fans have also appreciated the change of pace.

“I guess part of my programming ideas are to try to keep our regular members on their toes as well. Present things they know in different ways and in different contexts just to keep it fresh. And I think that’s part of the Renaissance ideal as well, trying new things, trying old things in new ways.”

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