Utrecht Early Music Festival 2016 part 10: A Dialogue on a Kiss

After three fabulous concerts, there was a choice between recorders or more songs and lute music. I opted for the fabulous fringe concert at the Pieterskerk. The concert was titled “Tis now dead night” and concentrated on lute songs by Thomas Campion, Coprario and others. A concert closer to last year’s theme of “England, my England”, than to “La Serenissima” and Venetian music.

20160828 Venetian Portraits 005The Pieterskerk may have good acoustics, the large church was not totally suited to a concert of a lute and soprano. The previous two concerts with two instruments and soprano had taken place in smaller venues. These do suit such combinations better.

If the selected pieces were very English, the subtitle of the concert “Lute songs by Dowland, Coprario and Campion” was a bit off the mark. Or as someone sitting behind me remarked disappointedly: “Huh, there’s only one song by Dowland!”

Sitting slightly towards the back of the church, my seat was too far away from the stage to see anything. What did not help either, was me being only able to distinctly hear the first few words of each song. I was not the only one having problems.

Even before the first section of songs, from a total of four sections, had been performed, public started to leave the church. A trickle of people filing out continued during the second part, but then this fortunately stopped. Perhaps, roughly half way through this concert, many decided like me, to sit things out rather than leave. After all: one can not easily hop from half a concert to another venue and concert in another part of town. Especially, when the concerts last about an hour.

The musicians were probably unaware of what happened and it was not dramatic, as most of the public remained seated. Yet it was telling. Like me, more audience members may have regretted opting for this concert, instead of attending say the fringe concert by a group of recorder players.

Becoming part of the fabulous fringe is a distinction. There is supposed to be a clear difference in quality between fringe concerts and fabulous fringe ones. However, if belonging to the fabulous fringe group leads to having to perform in a venue where one’s ringing voice is heard but the words of songs not; and the sound of the accompanying lute barely …

Perhaps this concert should have taken place in say the Herz hall of Tivoli-Vredenburg. This concert by “A Dialogue on a Kiss” seemed an example of how a venue and acoustics can make or break a performance.

The ensemble’s name derives from a song by Henry Lawes and it consists of Michal Bitan and Earl Christy. They started their concert with “Tis now dead night” by John Coprari and Thomas Campion. All the works by John Coprari (or John Cooper) and Thomas Campion came from the “Songs of Mourning: Bewailing the untimely death of Prince Henry”. The difference between the Italian songs of the morning and afternoon fringe concerts certainly became clear. The English songs were gloomier, suitable for funerals, slightly depressing.

What did not help jog things along, was the insistence of the majority of the public to clap after practically every song. It is a phenomenon one witnesses at nearly all fringe concerts. It can become rather irritating, both for performing musicians and members of the public.

Alice Borciani, soprano of Il Bell’ Humore cleverly tried to put a stop to it during the previous concert, by telling the public the ensemble was going to perform their last few songs, then pointed out the public could vote if they liked the concert, and that there was a hat to fill after the concert. As she brought all this in a humorous and pleasant manner, the public refrained from applauding till the very end of Il Bell’Humore’s concert. Michal Bitan and Earl Christy did not interact with their audience in a similar diplomatic manner. It ensured this concert took rather longer than anticipated.

A Dialogue on a Kiss:

Michal Bitan soprano
Earl Christy lute

Music performed included:

John Coprari/Thomas Campion : ‘Tis now dead night
Robert Johnson: Adieu, fond love;
John Coprari/Thomas Campion: O Griefe, Fortune and Glory;
William Corkine: If streams of tears;
Eustache du Caurroy: Fantasy;
John Coprari/Thomas Campion: When pale famine;
John Danyel: Can doleful notes; oh let chromatique tunes; uncertain certain tunes;
René Saman: Courante;
John Coprario/Thomas Campion: So parted you;
John Danyel: Eyes look no more;
John Coprario/Thomas Campion: O poore distracted world, How like a golden dream;
John Dowland: Time stands still;
Thomas Campion: Never weather-beaten sail

Youtube A Dialogue on a Kiss performing work by Thomas Campion

 

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