Review by Judith Caldwell
Hammer Baroque presented a short delightful concert to wrap up their current season called The Paradise of Travelers. The 17th century title obviously refers to a time period well before the modern cramped economy class seats which take the paradise out of travelling.
The program consisted of madrigals, motets and canzonettas and included readings of the recollections of English travelers through Italy. Apparently the English were the most obnoxious travelers of their time – thoroughly convinced of the superiority of all things English and the quaintness of all other cultures.
All the sets were read and sung by Capella Intima consisting of: Sheila Dietrich, soprano; Jennifer Enns Modolo, alto; Bud Roach, tenor and Artistic Director, and David Roth, baritone.
Each reading of a recollection was followed by a song. One female English traveler said that she thought the Italians were the handsomest of men with the most excellent hair. Most travelers agreed that the Italians were courteous to strangers, even though the State forbade them to speak to foreigners.
The Venetian women were hampered by extremely high wooden shoes which made walking noisy and forced them to rely on assistance to move around. All the travelers agreed that the country was beautiful. The songs were representative of very popular music of the time although the music is rarely heard today. It ranged from sacred music to love songs to cheerful songs about death and joy in the after life.
The music was gorgeous and beautifully presented with just Roach on guitar as accompaniment. Even though the music was unfamiliar to most of the audience, it was presented with such enthusiasm and fun, that the experience was welcoming, not distant. The audience enjoyed the oddity of hearing a very upbeat song about the perils of bad company; a cheerful song about death; and a glorious Soli Deo Gloria.
The concert ended on a fun note with Canzon de Contadini, which the singers obviously enjoyed. Knowledgeable audience members were heard to comment on the amount of musical scholarship which had gone into the concert. In the 17th century, the church or court, paid for most of the music. Now we have the Ontario Arts Council to thank for spending our tax dollars so wisely on concerts like this. Hammer Baroque will begin their 2016/2017 season in September.