Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Festival Music Society of Indiana opened its 2016 series of Indianapolis Early Music concerts to a packed Basile Theater, featuring an always welcome return of five Baltimore Consort members. Among these include FMS artistic director Mark Cudek (SOOdeck), who plays several Baroque-period stringed instruments. The Consort performed music in sets, written and grouped each for eight of Shakespeare's plays. The addition of Indiana Repertory Theatre actors Millicent Wright and Rob Johansen made the concert something of a presentation.
The first set drew four pieces written for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, specifically act 1 scene 2. The composers included Thomas Morley (1557-1602) and Jean d-Estrèe (dates unknown). Such pieces as "O Mistresse Mine" and "Peg a Ramsey" typified the "olde" English offerings, the former all instrumental and the latter sung by soprano Danielle Svonavec, with vocalism often nearly white, in keeping with 16th/17th century practice.
Act 2 scene 3 of Twelfth Night formed the next set. Here "O Mistresse Mine" was repeated. This time Svonavec added vocals to the piece. Act 4 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet ensued. "Lady Carey's Dump" stood out as one of the better instrumental offerings, with Mindy Rosenfeld dominating on her flute, accompanied by Ronn McFarlane, lutenist.
A soliloquy by Johansen introduced the fifth set, written to accompany 2 Henry IV, act 3 scene 2. "The Carman's Whistle," featuring Svonavec and all five players, brought the concert's first half to a rousing close.
Following the break, four nuggets written for Hamlet, act 5 scene 1, included John Dowland's "Tarleton's Riserrectione," the first slow, wistful piece of the evening, and the Gravedigger song: "In Youth When I Did Love." Svonavec sang the latter a capella with the IRT actors intruding at the end.
In Tempest act 1 scene 2, Johansen, moving down the right aisle while soliloquizing, was seemingly interrupted by a ringing smart phone in the audience. Without losing a beat, the actor incorporated the interruption into his speech, "exunting" at the stair bottom and referencing the "display." Could it have been a plant? I do not know.
The final set drew from A Midsummer Night's Dream "Fairie Rounde" (1599) by Anthony Holborne and "Mad, Merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow" (1625) by Ben Johnson, the Goodfellow name being better known as Puck.
Friday's appearance of the Baltimore Consort proved to be a grand celebration of the FMS's 50th anniversary. June 17