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Baltimore Consort resonates with its audience 

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  • Baltimore Consort

Sunday's fourth Indianapolis Early Music concert struck gold. Perhaps anticipating the music and performing caliber of the 34-year-old Baltimore Consort ensemble--a master of the "pop" music style from the late Renaissance to much, much later--the audience filled the IHC's Basile Theater to the brim.

They were provided with "entertainment" of the highest order: five instrumentalists and one soprano melding together to play and sing music first making the rounds of the 16th and 17th-century British Isles, then often crossing over to the New World, where it took root in Appalachia and other east coastal areas.

Mark Cudek, IEM's artistic director, is also the cittern player in the consort (and a Baltimore resident), so that his duties were twofold. But treble and bass viol player Mary Anne Ballard made Cudek's job easier by doing much of the discussing prior to each set. The remaining performers were bass viol, recorder and crumhorn player Larry Lipkis; flutist, fife and bagpipe player Mindy Rosenfeld; lutenist Robert McFarlane; and finally soprano Danielle Svonavek.

The music our group acquired for the concert mostly did not come from individual composers, but rather from collections extant during that period -- to which they added bass lines and other embellishments with the best combination of scholarship and panache. For example, the first collection was "Pills to Purge Melancholy." Some of the "set" names were "The 'Scotch Humour' in England," "Dance Tunes Need no Passport" and "In the Ears of Shakespeare."

Though all the selections ignited sparks with all of us, space precludes mentioning them all, so I'll pick what I thought were the outstanding ones: 1). "Lord Ronald"- sung a cappela (no instruments) by Svonavec, her pure "white" vocalism perfect for this repertoire, 2). "Gypsen Davy" - also sung but with some very lively support by McFarlane's lute and Cudek's cittern, 3). Two pieces in the set, "The Post-Renaissance Lute" played and written (in 1997) by McFarlane for solo lute--the first a takeoff on "Dowland's Goodnight" and the second his own "Gigue." One could have easily thought they both came from that early period.

It was the best, most enjoyable early music concert I've attended in quite a while. June 29; Indiana History Center

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