Early Music Festival Program No. 3 

Piffaro, the Renaissance Band

Indiana History Center; July 9

3.5 stars

Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn — who was beheaded for failing to produce a "male" heir. Their daughter became Queen Elizabeth I — the "virgin" queen — who ruled for 45 years, producing a flowering of the arts in England, including music (the irony would have been lost on Henry). However, virginity was hardly on the minds of the English song-writers of the late 16th century, as any examination of typical lyrics would testify. Piffaro, a primarily instrumental group-of-seven, failed to give us much of that flavor as Grant Herreid supplied us with few vocals. The group's examination of Elizabethan instrumentals was, however, rewarding. Lutes, shawms (the oboe's forerunner), recorders, sackbuts (the trombone's forerunner), bagpipes and crumhorns (gratefully a forerunner of nothing) were displayed and played in abundance, each player at home on most of these instruments. English composers Robert Parsons, Robert Jones, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Thomas Weelkes and the ubiquitous Anonymous, along with Piffaro's own "adjustments," were featured. Daphna Mor provided one of the concert's biggest highlights with Robert Johnson's "Masking Ayre: The Nobleman," in which she dazzled on a soprano recorder. Correspondingly, Joan Kimball showed astonishing virtuosity on the — of all instruments — bagpipe, in another masking ayre, "Cupararee." A humorous paean to tobacco, "The Indian Weed is Withered Quite," featured singer Herreid, accompanied by three crumhorns, their nasal timbres a perfect cautionary against smoking. Though the Piffaro players were quite accomplished, I would have preferred more Elizabethan singing


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