Friday's opening Early Music Festival concert occurred at a trial venue: the Grand Hall in the almost-brand-new Indiana Landmarks Center. Musica Pacifica launched the summer series -- now beginning its 48th straight season, America's longest-running uninterrupted early music series. IEM artistic director Mark Cudek (SOOdek) was there to meet and greet us, and to describe, along with some of the players, this wholly professional group's Baroque-period instruments.
"Dancing in the Isles" titularly described Pacifica's program, a salute to the British Isles of the predominantly 17th century--a mutually complementing mix of folk and "art" music. Such composers as Henry Purcell (1659-1695), William Byrd (c.1543-1623), Matthew Locke (1622-1677) and James Oswald (1710-1769) were blended with groups of English dances and Irish and Scots tunes, all written by the "eponymous anonymous." The latter "composer" joined with three real-life ones in "A Jacobean Masque," a set of court dances of varying character.
What Musica Pacifica did with the above offerings is what made the magic. Recorder player Judith Linsenberg stood out as a dominant musician/persona. As she explained, she brought with her and used an almost countless plethora of recorders (a suitcase full), of widely varying lengths and diameters, interchanging them at will and as necessary. This included lots of "soprano" recorders. She and harpsichordist Charles Sherman dominated the seven instrumentalists in the "Jacobean Masque." But her excellent timbres remained quite audible during most of the program.
Charles Weaver, listed as a lute and guitar player, brought about more attention when he picked up his monstrous theorbo, a very long-necked lute (perhaps 5 to 6 ft.), an instrument we've been seeing more of in recent IEM series. David Morris played the cello and the viola da gamba while Robert Mealy and Allison Edberg served as the violinists, with Edberg switching to the viola only in the opening Suite from Abdelazer of Purcell.
Percussionist Danny Mallon rounded out the player complement, providing unusual colors on his snare-sized drum and foot-actuated "sounders." He came into full play in the announced encore, opening and closing it by himself. I could not hear what he announced, but it was an effective program closer to a lively concert featuring top-o-the-line musicians.
The five remaining IEMF concerts will return to their home base at the Basile Theater in the Indiana History Center. June 20; Indiana Landmarks Center