Early Music Montreal

Sunday, October 23, 2005

La Nef - The Gloomy Forest

La Nef
The days are getting shorter; the air is nippy. Halloween is approaching. A perfect time for a visit to the Gloomy Forest! The concert started with a plaintif air of that name. It would have been nice to have a translation of the lyrics. After the fact a short précis was given, but it meant that listening to the song lost something. Stephanie Conn has a beautiful voice - well suited for this repertoire.

I think Celtic music is univeral. It is simple in terms of the melodies and speaks to the emotions common to all people - joy, sorrow, longing, hardshop. When it heats up to a frenzy, it is impossible to listen and keep from smiling. The rhythms cast a spell, leaving everone in the audience incapable of sitting still: heads nod, hands move rhythmically, feet tap, fingers drum.

Tunes for the Birds - a set of tunes followed the opening. The combination of instruments created a variety of colours. I loved the sopranino birdsongs. The gamba's deep sounds often provided the perfect foil for the singing violin, especially in My Bonnie Laddie. The guitar and metallaphone in Ailean, Ailean created the perfect mood for the song. In the forest set, each musician played with the melody, bringing their instrument's unique sound to the music. The gamba, played with a alternating plucking and bowing drove the rhythm and the set ended with a lively reel, punctuated by Stephanie's clogging.

The second half of the concert started with Black Jock (a slow jig with variations). David Greenberg slowly made his way from the back of the church. Once on stage, the variations became more spirited. Greenberg's playing was virtuosic; he is indeed a master fiddler. Afterward's he explained that he needed 4 different tunings for this concert, but only had 2 violins, so occasional retuning was part of the concert.

Puirt a beul was a set of tunes of the mouth, often sung when no instruments were handy. In this case it was a duet for violin and voice. The lively sounds, which got faster and faster kept everyone moving. The stately bagpipe playing in Air lady Isabella Weymess provided a striking contrast in mood.

The concert may have been called The Gloomy Forest, but if I can find a gloomy forest where this music is found, I'll go there happily.