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Preview: Madrigals, Motets, and Merriment

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The Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble is teaming up with The Four Winds recorder consort for two performances of Madrigals, Motets, and Merriment this weekend.

NAVE is a select chamber choir of 20 professional and experienced amateur singers who hail from across the North Country. The Four Winds recorder ensemble brings together four expert players from the Adirondacks and Quebec.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

These concerts will provide a choice sampling of short vocal and instrumental work, sacred and secular. “We really will be interspersing the pieces that we are doing.” says NAVE director Drew Benware, “For example, the first piece will be Now is the Month of Maying, a Thomas Morley piece, which will feature text provided by the vocalist, but also hand drum and this really filigree-inspired sopranino recorder playing.”

Other pieces were crafted in order to maintain key, tempo, or in some cases both, and to provide seamless transitions between pieces performed by the choir and pieces performed by the Four Winds. At the end of the concert, they will perform a Jacob Handl piece originally written for double choir. Benware says, “In our rendition of it, choir one will be the voices and choir two will be the recorder quartet.”

The concert will incorporate a lot of renaissance imagery from English madrigals. You will hear shepherds and swains, nymphs singing fa-la-la, and songs evoking images of spring, and that celebrate the natural world. Then there are passionate songs of love. “One of the madrigals we are singing is called April is in my Mistress’ Face, and it brings the listener through the various stages of an ill-fated relationship.” Prolonged tears, brought on by a his lost love, will eventually drown the singer in sorrow.

“I have always been drawn toward the style, the imagery, and the performing fun of madrigals and also the motets. This period just holds something very special to me,” says Benware.

“I’ve also tried to instill in my students where I teach at Saranac Lake High School at least openness to music of this sort. One of the madrigals performed with NAVE will also be featured in a June 5 concert at Saranac Lake High School.

The concerts of renaissance music, sacred and secular, will be presented at St. Peter's Church in Plattsburgh Saturday at 7:30 pm and at St. Bernard's Church in Saranac Lake Sunday at 7:30 pm.

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