Renaissance songs at Concordia
An epicurean experience
Local music lovers know soprano Whitnie Crown Wolverton primarily from her work with Vox. Founded in 2000 in Ann Arbor and relocated to Chicago in 2006, Vox was a twelve-voice a cappella ensemble dedicated to medieval and Renaissance music. This meant mostly sacred music - which meant Crown Wolverton's soprano was almost always pitched light, bright, high, pure, and clear.
At the Concordia University chapel on Sunday, December 9, Crown Wolverton will descend from the world of spiritual innocence and enter the world of epicurean experience with a program called A Musical Banquet: A Sumptuous Collection of Renaissance Lute Songs Arranged for Voice and Guitar. With guitarist Jeremiah Benham and viola da gambist Debra Lonergan, Crown Wolverton will perform mostly songs by Elizabethan composer John Dowland - the darkest, bleakest, smartest, sexiest, and by far the bestest English songwriter before Lennon and McCartney.
Why these particular songs? "When Jeremiah and I were deciding on what kind of program to do," replies Crown Wolverton, "I had just listened to a recording by Christopher Parkening and Kathleen Battle with a set of pieces by John Dowland. It was really beautiful and interesting repertoire. Although this music was originally composed for lute and voice, it was very effective and in my opinion fantastic for guitar and voice, with the guitar for the most part just a transcription from the original tablature."
Why these songs in this order? "Deciding the order of a concert is akin to planning a menu," says Crown Wolverton. "One starts with a tempting but appropriately light appetizer; next is the entree; then, after a break, dessert, something sweet and delicious; and the meal would finally end with a digestif."
Thus Crown Wolverton has built her recital from four sets of songs. "The first set, 'Come Again, Sweet Love,' is light and deals with the temptation of love, being in love, love unknown, and so on. The second set, three songs from 'A Pilgrim's Solace,' is
pretty heavy musically, with dramatic texts and sonorities. The third set, 'Flow, My Teares,' deals with tears, pain, and death." After two weighty entrees, Crown Wolverton has chosen as "something sweet and delicious" four songs from Dowland's collection of Continental tunes A Musical Banquet.
After that? "'Rest, Sweet Nymphs' is kind of like our digestif, a stunningly sweet and poignant lullaby by Francis Pilkington we thought would be a lovely way to send people back into the world and off for the evening." Crown Wolverton and Benham will perform all three verses of Pilkington's tune, thereby sending people off with these tender sentiments: "Lulla lullaby, lullaby hath pleased you and eased you and slumber sweet seized you, and now to bed I hie."
[Review published December 2007]