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Scaramella play Viol 'n Femmes

I thought I had seen it all but... viola de gamba groupies?

Last Thursday, Scaramella founder Joelle Morton was joined by fellow viol players Joanne Blendulf, Julie Jeffrey, Annalisa Pappano and Liam Byrne to perform the program Viol 'n Femmes (Byrne told me that the title of the program had been set before the musicians had been finalised). People were practically salivating over two of the "original" viols on loan from U of T's Hart House.

I must admit that I am a bit of a early music junkie but Scaramella takes a different approach creating a program that combines Renaissance and Baroque material with modern works, and often unknown works. It is risky business - some members of V 'n F were particularly sceptical that it would work. Indeed, Jeffrey was openly the least convinced. As Pappano put it to me "it's kinda like chopping off your head, flipping it over and then being asked to play."

But somehow Scaramella made it work.

The thing about viola de gamba music is that it is not orchestral -- it is meant to played small social setting amongst friends. The chapel at Victoria College (University, technically) was the perfect venue for that sort of atmosphere. As as member of the audience you feel like you are part of a dinner party, which is a happy change for the magnitude of the TSO.

Initially the group seemed to be somewhat tentative about the pieces they were playing but after a while you could see the comfort level grow as the musicians watched each other for cues and let themselves be immersed in the music.

As for the modern works. Well, I liked Freda Burford's "The Turn of the Year" (1989) - it sounded like something that would work for the score of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Andrew Keeling's piece "Afterwords" (2000) did not do much for me. It made me think of discordant score for the ballet Giselle -- perfect for the Willis but disturbing for the intimate space.

But I give the musicians credit for their willingness to go along with Morton and try something new when too often classical music is more of the same old same old.

[image from www.tands.pl]


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