It was somewhat of a different concert for the Sheldon Friends of Chamber Music Friday night: the Baltimore Consort, an ensemble of seven musicians who, for 35 years, have performed Renaissance-period music of England and Scotland.
With the works of Shakespeare retaining a wide popularity these days, the Consort is devoting its programs to music that was popular in Shakespeare's time and sometimes actually presented during his plays.
In fact, arrangements such as Robert Johnson’s “Full Fathom Five” appear in Shakespeare’s text. Johnson was known as "Shakespeare’s composer.”
The Consort has added a vocal soloist in the past few years. She is Danielle Svonavec, a master’s graduate in voice from Notre Dame. She performed on many of the Consort’s selections and has the perfect voice for the musical period, well rounded yet light in texture with just a small amount of vibrato.
Svonavec was heard on “Full Fathom Five” with vocal effects faithfully imitating bells. Later, in two songs from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she appeared as Puck the elf (Robin Goodfellow) and convinced the crowd completely of her role.
Instrumentalists took a studied approach to the short pieces, while having fun with them. Perhaps the busiest was Ronn McFarlane, lutenist, whose accompaniment work was heard on almost every piece. Also a busy role was undertaken by Mary Anne Ballard on viols.
Flutist Mindy Rosenfeld held Svonavec’s solos well in her apt accompaniment. It was as if both performers had done this music for, perhaps, 400 years. Excellent communication among all performers brought home high marks in unity and ensemble blend.
But it was Svonavec who, with the whole ensemble behind her, brought the house to its feet at concert’s end. The group’s interpretation of “The Mad, Merry Pranks of Robin Goodfellow,” with Svonavec’s stage antics, was key to the audience’s love of this group.
The ensemble responded with one encore. They appeared on the Friends of Chamber Music series about 10 years ago. Let’s hope it doesn't take another 10 years to welcome them back.