Yuletide Revelry From The Renaissance


By Robert K. Stephen

(TORONTO, ON) – Nothing has changed in 500 Years. The Toronto Consort is Canada’s leading ensemble specializing in the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and early Baroque. Their recent concert at Jeanne Lamon Hall in Toronto demonstrated that Christmas themes have not changed in hundreds of years.

Their concert, The Little Barley-Corne, presented two views of Christmas through period music.

There is the sacred side, amply evident in Le Bel ange du Ciel, and the party-out-dude side in The Little Barley-Corne. Can we say the majestic and beautiful mixed with raunchy and raucous?

Again a solid team effort by the singers and musicians taking one back hundreds of years. The journey reveals that hundreds of years have not really changed the true spirit of Christmas which, perhaps, is a bit swamped and obscured by commercialism and atheism.

Stripped of commercialization, Christmas is about family coming together, which has a nice ring to it but, being family, sometimes there are nasty rows. There is, however, eating and drinking and just having a good, relaxed time.

My goodness, you could be reading this and saying, “Sounds like old boring music.” That’s fine with me, but I assure you this Toronto Consort concert was timeless, beautiful, and even rocking. Rock and Roll was born on a series of musical histories, and beat and rhythm were equally prevalent in the concert.

If there was an Eric Clapton or Jimmy Hendrix, it surely would have been guest violinist David Greenberg, who is a very well known baroque violinist and fiddler, hailing from Cape Breton, NS.

David was simply sizzling, yet also capable of playing very soulful music. His solo on the concluding The Little Barley-Corne literally ripped the crowd up and led to a hooting and hollering laced audience applause.

Yes, even ancient music can evoke such a response.

Equally commanding on this number was David Fallis singing, more or less, solo.

The Little Barley-Corne was the hit of the evening. It injected a jolly spirit with its description of the effects of beer.

Twill make a weeping widow laugh

And soon incline to pleasure

Twill make an old man leave his staffe

And dance a youthful measure

And though your clothes be ne’er so bad

All ragged, rent, and torne

Against the cold you may be clad

With the little Barley-Corne

While Greenberg tore up the joint, let us not forget the hypnotic hurdy-gurdy playing of Ben Grossman. The Hurdy-Gurdy is a hypnotic stringed instrument that sounds like no other instrument I can describe. But, I can say it adds power and exoticism when played by Grossman.

Laura Pudwell (mezzo-soprano), Katherine Hill (soprano), and Michelle DeBoer (soprano) were nothing short of angelic.

Paul Jenkins (tenor) and John Pepper (bass) offered solid vocal anchors.

Terry McKenna played a sedate counterfoil to Greenberg on his tiny baroque guitar.

Alison Melville stepped up to the plate and gave some serious backbone and power to the troupe with her recorder. This was one of Melville’s best performances.

Let’s leave on a happy note from Hey for Christmas.

Then Hey for Christmas once a year

Where we have cakes, both ale and beer

And to our Christmas feast comes

Young men and maids they shake their bums

By the way, if you want to purchase The Little Barley-Corne visit the Toronto Consort website.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC.

Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden.

Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, “Have Story, Will Write.”

Email Robert Stephen

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