Santa Cruz Baroque Festival: Cupid's Gift - Love Songs and Enchantments

I will be completely honest with you. I went to this concert because I desperately needed extra credit for my music history class, which may be the most dishonorable and deplorable reason to attend a concert; but if this redeems me as not being a monster in any way, I am so grateful I actually ended up going. Despite the fact that I am writing an article about a concert that happened more than two weekends ago, and that most of this article is content taken from the concert report I wrote in order to receive above mentioned extra credit for reasons I would rather not disclose publicly, I would still like to write about this because it gives me the opportunity to write about an entire concert series! 
Elizabeth Hungerford

The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival is celebrating its 45th season consisting of 5 concerts, the first of which occurred on February 10th, and the second of which is next weekend, March 3, at 7:30 pm at the Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz. Concert Two, 500th Birthday Celebration - Medici Codex, will feature the UCSC Chamber Singers, conducted by Michael McGushin (cough, cough, wink, wink, nudge, nudge...we want you to come), and the San Francisco Renaissance Voices, conducted by Katherine McKee. Click HERE to get your tickets and read more about the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival.

Now back to Cupid's Gift - Love Songs and Enchantments. This concert was love themed, manifesting the heavy accents placed by poets upon true love, despite the general tendency at the time for people to arrange their children's marriages for them. "A young woman had little say in the matter, and was expected to accept whatever wise decision her father might make for her," (Artistic Director Linda Burman-Hall).
Linda Burman-Hall

The concert presented music from the Baroque Era, featuring composers Thomas Campion, Thomas Morley, Henry Purcell, John Dowland, William Lawes, Robert Johnson, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, John Coprario, and Thomas D’Urfey. Although including a selection of instrumental and vocal music, the evening was dominated by vocal music accompanied by lute, harpsichord, and virginal, with several instrumental solos and duets here and there. One of these solos was an organ solo called Pavana Lachrymae by Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, performed by Artistic Director Linda Burman-Hall. 

Pavana Lachrymae by Sweelinck is based on John Dowland’s famous vocal piece Flow My Tears, composed for voice and lute. Linda Burman-Hall performed the piece on a chest organ, demonstrating the composition’s flowing nature. Originally in John Dowland’s melody, the intonations of the tune resemble sighing because of how Dowland wrote the music to support the meaning of the text. Sweelinck’s arrangement for organ made this original quality of the music even more evident by adding sequential passages for both hands, greatly amplifying the flowing pulse of the music. 

Willow Song, written by an anonymous composer, was performed by soprano Elizabeth Hungerford and lutenist, Hideki Yamaya. This piece is one of many settings of Shakespeare’s “Willow Song” from Othello. Sung by the young Desdemona, Willow Song marks a pivotal point in the play’s action. Desdemona does not sing about herself in this song, but the text suggests the emotional suffering of a scorned lover, much like poor Desdemona’s scorn as she is accused of infidelities by the misguided Othello. The lute, playing mostly chords to accompany the voice, provides the harmonic switches and the harmonic drive of the piece. Meanwhile, the voice soars over the lute with a strophic tune. The main verses are driving, intervallic, and syllabic, while the refrain moves mostly in steps in a downward motion and predominantly on the word ‘willow’ in a melismatic style. This resembles an actual willow tree, which has branches that hang down as if bowing their head in mourning. The music successfully produces a visual effect, helping the listener see the maiden, her longing for her lover to come, and her disdain as she comes to the realization that her love is unrequited and hopeless.

Hideki Yamaya
The two songs that especially stuck out to me -- and probably not only me -- were Thomas Campion's Beauty Since You So Much Desire and Thomas D'Urfey's My Thing Is My Own, both of which were performed by Hungerford and Yamaya. Campion's song was about the exact location on the female figure where the desired beauty is located. Yes, the sexual innuendos (anything but subtle) were part of the pieces allure, but Hungerford's outstanding performance and enactment of the song were quite the best way possible. Using her voice, supported by the consistent harmony provided by Yamaya on his lute, Hungerford created an orgasmic atmosphere, building the musical tension with every "but a little higher" pattern, explaining where Cupid's fire is. Not in your toe, that's for sure.

My Thing Is My Own by D'Urfey, the last programmed song, was narrated from the perspective of a young girl who was determined to keep her own thing for herself. Much like in the case of the Campion, it was not so much the song itself that was outstanding but Hungerford's and Yamaya's performance of it. Hungerford's ability to transform her face into any character she desires created such an elaborate illustration of the songs that the audience was all charged up and at the edge of their seats.

The concert was sponsored by Dean Silvers, and hope to see everyone at the Holy Cross Church on March 3, at 7:30pm.