Elizabethan Extravaganza!

music for gamba consort

Elizabethan Extravaganza!

Musica angelica gambists William skeen, Joanna Blendulf, Joshua Lee, Shirley Hunt.

From the golden age of Queen Elizabeth I through the Restoration, viola da gamba consort music was a delight in both private homes and the royal courts. Members of Musica Angelica perform works for the full family of viols by William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, John Jenkins, William Lawes, and more.


Prelude and Ground

William Byrd (c. 1540 - 1623)

Leggiardra Sei
Fantasia VI

John Ward (1571 - 1638)

Suite in A

William Lawes (1602 - 1645)

Fantasia III
Goe From My Window

Orlando Gibbons (1583 - 1625)


Lachrimae Antique
M.George Whitehead his Almand
The Earl of Essex Galliard

John Dowland (c. 1563 - 1626)

Spring, from The Seasons

Christopher Simpson (c. 1602 - 1669)

The Night Watch
The Funerals
Muy Linda

Anthony Holborne (c.1545 - 1602)

About the Program

Today’s program features some of the greatest works from one of music’s most prolific and oft-ignored golden ages. In the years spanning the twilight of Queen Elizabeth’s reign through the English Civil War, England gave rise to a wealth of music for viol consort the like of which was never seen again. Though consort can refer to any group of instruments gathered for music, in this case it indicates that the ensemble is only made of viols in their various voice types. Today’s performance will present a viol consort that would be familiar to anyone in 17th century England, featuring treble, tenor and bass viols, analogous to the violin, viola and cello in today’s familiar string quartet.

Today’s program opens with a grand work by William Byrd, one of the great composers of the late Renaissance. A gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Byrd left a rich legacy of works for voices and keyboards, but his works for viol consort set a standard of style and beauty that would be his legacy. While initially demonstrative of the prima practtica, a conservative style of polyphony rarified in the 16th century, consort music slowly began to mirror the more forward musical trends stemming from the madrigalists in Italy. Surely influenced by the works of Caccini and Monteverdi to name a few, John Ward’s consort madrigal Leggiardra Sei was most likely never written to be sung. Bound in a manuscript alongside madrigals by Luca Marenzio, Ward and others undoubtedly modeled their own compositions after the dramatic works that were all the fashion on the continent.

William Lawes Suite comes from late in the history of the viol consort. Pushing the instruments further into virtuosic territory, Lawes was given the title “Father of Musick” by Charles I after his death at the hands of Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The viol was pushed to the limits of its techniques by the English, something that in Gibbons’ set of variations on the popular tune “Goe From My Window.” Though it might strike most listeners as typical of consort style at the outset, the last variations are a tour de force for the two bass viol players, demonstrating a flash of technique the foreshadows the virtuosic solo works of the late 17th century.

Perhaps one of the most compelling characters in English music of the time, John Dowland was a virtuoso lutenist who performed for the courts of France, Denmark and Sweden though his Catholic faith supposedly prevented him from ever gaining the favor or employ of Elisabeth I. A composer of works for lute and voice, Dowland reworked many of his greatest works for viol consort. Of the three pieces presented today, Lachrimae Antique and The Earl of Essex Galliard were both published earlier as the lute songs Flow My Tears and Can She Excuse My Wrongs. Credited with uncovering an assassination plot upon Queen Elizabeth amongst English expatriates in Italy, Dowland didn’t receive a court appointment in his native England until the reign of her successor, James VI.

Christopher Simpson’s SpringI is part of a larger programatic cycle of works appropriately entitled The Seasons. Though he predates Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by over sixty years, Simpson uses the yearly cycle to explore the various affective and technical of his instruments of choice as well as his Italian counterpart exploits the violin. Simpson is of particular importance to today’s viol players due to the survival of his 1659 treatise, The Division Viol. A tutor written for his patrons after the close of the English Civil War, the work is one of our best sources for contemporary guidance from the heyday of the viol.

Today’s program closes with a suite of pieces by Anthony Holborne. Though little is known about the man himself, the title pages of both of his surviving works claim he was in employ of Elisabeth. What we can be certain of is that Holborne was dedicated to depicting his worldly desires, joys and fears in his music, composing works with such titles as Image of Melancholy, The Cradle, and Heart’s Ease. Clearly in step with the fashion of his time, dance is featured prominently in Holborne’s works with the almand, pavan and galliard well represented.

-Josh Lee, 2013

About The Musicians

Joanna Blendulf has performed as baroque cello/viola da gamba soloist and continuo player in leading period-instrument ensembles throughout the United States. Ms. Blendulf holds performance degrees with honors from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Indiana University, where she was awarded the Performer's Certificate for her accomplishments in historical performance. Joanna is currently performing with the Bach Collegium San Diego,Catacoustic Consort, Ensemble Electra, Ensemble Mirable, Nota Bene Viol Consort, Portland Viol Consort, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Wildcat Viols. Ms. Blendulf teaches viola da gamba and baroque cello privately and in workshops and master classes across the country and has been the featured viola da gamba soloist at the Carmel and Oregon Bach Festivals.

Shirley Hunt makes herself known in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond as a rising star in the field of historical performance. Ms. Hunt performs on baroque cello and viola da gamba with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the American Bach Soloists, Musica Pacifica, Agave Baroque, Sonoma Bach, and the cello duo Bradamante. Other recent engagements include performances with Portland Baroque Orchestra, Musica Angelica, San Francisco Renaissance Voices, Berkeley Opera, Archetti, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Faire Violls.  In addition to numerous orchestral and chamber performances, Ms. Hunt also appears as a recitalist and concerto soloist across the United States and Europe.

Cited for his "stylish and soulful playing," Josh Lee performs on viols and double bass with some of the world's leaders in early music. Josh is an alumnus of the Peabody Conservatory and the Longy School of Music where he studied double bass with Harold Hall Robinson and viol with Ann Marie Morgan and Jane Hershey. Founder of the ensemble Ostraka, he has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carmel Bach Festival, Musica Pacifica, Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Les Délices, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Josh's performances have been heard on National Public Radio's Performance Today and Harmonia, and he has recorded for Dorian, Koch International and Reference Recordings. Recently praised as “a master of the score’s wandering and acrobatic itinerary” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Josh is director of the Viola da Gamba Society of America Young Players’ Weekend.

Farley Pearce is a San Francisco bay area freelance musician. With the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra he has played baroque and classical cellos, bass violin, church bass, bass and tenor viols, violone, double bass, and Viennese-tuned bass. He has also performed with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra of Vancouver, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and Musica Angelica of Los Angeles. Locally he works with the California Bach Society, Voices of Music,the Jubilate Baroque Orchestra, Magnificat, the Sex Chordae Consort of Viols, and the Albany Consort. He performs frequently for the Noontime Concerts series and with the St. James players while maintaining a private studio and teaching at the summer Music Discovery Workshop of the San Francisco Early Music Society.

William Skeen plays principal cello in Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Musica Angelica, and Marin Baroque. In addition to performing with almost every baroque orchestra on the west coast. Mr. Skeen is a sought-after chamber musician. He plays with the New Esterhazy Quartet, the Grammy-nominated ensemble, El Mundo, and La Monica. Recent performance highlights include solos with the Dallas Symphony and the LA Philharmonic and tours to Colombia, Peru and Brazil with John Malkovich.His teaching duties include Adjunct Professor of Baroque Cello and Viola da Gamba at University of Southern California, co-director of the SFEMS Classical Workshop. William holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, working with Alan Harris, and a Master of Music degree from U.S.C., studying with Ronald Leonard.

Sat. April 6 - 8PM
Neighborhood Church,

Sun. April 7 - 3PM
First Presbyterian Church,
Santa Monica

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