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The Boston Camerata

from the archives:
Newsletter, Winter 1995


"A Musical Ambassador"

"The whole world of French culture, whose ambassador you are, owes you a debt of gratitude."
These were the words of French Consul General Patrice Paoli last November, as he named Camerata director Joel Cohen a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, one of the principal distinctions of the French Republic. Many of you reading this newsletter were in attendance at that ceremony, and surely remember as we do the graciousness and generosity of all Consul Paoli's associates, and the warmth and conviviality that characterized the event. Our thanks to our French friends for their efforts on our behalf, and for the signal honor they have bestowed upon Joel and, indirectly, upon all the members of the Camerata organization who over the years have helped our music to be.
Two months after the award, Joel Cohen reports to us that his head is still (approximately) the same size, and that the impressive-looking medal makes an excellent visual effect sitting in its plush box (it is only to be worn on specially designated occasions).


Simple Gifts

When musicologist and longtime Shaker specialist Roger Hall suggested to us that Camerata give some thought and attention to Shaker song, he began a long train of fascinating events, culminating last August at Poland Spring, Maine, in a week of recording with at the Shaker community. But prior to the recording, Joel spent much of the early summer months at the Maine Shaker archive, learning Shaker notation, transcribing songs from precious original manuscripts, and discovering Shaker ways and performance practice from the Shakers themselves. It turns out (as Joel found out, and as Roger and a few other specialists had already known) that early Shaker music is still vigorously alive in the Maine community, and also that it is one of the very richest veins in all of American musical and cultural history.
Many of Joel's transcriptions were performed at our Tanglewood concert last summer; other songs will be heard for the first time in over a century when the Erato recording comes out in August. Besides the soloists and chorus (the Schola Cantorum) heard at Tanglewood, we were thrilled when the Shakers volunteered to sing along with us on a number of pieces. A unique document!


Camerata Musicians Win Year-End Honors

Boston Camerata musicians and associates received a plethora of distinctions in the international musical press at year's end.
Anne Azéma, the Boston Camerata's soprano soloist, was cited for excellence by England's Gramophone magazine in December, while her first solo recital album, The Unicorn, was a "Critic's Choice" for the magazine's medieval specialist, Mary Berry. "She is the artist I would like to tip for a golden future," Ms. Berry wrote. Ms. Azéma's solo recording has also been placed in nomination by the French Répertoire magazine, in its January number, for its Grand Prix des Discophiles.
Camerata Mediterranea, the Boston Camerata's European- based sister ensemble, was also singled out for praise by the same publications. Its recent recording of medieval troubadour songs, Le Fou sur le Pont, was another "Critic's Choice" of the December Gramophone (one month after its selection as "Editor's Choice" in the same magazine's November issue). Le Fou sur le Pont is also a nominee for Répertoire's Grand Prix des Discophiles.
We are pleased to learn that Derek Lee Ragin (countertenor soloist for Nueva España) is featured in the February, 1995 issue of Vanity Fair.
Joel Cohen, music director of both Cameratas, was cited as "Musician of the Year" by Richard Dyer in the January 1 edition of the Boston Globe.
Finally, the Boston Camerata's concert of New England and Shaker music at the Tanglewood festival last July was named best early-music event by Richard Dyer and the Boston Globe.


Music and Memory

To commemorate Joel Cohen's 25th anniversary as director of the Boston Camerata, Erato records has issued, in a handsome slipcase, an anthology CD entitled Music and Memory. The program consists of excerpts from a number of recent recordings on the Erato label, with texts, translations, and new commentary by Joel Cohen.
Here is how the French magazine Répertoire greeted the release, in its January, 1995 number:
In marketing terms, this is called a compilation (a Cook's tour of Cohen's CD's for Erato). In musical terms this is called a sumptuous experience, rich and intelligently put together. It allows us to experience music too little known, from the Middle Ages and the New World, revealed to us through his precious recordings by a genius in the role of ambassador. Just as beautifully packaged as it is marvellous.
Like all current Camerata releases, Music and Memory is widely available in area record stores. It can also be ordered directly from the Camerata's business office.


The Fool on the Bridge

Scandals in the royal families of Europe are nothing new. When troubadour (and low-born commoner) Bernard de Ventadorn fell in love with the young and charming princess, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the two were happy together for a while -- so the medieval biography of Bernard tells us. But then Eleanor crossed the Channel, to marry King Henry Plantagenet of England, and poor Bernard never heard from her again.
The life and loves of Bernard are the subject of a new, award-winning Erato recording, Le Fou sur le Pont, and of our next season offering, Friday evening, March 24 at 7:30. The Camerata Mediterranea, our European- based sister ensemble, will be making its second appearance in the Boston area. An evening of Provençal music and poetry not to be missed! Some good seats are still available at Harvard's Paine Hall -- please call 262-2092 for information.


Notes from all over...

Many of you reported hearing National Public Radio's special report on the Shaker song project. The BBC also ran a story, via its International Service, in January...Camerata's Tristan and Iseult recording, winner of the 1989 Grand Prix du Disque, will be rereleased, with new packaging, late this winter. The Tristan production will be heard again live, next fall, as well, as Camerata tours the West Coast and Japan with the legendary Andrea von Ramm in her orignal role as narrator... Camerata's début appearance at the Israel Festival last May was broadcast live all over that country by Radio Kol Israel...The spring tour of Douce Beauté was also enthusiastically received by the French; scores of last-minute ticket seekers were turned away from our sold-out performance at the Versailles Opera House...The magnificent Gilles Lamentations premièred last season will be appearing on Erato in March. Solists are Azéma, Kale, Hite, and McCabe, with Robery Mealy, concertmaster, and the Schola Cantorum of Boston...Camerata's Roman de Fauvel video was shown at the Sorbonne last July, on the occasion of (no kidding) an International Fauvel Conference...And Fauvel has finally made it to market! Look for a May, 1995 CD release.

© 1995 The Boston Camerata Inc.

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