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from the archives:
Newsletter, Spring 1996


"Simple Gifts" tops the charts.

We had no idea this was going to happen, but we are certainly happy that it did. For many weeks during late 1995, Camerata's CD of Shaker songs was the top-selling classical title. Radio stations all around the country played excerpts from the program; feature stories were broadcast on public radio's All Things Considered and Performance Today; articles appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today; a televised segment appeared on CBS Sunday Morning; and even the BBC broadcast a feature on their World Service. Most gratifying of all were the many people who called, wrote, or spoke to us to say that they had been touched, thanks to Camerata's CD, by the extraordinary beauty and grace of Shaker music.


Shaker holidays.

Some of the most important new friends Camerata has made in the course of the Shaker music project are the Maine Shakers themselves, whose extensive and carefully maintained library holdings provided much of the original material for Simple Gifts. The Shakers' singing is a vital component of the Simple Gifts CD, and their collaboration in last fall's Camerata concerts at Portland, Maine and Cambridge, Ma. made both of those events resonate with history and spiritual energy. When some Camerata musicians and friends visited the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake for the Thanksgiving and Easter holidays, we found a warm welcome, and the additional pleasure of discovering that some of the songs that were freshly recorded for the CD have become continuing favorites with the Shakers (I will fight and never slack seems to be especially well liked). Camerata's involvement with Shaker song will continue (see the next article for more news).


Florence Gould Foundation makes a major grant to Camerata

In recognition of our recent work with French and American repertoires, the Florence Gould Foundation of New York has awarded The Boston Camerata $20,000 for further project support. The Camerata musicians and board extend heartfelt thanks to the Foundation for this most important contribution to our continuing work.


Multiple honors for Camerata recordings

The Camerata pressbook has been unusually thick over the last several months, in large part because of the ensemble's increased recording activity under our new contract with Erato. Our inhouse nickname for the latest press folder is "The Yellow Pages," on account of its reassuring heft. Here are a few highlights from the European press: An older project, the Roman de Fauvel, was finally released in a CD editon during March, 1995. It was named "Record of the Month" by the French review Répertoire,and was nominated in January, 1996 for the same magazine's Grand Prix des Discophiles. Camerata recorded the beautiful Lamentations by Jean Gilles in March, 1994; the CD came out a year later and was highly praised in the French press; the revue Diapason called it "an inspired recording." Simple Gifts received the highest-possible Choc distinction from the notoriously finicky Le Monde de la Musique, and merited a multi-page color spread from the English mag, Classic CD. Camerata's newest CD, Farewell Unkind (songs and dances by John Dowland) just received a top-rated "10" from Répertoire; this was the program first presented to Boston audiences in the spring of 1995.


Tristan goes East...and West

The Boston Camerata made its début appearances in Japan last October, performing its Tristan and Iseult to enthusiastic audiences in Tokyo, Maebashi, and Kyoto. The Japan tour allowed us to reunite with the legendary Andrea von Ramm, the original narrator of our 1987 Erato recording. In Japan, Ms. von Ramm performed all the readings in medieval German and French. Soloists for the Japan tour were John Fleagle as Tristan, Anne Azéma as Iseult, Lynn Torgove as Brangane, and Paul Guttry as King Mark. The instrumental consort included Jesse Lepkoff, Dan Stillman, Shira Kammen, Carol Lewis, Catherine Anderson, and Joel Cohen.
Japan was not our only distant port of call this season. In September, Camerata travelled to France for two performances of The American Vocalist in Paris and Alsace, and a medieval recital at the Ambronnay Festival. In March, our European sister ensemble, the Camerata Mediterranea, performed The Fool on the Bridge to a crowded hall at Paris' Théatre de la Ville; this is the same program that was heard by Boston audiences during the 1994-5 season. And in May, 1996, Camerata makes its Scandinavian début at the Bergen Festival, Norway, with two programs, and a cast of twenty musicians: Tristan and Iseult, featuring the same cast that toured so successfully in Japan, and Carmina Burana, a reprise of the production that was a hit of the 1995 Tanglewood Festival.


A Fountain of Youth

An unforgettable, exalting evening presented by the Boston Camerata at the Protestant church of Ribeauvillé. An evening that ended in rejoicing; the audience, numerous in a packed church, demanded two encores from the performers. Artists of great erudition, fine intuition, sensitive, witty, and overflowing with joy. Their performances of thirty-odd songs gave us an equal number of moments of ecstasy.
Songs drawn from the rare sources of traditional music during the colonial and post-independance periods: melodies whose apparent simplicity conceals treasure of humanity and spirituality combined...
The eight artists work miracles: the soprano, pure as crystal, of Margaret Swanson, blends harmoniously with the voice, more golden-hued, of Anne Azéma; the superb contralto of Elizabeth Anker brings to the female trio a touch of warmth and gravity. The men are equally meritorious. William Hite, tenor, and Donald Wilkinson, baritone, overflow with verve, and Joel Frederiksen's bass is compellingly full in every aspect. Six individualities sharing in common infallible tuning, a highly developed sense of nuance, plenty of energy, and a captivating onstage presence.
Joel Cohen who, since 1968, has put the Camerata on its formidable orbit, has a strong personality. To his ample erudition are added the gifts of narration,of mime and comedy, evident during his solo on "Captain Kidd." What humour as he presented the works (in excellent French)! His musical direction, for the most part confined to subtle movements of the head, can also become masterful during the moments of polyphonic ensemble singing.
An accompaniment of three guitars guided the singers in some of the songs. Nor can one overlook the ravishing flute interludes played by Jesse Lepkoff, an artist whose expressivity and instrumental colors are the equal of the rest of the ensemble's work.We can only express our admiration and gratitude for this bath in the fountain of youth.
(COLMAR, FRANCE), 9/24/95


Work in progress...

Joel Cohen spent much of spring '95 with his nose buried in a fascimile of the original Carmina Burana manuscript. An augmented Camerata, assisted by the Harvard University Choir and its director, Murray Forbes Somerville, recorded the Carmina Burana program for Erato just before performing it at Tanglewood. The Erato engineers got about 90 minutes of good, finished performances from those sessions; Joel insists that his biggest current headache is deciding which pieces to elininate to bring the total timing down to seventy-five minutes, the maximum "fit" for a single CD these days. Expect a fall release date for Carmina.... Trav'ling Home, our latest early- American recording, is scheduled for August release in the U.S...Camerata's annual Christmas tour will span two continents this coming December. Besides concerts for our Boston friends and subscribers, we will be presenting An American Christmas for audiences in France and Germany...U.S. tour plans for 1997-98 include further performances of Simple Gifts and The Sacred Bridge...Plans are underway for a major 1997 production of the Gilles Requiem in Europe; if all the pieces of the puzzle come together as planned, we hope to perform this important masterpiece in Boston as well...The oddest recording project of Camerata's career took place at the Campion Center, Weston, last February; Angels involved soloists, chorus, childrens' choir, gambas, shawms, sackbuts, piccolos, harps, and... electronic synthesizers! We dare not say more. Hold on to your hats, and look for an early 1997 release.

© 1996 The Boston Camerata Inc.

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