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from the archives:
Newsletter, Spring 1996
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
A-.M. MEYER, L'ALSACE
(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
© 1996 The Boston Camerata Inc.
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