Early Music Vancouver
A High-Priz'd Noyse

Dates: 15 August 2003
: Recital Hall, UBC

Reviewer: Elizabeth Paterson





Visiting artists David Douglass, Ellen Hargis
La Cetra: Paul Luchkow violin, viola Michelle Speller violin Angela Malmberg viola Glenys Webster viola Laura Kramer violoncello Ray Nurse lute


A rumbustious good time was had by all when the string band put together for the occasion and consisting of our own La Cetra, Ellen Hargis and David Douglass performed on Friday.

David Douglass made many of the arrangements and variations we heard with scintillating musicianship. We know from written references that the violin family already existed at the beginning of the 16th century. It seems to have been an instrument for the professional dance band of the time rather than for art music, wealthy patrons or amateur player, hence instruction books, generally written for or by the leisured classes, are non-existent, and our knowledge is correspondingly sparse. One thing we do know is that improvisation was important and that fact lets modern musicians fill in the gaps "authentically". We also know that music written or published for particular instruments was frequently played other types, again giving the modern musician quite a free hand.

Authenticity and historicity aside, David Douglass is clearly immensely knowledgeable in both music and performance. The sound produced was strong and rich, each voice blending into the next in true consort style, yet each line distinct. With the exception of a piece by the German Samuel Scheidt in the second half, the programme consisted of English music from the Renaissance to Purcell. The pieces by Brade and






Holborne were performed in a most lively fashion; one could easily imagine a room full of dancers. Ellen Hargis, soprano, and Doreen Oke on harpsichord joined the group for the Purcell set. Hargis is always a delight to listen to. Her evocative tone brought out the fragile grace of Purcell's lovely airs, especially in her rendition of "Fairest Isle".

The second half of the programme brought us William Byrd's "The Battle", a musical picture of a fight. To set the scene for the modern audience less accustomed to tales of warm, Ray Nurse read aloud Tobias Hume's "A Soldier's Song" and `captioned' each section of the fight: The attack, The retreat, The victory, and so on. This was quite fun and effective, if not altogether necessary. Byrd's music is so vivid pictures rise before your eyes of their own accord.

A much longer, but equally sad, version than is commonly known of "Barbara Allen" opened the set with an air of gentle melancholy and was followed by David Douglass's breathtaking arrangement of "The New Year's Gift", dedicated to the memory of his mother. The evening then completely disintegrated into all out evening at the pub. Ellen Hargis has a gift for dramatic suggestion. So sad in "Barbara Allen", she might have been propping up a bar as she swaggered in "A Light Heart's a Jewell". Drinks were finally brought out and passed around the band for the final song, the rousing "Nottingham Ale", which the audience joined in enthusiastically. A fine night was had by all.

2003, Elizabeth Paterson