HESPERUS Early Music Ensemble
As seen in Colonial Williamsburg and fine historic museum shops.
HESPERUS: Early Music Ensemble are the #1 experts on Early American Music, and sought after performers on historic instruments.
Spirited new sounds from across the sea to the shores of the New Land--From the first colonists to the American Revolution and the birth of our republic Hesperus' music reflects a time of new ideas, freedom and vitality. In town and village, parlor and ballroom, from the Appalachian mountains to the great concert halls hear the musical pulse of early American music performed on a wide variety of folk and early music instruments. Includes: lively country-dance tunes, evocative Shape Note Hymns, old time Appalachian fiddle tunes, graceful European parlor music, French cotillions, divisions and improvisations.
The Maggie's Music Early American Music Series now features five award-winning CDs: (flyer)
- A Civil War Scrapbook (MM236)
- An Early American Quilt (MM235)
- Colonial America (MM227)
- Early American Roots (MM216)
- Celtic Roots (MM220)
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"Hesperus is a cutting-edge consort. The performers are consummate musicianswith unqualified command of their instruments who give us a performance thatis thrilling from beginning to end." - American Recorder Magazine
"They attacked the complicated rhythms with a vigor that made them downright dancey."- The Milwaukee Journal
An argument could be made that Hesperus, in addition to being an award-winning early music ensemble, is in the travel business, transporting listeners across time zones that reach into the distant and murky past. "Colonial America," the trio's latest CD, supports that view with verve, charm and finesse. Its 18 tracks form a patchwork portrait of a budding Republic vividly influenced by English, Irish, Scottish and French musical traditions... Hesperus deftly conjures another time and place time and again... As for the common thread running though this musical quilt, it's easy enough to spot, thanks to the finely honed artistry and rapport consistently displayed by Tina Chancey, Scott Reiss and Grant Herried. - Mike Joyce, The Washington Post Review
Tina Chancey ~ Bass viola da gamba, fiddle and recorder
Scott Reiss ~ Recorders and pennywhistle
Grant Herried ~ Lute, theorbo, early guitars and recorder
Listen to samples of all tracks
- Ricketts Hornpipe/Fisher's Hornpipe (2:30)
- Maiden Lane/Jack O' Lent/Chestnut/Bonny Broom (5:02)
- Parting Friends/Primrose (4:22)
- Flowers of Edinburgh/East Neuke of Fife (2:16)
- Prelude/La Catherine (3:15)
- Planxty Browne/Planxty Burke (1:46)
- Cutie Clat Her (2:41)
- John Come Kiss me Now (2:58)
- Scots Tune (1:39)
- Carolan's Farewell to Music (2:56)
- A Port (1:37)
- Yeil, Yeil (2:42)
- Kedron/Saint's Delight/Promised Land (2:34)
- Gird the Logie (2:38)
- La Belle Cavalier (1:33)
- La Luxillier/La Balanje (2:31)
- Federal Overture (7:51)
- Death and Life (6:44)
From the stage of Lincoln Center to Germany, Bolivia and Singapore-Hesperus is a group with a vision, performing eight centuries of music from four continents. With impressive credentials in early music, its members are some of the nation's first and most important performers of "chamber folk" music, bringing the energy and spirit of traditional music to virtuoso performances on an impressive array of folk and early music instruments. Appearing frequently at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (where it was a resident ensemble from 1989-1996), Hesperus can be heard on TV, film and radio, most recently in the films Sleepy Hollow and Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi. The group has received multiple WAMMIEs from the Washington Area Music Association, the Baltimore Chamber Music Award, the Music and Humanity Award (Gretna, PA), the Elizabeth Campbell award from the AAUW, and the Logan Chamber Music Award for Outstanding Educational Programming.
TINA CHANCEY, a founding member and co-director of Hesperus, plays early and traditional bowed strings, from medieval rebec to blues fiddle. She is a specialist on the 18th c. pardessus de viole, performing at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Dr. Chancey's articles on early music appear in scholarly and popular publications, and she has recorded and produced CDs for a score of labels from Arabesque to Windham Hill.
GRANT HERREID is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who performs withHesperus, Piffaro, and Artek. He also teaches at Mannes College of Musicand directs the New York Continuo Collective. Grant has created and directed several theatrical early music shows featuring German alchemy, English gypsies, French fools, Italian zanies, and Death. But mostly he devotes his time to exploring the esoteric unwritten traditions of early Renaissance music with the group Ex Umbris.
SCOTT REISS, founder and Co-director of HESPERUS, was also founding member/co-director of the Folger Consort for 21 years. His articles appear in Continuo, American Recorder, Early Music America and Tibia. Earthwatch funded his research on Celtic music, which formed the basis for his chapter in Celticisms: from Center to Fringe (Scarecrow Press, 2003). Scott also directs SoundCatcher workshops, teaching the skills of playing by ear. His most recent solo recording is The Banshee's Wail.
From the CD Booklet:
The English Colonies in America were a patchwork-not just of territories whose boundaries became state lines, but of people from different places and classes with widely different values and experiences. This recording presents music from that patchwork; from England, the Colonial homeland; Scotland and Ireland, the homes of the largest groups of immigrants outside England; and France, the ally of the Patriots. We round out our presentation with music written in the United States from the early years of the Republic. While English music was the meat and potatoes of Colonial American musical culture, Scots-Irish music flavored the broth with an herbal bouquet of tunes that live on today. The French music is some of the most charming, and we can trace its influence in the American cotillions of the next century, whose wit, grace and style, merged with a particularly American buoyancy, prove them to be apt successors to the tradition.
1. Ricketts Hornpipe/Fisher's Hornpipe - The hornpipe was originally a sailor's dance, as is apparent from its jaunty rhythm. These two tunes are standards in the American folk tradition; indeed, you may find that Fisher's has something of an Appalachian feel.
2. A Set of English Country Dance Tunes: Maiden Lane, Jack O'Lent, Chestnut, Bonny Broom - The visionary London music publisher John Playford first published his English Dancing Master in 1651. It was reprinted 18 times over the next 77 years and is still popular today. Grant conceived and arranged this set.
3. Parting Friends/Primrose - These tunes have come down to us in choral arrangements called shape-note hymns (see #13). In Parting Friends, we treat the haunting melody as a drone-tune with the viol providing the sustained bass, changing with the mood and tonality of the melody. To extend the piece, we play the arrangement of Primrose three ways.
4. Flowers of Edinburgh/The East Neuk of Fife - Flowers and East Neuk appear in a plethora of 18th-c Scottish and American sources. The second time through, we use East Neuk as an improvisation vehicle.
5. Prelude/La Catherine - This elegant courante (a 17th-c dance) and the proud Belle Cavalier come from John Playford's 1669 collection of dance and theater music Apollo's Banquet, re-published by his son Henry in 1690-91. We have preceded La Catherine by a moody, anonymous French lute prelude from 1730, laced with distant afternoon thunder.
6. Planxty Brown/Planxty Burke - The planxty was a dedicatory pieces for patrons; these two by O'Carolan are rather sophisticated jigs.
7. Cutie Clat Her - We found this piece in the 1733 collection of tunes for Northumbrian pipes by William Dixon, Nine Notes That Shook the World.The title translates from the Scottish (not Gallic, but the dialect of English spoken in Scotland) as "the kitty clawed her."
8. John Come Kiss Me Now - From another Playford collection, The Division Violin (1684), this piece is a set of divisions on a ground, or improvisational variations over a repeating bass line with chords.
9. A Scots Tune (Straloch Lute Book, 1627) and A Port (Rowallan Lute Book, 1620) - Some of the earliest written Scottish music was preserved in 17th-c lute manuscripts. Aristocratic lutenists in Renaissance England often borrowed the music of the lower-class harpers or pipers. A port, like a planxty, was a commemorative piece written for a patron.
10. Carolan's Farewell to Music - The blind harper Turloch O'Carolan (1670-1738) was one of the last members of the great bardic harping tradition that dated back to the Norman conquest, when each harper, or filleadh, served a particular king or warlord. In the middle ages, filleadh were very powerful, enjoyed a high social station and were even feared as magicians. Carolan's Farewell to Music fits into no category; his own eloquent epitaph.
11. A Port - see #9
12. Yeil, Yeil - Another perennially popular Scottish tune from the collection of Neil Gow.
13. Kedron/The Saint's Delight/The Promised Land - The shape note hymn is one of the most uniquely American forms of music. To make music reading easier, note heads were written as squares, diamonds, ovals and triangles (although musicians today may not understand the benefit of this practice). Written with the conscious intention of breaking with European traditions, shape note (or sacred harp) hymns often have glaring dissonances, awkward melodic lines and odd phrasing, but many also possess a stark beauty. We perform these on recorders to simulate an all-vocal scoring. They were taken from the collection Southern Harmony, first printed in 1835.
14. Gird the Logie - Also from Nine Notes, Gird is played by Tina, who adds drones and double stops on the viol.
15. La Belle Cavalier (sic)-see # 5
16. La Luxilier/La Balanje-The French brought cotillions to America during the Revolution. Like the square dances that they evolved into, cotillions were danced in sets of 2-4 couples. La Luxilier is from The Cotillion Party's Assistant (Boston, 1817); La Balanje from A Collection of the Most Favorite Cottillions [sic] (Philadelphia, 1810). Many cotillions had French titles (La Balanje means 'the banjo'). But others had quintessentially American names: The Swallow, The Colly Flower, and New Jersey.
17. The Federal Overture - In 1794 Benjamin Carr set out to write a piece that would unite the citizens of the new Republic who disagreed about a political issue that still remains hot today: should the states or the federal government have more power? Each faction had tunes associated with its cause. Carr's attempt to present a balance of each side's tunes was initially a failure, and the first performance ended in a riot. However, he re-worked the piece, and it was finally accepted by the public. How enlightened to use music to help reconcile political issues!
18. Death and Life - In 1605 the retired sea captain and amateur composer Tobias Hume wrote for the viola da gamba as if it were a bowed lute, playing both harmony and melody. This pair of renaissance dances, a pavan and a galliard, is moving as Hume intended; in Death he required the performer to play the refrain 'passionate after every section.' -- Scott Reiss
Credits: Produced by Tina Chancey. Recorded and mixed by Christopher Drummond. Mastered at Opera Dog Studios for Carmen Productions, Leesburg, VA. Executive Producer: Maggie Sansone, Maggie's Music. Graphic Artist: Jennifer Johnson. Art Director: Maggie Sansone. Cover photo: Dick Bond. Tray card and group photo: Thomas Radcliffe, Point of View Studios.