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  • Angela Allyn

Newberry Consort's Inaugural season for Artistic Director Liza Malamut

The Newberry Consort Announces 2022-2023 Season Line-Up The inaugural season for Artistic Director Liza Malamut

After the departure of longtime artistic directors Ellen Hargis and David Douglass last season, The Newberry Consort is pleased to announce its 36th season under the new leadership of Artistic Director Liza Malamut. The season will be filled with programs that range from music centered around the Jewish Italian singer Madama Europa in early modern Mantua to music related to the theme of oracles, prophecies, and dreams to lush, polychoral music from Germany. Ellen Hargis will also return to guest-direct the beloved “A Mexican Christmas.”

A historical trombonist and scholar, Malamut has performed around the world with many early music groups, including Tafelmusik, Opera Atelier, the Handel & Haydn Society, Piffaro: The Renaissance Band, Dark Horse Consort, and others, and she is one of the founding members of Incantare, an ensemble of violins and sackbuts formed to highlight music of lesser-known and marginalized composers and their contemporaries in early modern Europe. Because Malamut is a brass player, The Consort will be incorporating historical trombones, reeds, and cornetts into its repertoire this season — offering a new, exciting sound to Newberry Consort audiences. Yet, despite the expanded collection of instruments, Malamut says she is committed to continuing The Consort’s longstanding tradition of presenting works from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras.

“I am proud to share my predecessors’ deep love and commitment to innovative performance and historical integrity, and will continue to present creative, multi-dimensional concerts that engage the highest caliber musicians from Chicago and beyond,” Malamut said.

In her first concert of the season, Madama Europa at the Gonzaga Court, Malamut has devised a program that will feature the music of Europa Rossi, known as “Madama Europa,” a famous singer in early modern Italy who was part of a group of Jewish musicians who regularly performed at the court in Mantua. This type of music is especially close to Malamut’s heart, as she recently co-edited a book about the subject, Music and Jewish Culture in Early Modern Italy: New Perspectives, which was published by Indiana University Press in March 2022.

In addition, Malamut has put together two other innovative programs: Oracles, Prophets and Dreams, a collection of Renaissance music centered on Lassus’s collection of motets known as the Sibylline Prophecies and other music on the theme of oracles and dreams, which will be presented in March 2023; and Singen und Sagen: Music for Hope in a Time of War, which will be presented in May 2023.

Singen und Sagen is somewhat of a departure for The Newberry Consort, because it will be a large-scale collaboration with Bella Voce, a well-known choir in Chicago. In this enormous production for voices, strings, trombones, cornetts, dulcians, continuo, and trumpets, the two groups will present selections from Praetorius’s Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica, published in 1619, just after the start of the Thirty Years’ War.

“When I first conceived this program in 2017, I didn’t realize how relevant its themes would still be today, especially with the war in the Ukraine still going on and the immense amount of other global upheaval,” Malamut said. “One of Praetorius’s goals when he wrote this music was to realize Martin Luther’s instruction to ‘singen und sagen,’ which means to ‘sing and say,’ and in this concert we’re going to juxtapose readings from real people who lived during the Thirty Years’ War with this very uplifting, joyous music. The fact that this music survived such extreme circumstances, and that we can bring it to life in Chicago more than 400 years later is something that I think audiences will find both healing and inspiring.”

The Newberry Consort’s 36th season will also include the perennial favorite, A Mexican Christmas, guest directed by Artistic Director Emerita Ellen Hargis. Once again, this holiday show will feature the Newberry Consort and EnsAmble Ad-Hoc performing the beautiful, sacred polyphony that would have been sung in the convents of 17th-century Mexico, along with the joyful, rousing music that would have been played in the city streets.

2022 – 2023 Season Details

● Madama Europa at the Gonzaga Court The Gonzaga Court in Mantua was home to many of the most renowned and diverse musicians in early modern Europe. There, the Rossi family formed a concerto of Jewish musicians who composed and performed for courtly occasions. Among them was Europa Rossi, a singer so celebrated for her talent that she became known as “Madama Europa” and was featured among the court’s most famous artists, including the concerto delle donne, Mantua’s ensemble of professional women singers.

The Newberry Consort presents music by Mantuan court musicians, especially works that would have featured Madama Europa, her family’s concerto, and other famous women musicians who would have known them—including Lucia and Isabetta Pelizzari, players of the cornetto and trombone. The concerts will feature Erica Schuller as Madama Europa, as well as four spectacular vocal soloists and an ensemble of strings, harp, cornetto, trombone, guitar, theorbo, and harpsichord.

Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 at 8 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston Saturday, Oct. 29 2022 at 8 p.m. at Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Hyde Park Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022 at 3 p.m. at Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University in Chicago Tickets: $45, $65 for preferred seating, $10 for students with a valid student ID.

● A Mexican Christmas Imagine yourself in 17th-century Mexico City: It’s Christmas, and the glorious sound of the singing nuns of the Convent of the Encarnación soars over the walls of the cloister and fills the square. On the other side of the plaza, a street band of guitars, harp, violins, percussion and singers burst into the joyful melodies and rhythms of the traditional “villancicos,” the folk-based songs of praise and celebration. Our two ensembles, one inside the cloister walls and one without, will create this feast for the ears with music by composers from both Old and New Spain, featuring our own nun’s ensemble of the Newberry Consort directed by Ellen Hargis, and our guests from EnsAmble Ad-Hoc, led by traditional and early music specialists Francy Acosta and Jose Luis Posada.

The repertoire for this beloved program is drawn from The Newberry Choirbooks (a mass setting by Spanish composer Mateo Romero), music from the Puebla Cathedral Archives (villancicos by Juan de Padilla), and treasures from many other manuscripts, researched and arranged by Ellen Hargis, Jose Luis Posada, and Francy Acosta. Rarely heard instruments such as the bajón (Spanish baroque bassoon), leona (large guitar from Veracruz) and the quijada de burro (a percussion instrument made from a burro’s jawbone), will join 17 singers to create the authentic soundscape of a Mexican Christmas.

Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 at 8 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 at 8 p.m. at St. Alphonsus Church in Lakeview Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 at 3 p.m. at Mother of the Americas Parish in Little Village Tickets: $25, $10 for students with a valid student ID, or free for children under 16. Purchase a 10-person pass for $100.

● Oracles, Prophets and Dreams

The Newberry Consort introduces the mysterious world of sybils, prophets, and oracles through a variety of music from the high Renaissance, including the haunting Sibylline Prophecies, a series of motets by Orlande de Lassus. Voices join with lute, recorders, reeds, and sackbut to perform works that warn, whisper, and herald the future. Paired with projections by musicologist and graphic artist Shawn Keener, this concert invites audiences to enter the world of dreams. Get swept up in Jonah’s story from the belly of the whale, Jacob’s evocative night visions, the prayers of Judith the prophet, and Jeremiah’s visions, all set to evocative music by Senfl, Rogier, Monte, Agricola, and Tallis. While including prophetic texts familiar to many, this program predominantly centers on the words of female prophets. This small-scale vocal and instrumental concert is the Consort’s most intimate of the season.

Friday, March 17, 2023 at 8 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 8 p.m. at Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park Sunday, March 19, 2022 at 3 p.m. at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Chicago Tickets: $45, $65 for preferred seating, $10 for students with a valid student ID

● Singen und Sagen: Music for Hope in a Time of War Michael Praetorius’s Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica contains some of the most elaborate vocal and instrumental writing in all of early German music, representing a level of sophistication on par with Monteverdi’s Vespers. Published at the beginning of the devastating Thirty Years’ War, many years would pass before Polyhymnia could be performed as it was meant to be heard.

Over four centuries later, The Newberry Consort and Bella Voce join forces to present a spectacular concert of works from Polyhymnia for voices, strings, trombones, cornetts, dulcians, continuo, and trumpets. The music is juxtaposed with readings of texts by everyday people who lived during and after the Thirty Years’ War, bringing to life Praetorius’s interpretation of Martin Luther’s instruction to “singen und sagen,” or “to sing and say” — a joyous universal musical sermon during a time of war and strife. Even now, performing this elaborate and uplifting music during times of darkness and despair remains an act of courage and optimism.

Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 8 p.m. at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Chicago Sunday, May 14, 2023 at 4 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston

Tickets: $45, $65 for preferred seating, $10 for students with a valid student ID. Season passes Season passes are $110 for general admission or $160 for preferred seating for three concerts (not including Mexican Christmas), or $130 for general admission and $180 for preferred seating for all four concerts.

To purchase tickets please visit Pre-concert lectures start 1 hour and 15 minutes before each performance.

About the Newberry Consort: The Newberry Consort brings together singers and instrumentalists of the highest caliber to create historically informed performances of music from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, and beyond. By integrating historical performance and research with contemporary themes and multimedia, we inspire audiences, musicians, and scholars by providing a window into earlier times and diverse cultures. The Consort continues to uplift Chicago’s early music community through mentorships, teaching, and engagement of local artists.

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