When I last wrote about the latest round of videos to be uploaded to the Voices of Music YouTube Channel by Voices of Music co-Director David Tayler, he had just begun to provide video documents from last January’s concert, The Great Poets from Shakespeare to Dryden. This made for fascinating programming, since it involved not only changes in the nature of poetry but also reflections on those changes through approaches to setting text to music. As a result, the “destination” of the musical journey was not so much John Dryden, who was honored as Poet Laureate on England in 1668, but Henry Purcell, who set a standard for music in the service of both poetry and drama whose value is still recognized today.
The “guide” for this journey, so to speak, was soprano Anna Dennis, who was visiting from England and performing with the Voices of Music instrumentalists. For this concert those instrumentalists were violinists Carla Moore and Gabrielle Wunsch, Lisa Grodin alternating between viola and violin, Elisabeth Reed alternating between cello and gamba, Tayler alternating between archlute and baroque guitar, and Hanneke van Proosdij, providing continuo on harpsichord or organ and playing recorders for other selections. Last June Tayler introduced this concert to the global Internet audience with an upload of Dennis singing Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” better known by its first line “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”
Since that time three more videos, recorded at two different performances of the Great Poets concert, have been uploaded. William Shakespeare is now recognized with John Wilson’s setting of the song, “Take, O take those lips away,” which was included in the play Measure for Measure. There are also two selections, each from one of Purcell’s major vocal works. The better known of these is the final aria from the opera Dido and Aeneas, sung by Dido just before her death and best known as “Dido’s Lament.” The other is “Fairest Isle,” better know for its own sake than for its inclusion in John Dryden’s five-act spectacle King Arthur.
The other soloist to be featured in the latest round of uploads is Proosdij (co-director of Voices of Music) on harpsichord. Two videos were recorded under studio, rather than concert, conditions; and they cover two generations of French Baroque composers. The earlier of these is François Couperin; and Proosdij performs one of his most familiar compositions in rondo form, “Les Baricades Mistérieuses.” The upload also includes a short essay discussing the controversy over what the title means and explaining the unconventional spelling of “baricades.” The later composer is Jean-François Dandrieu with a performance of another rondo, “l’Harmonieuse” from a C minor suite in Dandrieu’s first book of harpsichord pieces published in 1724.
Finally, Tayler is continuing to upload selections from the Voices of Music Christmas concert from 2013 entitled Venetian Vespers. This concert featured the music of Alessandro Grandi, vice maestro di cappella to Claudio Monteverdi at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Grandi composed music for the five basic Psalms of the Christmas Vespers service (109, 110, 111, 112, and 116). The last round of video uploads included the captured performance of Psalm 116. The new video presents Grandi’s Magnificat setting, another major element of any Vespers service. This is a larger-scale ensemble piece involving three vocalists, sopranos Laura Heimes and Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and baritone John Taylor Ward, accompanied by two violins (Elizabeth Blumenstock and Moore), viola (Grodin), gamba (William Skeen), archlute (Tayler), and organ (Proosdij). This rounds off the latest set of uploads with grander sonorities to complement the more intimate music for vocal and keyboard soloists.