Friday, February 5, 1999
Concert Review: Cambridge Society for Early Music "My Heart's in the Highlands"
The evening of January 28 was cold and snowy but inside Union Hall warmth and cheer prevailed for the crowd who braved the wintery weather. The Cambridge Society for Early Music presented an all Scottish program entitled "My Heart's in the Highlands." The performers were superb musicians: Laurie Monahan, voice; Shira Kammen, violin; Peter Sykes, fortepiano; David Morris, cello. The musicians have played in various groups, performing music from medieval to modern. All the artists have made recordings.
We learned that the evening's Scottish music was traditional folk music, some of which was arranged by Franz Joseph Haydn and others to be played in parlors in the 18th century for home entertainment. In the arrangements the music retained its Scottish spirit. Haydn alone made more than 400 arrangements, notating the voice and violin parts. He also used a figured bass and may have been the last composer to use this method.
The group also played some "unarranged" tunes as they might have been played in the great homes of Scotland by similar string groups of the time. Bonnie Prince Charlie, during his exile in Italy, is said to have played traditional Scottish tunes on his cello as he mourned his defeat in the attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty.
The music required versatility and flexibility of voice, and Monahan was equal to the demands. Indeed, in solo, her voice could be likened to an instrument. The instrumentalists were skillful, keeping the timbre, intonation, and rhythms inherent in Scottish music.
Thought was evident in the order of the pieces: the sad songs of loss and loneliness were interspersed with and balanced by lively jigs and reels so infectious that foot tappings and head noddings were common in the hall.
"The Bonnie Lass O'Bon-Accord" with variations on the tune was especially pleasing to the audience. Fortepianist Sykes played a humorous cadenza of his own composing.
The last set of songs was light hearted, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek, a fitting end to a delightful evening with our hearts in the highlands.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito