Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Celebrating 30 Years of Renaissance Music with Its "Pied Pipers"

Piffaro, The Renaissance Band. Photo by Sharon Torello.
By Christine Facciolo

Devotees of Renaissance music packed the chapel at Christ Church in Greenville Sunday to celebrate the opening of Piffaro’s 30th Anniversary Season, welcome back old friends and memorialize the passing of another.

The internationally acclaimed “Pied Pipers of Early Music” broke out shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps and a variety of percussion for a lively and diverse retrospective of their “greatest hits” from one of music’s most cosmopolitan and vibrant periods. (Fans were also invited to curate the program by voting at the ensemble’s website, www.piffaro.org.)

Repertoire spanned 15th Century motets by the Low Countries’ Heinrich Isaac to a chaconne by 17th Century Spaniard Juan Aranes. Other composers featured on the program were Ludwig Senfl, Thomas Weelkes, Nicolas Gombert, Jakob Arcadelt as well as the ubiquitous Anonymous.

The Renaissance set the stage for much of what lay ahead in Western music. Increasingly freed from medieval constraints, music became a vehicle for personal expression and composers found ways to make their music expressive of the texts they were setting.

“La Guerra” by Mateo Flecha is a striking example. Here life’s struggles cast in terms of war and victory are conveyed through constantly changing meters, textures and tonality, all of which were executed to perfection.

Throughout the Renaissance, dance music flowered and thrived and was composed — or more likely improvised — by many people. The Suite of Dances by Tylman Susato is a fine representative of some of the outstanding dance music of the late Renaissance. Piffaro’s joyous playing had toes tapping and heads bobbing to the infectious rhythms, making for a fitting close to the two-hour program.

There were more subdued moments as well, such as harpist Christa Patton and lutist Grant Herreid duetted on the poignant La Rossignol, an Elizabethan piece originally written for two guitars. Patton recalled that the piece was used in the 1970s PBS special on Elizabeth I during the scene when the monarch and her fiancé were to meet in secret in a church to exchange vows but somehow missed each other.

A touch of sadness pervaded the concert as the ensemble remembered their late colleague Tom Zajac who passed away on August 31. The recorders captured the meditative quality of Nicolas Gombert’s Musae jovis to profound effect, balancing shades of mourning with moments of light and serenity. Gombert wrote the majestic requiem as a lament on the death of his teacher, polyphonic master Josquin des Prez.

The concert was also a reunion of sorts, as former ensemble members Adam and Rotem Gilbert (1989-2007), Eric Anderson (1989-1995) and George Hoyt (1996-1999) returned to join the milestone celebration.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Trip to Winterthur Now Just Might be Better than "Breakfast at Tiffany's"...

By Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Well by Fence window, design attrib. to Agnes Northrop (1857–1953), 

Tiffany Studios, New York, ca. 1910. 
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, New York N86.W.9

Rarely has there been an American artist as innovative and creative as Louis Comfort Tiffany. Son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of the renowned jewelry and silver firm, Tiffany (1848-1933) chose to chart his own artistic path rather than settle into the family business.

Tiffany’s career spanned from the 1870s through the 1920s, embracing virtually every artistic and decorative medium: painting, interiors, lighting, metalwork, pottery, enamels, jewelry, glass and mosaics.

Of all his artistic endeavors, though, it is his work with stained glass — especially lamps — that has earned him the greatest recognition. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is celebrating that legacy with the dazzling display “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” which runs through January 3, 2016.

The exhibit features items from the collection of Egon and Hildergard Neustadt, who began acquiring the works in 1935 following the death of Tiffany and the demise of his studios in Corona, Queens, New York.

Tiffany began his artistic career as a painter but by 1875 had developed an interest in glassmaking. His constant drive to innovate led to the development of a new technique for making stained glass which had remained essentially unchanged since medieval times, when artisans applied paint to clear glass before firing and leading. Tiffany created and patented a radical new process called opalescent glass, in which several colors are combined and manipulated to produce a rainbow-range of hues and three-dimensional effects.

The windows — Tropical Landscape (ca. 1910), Well by Fence (ca. 1910) and Grape Vine and Lemon Trellis — which greet visitors to the exhibit, are breathtaking examples of Tiffany’s ability to “paint” with glass.

Tiffany looked to nature as the primary source of design inspiration. Nowhere is Tiffany’s mastery for translating nature into glass more apparent than in his iconic lamps. We see them in pictures and on television but only deliberative observation can reveal the complexity of the shapes of the blossoms and the unruly growth patterns of the flowers as well as the nuances of color and texture.

Lampshades of all shapes and sizes are adorned with profusions of peonies, pond lilies, poppies, poinsettias, dragonfly and wisteria.

Supplementing the exhibit is an educational display showing the painstaking and labor-intensive process that goes into making a Tiffany lampshade as well as sheets of original Tiffany glass.

The exhibit also recognizes key figures who worked at the Tiffany Studios and their contributions: chemist Arthur J. Nash (1849-1934) and leading designers Agnes Northrop (1857-1953), Clara Driscoll (1861-1944) and Frederick Wilson (1858-1932).

There is also a primer on forgery with three fakes on display and tips on how to spot the imposters.

A secondary exhibit, “Tiffany: The Color of Luxury,” offers a fun look at the iconic retail operation. It features one of Tiffany’s own paintings as well as fine stationery, silver wedding gifts, diamond engagement rings and brooches. There’s even a silver telephone dialer and — of course, the “Tiffany Blue Box”— the most recognized and desirable retail container in history.

See www.winterthur.org.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Delaware & American Craft Week Kicks Off Tomorrow!

Celebrating artisans and art organizations throughout the state of Delaware who enrich and contribute to the economic fabric and vibrancy of Delaware.

In this month of celebrating arts and humanities, Delaware is prepped to welcome American Craft Week! What began as a small, grassroots effort to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of handmade craft now celebrates its fifth anniversary. American Craft Week is a well-established, national event celebrating the tradition of American craft in artists' studios, galleries, museums, schools, and festivals.

In celebration of craft in America, American Craft Week will present a Masterpiece exhibit and sale -- an online exhibition featuring one-of-a-kind work by one exceptional craft artists from each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.
An architect who creates wearable art, Arden Bardol of Dover will represent Delaware in this nationwide event. The exhibition will be available online now through October 11.

Delaware's 2015 Individual Artist Fellow in Craft, James Ulry, will have an exhibit at the Dover Art League during October, and events will be held throughout Delaware in celebration of American and Delaware Craft Weeks.

Listen here to the WILM "State of the Arts" Podcast interview with Esther Lovlie, Lorin Felter and Hilary LaMotte Burke about Delaware Craft Week, all of whom were instrumental in getting Delaware Craft Week into the public's consciousness.

Join the Delaware Craft Week Facebook page and support local artists!