These musicians got the memo!
No sooner did I blog on Monday about the NPR report on recordings of Shakespeare done in the vernacular pronunciation of his day, with wishes that musicians would likewise consider a more colloquial approach to old classics, than a CD arrived on Tuesday that does just that. Coincidence? Of course. But it's fun for a second to regard oneself as possessing such enormous influence...for the good, naturally.
According to the CD booklet, it started at a Christmas party for the Canadian early music ensemble La Nef, at which one of their friends and guest performers, Seán Dagher, took out his trusty cittern, and started to sing some of the beautiful songs of the great Elizabethan composerJohn Dowland (below) — not as classical songs, but as folk songs. The result is the album "Dowland in Dublin," featuring La Nef and sweet-voiced American tenor Michael Slattery (above), doing Dowland in imaginative arrangements with a strong modern Celtic flavor. OK, so some of Dowland's exquisite part-writing is gone. We can get them from other excellent performances. But we get something else — a Dowland in the context of our time, just as the more authentic performances give us (or so they claim) Dowland in the context of his time. I love both, but admit to finding this current Dowland friendlier, more casual, easier to enjoy. It reminds me of the some of the terrific "alt-folk" I've heard recently from the likes of Sam Amidon or Crooked Still. What those folks do for old folk ballads — reinterpret them freely in a contemporary context, but with the utmost care and finest musicianship — is what Slattery and La Nef do for Dowland. Check some of it out during the 3:00 hour in WFCR's classical music; we'll be playing lots more in the coming days.