For Intro to Music Criticism:
Ever wonder what the historical equivalent of teenagers playing punk songs in the basement is? Apparently it’s Ensemble Lucidarium, which wind player Avery Gosfield described as “a Medieval-Renaissance garage band.” The group certainly had the same impromptu, recreational vibe of a casual band, and mixed that with considerable musical talent.
Lucidarium’s jovial style was on display on Nov. 14 in Kulas Recital Hall, when the ensemble presented a program entitled “Una Festa Ebraica” (“A Jewish Holiday”). The concert featured songs and blessings from the Medieval and Renaissance period that might have been played at various Jewish feast days. Lucidarium could very well have been a roving band of rag-tag Renaissance musicians, with their scruffy beards, loose clothing, and laid-back feel. Their relaxed, mirthful approach along with the festive music made the night a raucous, good time.
The program began with selections from a pre-circumcision Roman vigil, “consisting of eating, drinking, dancing, and the singing of prayers,” according to Lucidarium’s informative program notes. The music reflected that revelry, with Massimiliano Dragoni keeping a lively beat on a thin, square drum, Gosfield and Marco Ferrari whirling and trilling on recorder-like instruments, and Francis Biggi strumming along on lute. Over this rollicking instrumental base, Enrico Fink’s rough-edged voice contrasted with Gloria Moretti’s and Anna Pia Capurso’s pure, straight-tone harmonizations.
For “Adonai con voi, lieta brigada,” which may be a Christian parody of Jewish musical practice, Dragoni switched to hammered dulcimer. A fascinating instrument, it conjured sounds reminiscent of the piano, guitar, and percussion, all with extra ringing overtones. Gosfield and Ferrari both took double duty, playing two instruments at once. Gosfield struck a drum with one hand while cavorting on a simple wind instrument with the other. Ferrari flew through rapid scales on something akin to a recorder over a drone on another wind instrument, accomplishing the incredible feat of never letting the drone slip.
Fink indulged in theatrical antics in “Doz Mensh Geglikhn,” becoming a comical entertainer who collapsed on stage after describing the last age of man in a croaking, half-spoken voice. “Anello” featured virtuosic tambourine from Dragoni and a once-again astounding Ferrari harmonizing with himself on two separate wind instruments.The next piece was a cappella, with Moretti and Capurso maintaining a perfectly in tune drone, alternating breathing so that no break occurred underneath Fink’s intoned chant.
The second half of the program consisted of wedding songs, ranging from mocking to sincere. Moretti and Capurso both received solo turns, as did Biggi, accompanied by one of the female singers on gittern. “Ele divrei Habaress” was a highlight, a hilarious romp where Fink rudely insulted every member of the wedding party.
After enthusiastic applause, Lucidarium returned to stage with selections from their CD. The ensemble clearly enjoyed themselves, layering clapped rhythms for an infectious end to the concert.
Lucidarium is an irresistibly fun group, a light-hearted collection of friends out to relish each other’s company by making music together. That unbuttoned ethos is a welcome intrusion in the concert hall, one that will hopefully infect other performers.