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Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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November 21, 2005


One of the things I have always loved about listening to music is its ability to transport us to a different time and place. I felt this powerfully when we did a show recently with Fretwork and the great English soprano Emma Kirkby.

Fretwork is a viol consort, the sort of ensemble which was very popular in the Tudor courts of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Accordingly, they played us English music from the time of Henry VIII, through the time of Queen Elizabeth (and Shakespeare, of course) and beyond, all the way to the composer of the Reconstruction, Henry Purcell, to whom fell the task of reconstructing music after Cromwell’s revolution.

The historical canvas against which this program was played is vast and colorful — Henry’s reign alone alone could stand as material for an opera (actually, it has, come to think of it.) — Reformation, the Spanish Armada, the beginning of English colonization of the New World, the writing of the King James bible, the Glorious Revolution and beheading of King Charles and Reconstruction. And I’m only touching the high points, or at least, the best known points.

I loved hearing Emma Kirkby join these virtuoso gambists in a program which brought together scholarship and deep musicality, melancholy and gaiety, inventive composers and extraordinary poets, drawn together with history and clever detective work to give us ‘Music for a while, (which) shall all your cares beguile.’

Every age needs its poets and musicians to beguile us when times are complicated and challenging. And they always are. Thank heaven, then, for musicians and a singer who make us feel our kinship with our distant ancestors and find solace and harmony in that kinship.

Posted by Bill McGlaughlin at November 21, 2005 5:42 PM



Thank you very much for this program (and others in the same vein, notablely the one mentioned with Ms. Gillespie and Fantasam) with this delightful instrumental grouping; the consort of viols. I have complete concordance with Mr. McGlaughlin's opinion that music never got much better than this. It speaks deeply to both emotion and the mind. I too have been a fan of Ms. Kirkby's voice for quite a while; she sings, not 'warbles'----- excellent! The seventeenth century was a fascinating time with the stirrings of the Enlightenment and the birth of science and the political libertarianisim of the Levelers but this music; while not modern like these other emanations of the time nevertheless strikes a harmonious chord that resonates still in this listeners ear.

By R.R.Schoettker at November 27, 2005 6:46 PM


Thanks to Bill for the substantive and wonderful introduction. This program settles it: bring back the Enlightenment, jettison intelligent design (which is surely evidence of devolution).

It's wonderful that Fretwork and Ms. Kirby have taken up the mantel of this music. How else could we be transported to a better time? No wonder Shakespeare had the equanimity to write as he did. "If music be the fruit of...."love, was it?

John Niesyn

By John Niesyn at November 27, 2005 10:21 PM


I found this hour utterly beautiful and entrancing. We hadn't known of Emma Kirkby until hearing her a few weeks ago
on your program, one of our favorites, and then became detectives in trying to track down her other recordings. That wasn't hard! Thank you so much for introducing us to her and Fretwork. We are grateful for Saint Paul Sunday Morning each week.

By Tom Lowell at December 17, 2005 9:17 AM