Spring News from the Directors
With optimism in the air, we are happy to be closing out the current season and getting ready for the next! We had a very busy winter producing our Mexican Christmas video debut, 30-some newly-created videos from our audio archives, and our Behind the Scenes Lecture series. Stay tuned; if you missed our lecture series, we will be posting the recorded sessions on YouTube in the following weeks, and you can catch up or watch them again at your leisure!
And now – drum roll, please – for next season, we bring you three of the concerts we had planned for last year, all postponed because of the pandemic. We’ll open the season Oct. 29 with a Welcome Back gala fundraiser at the Halim Museum in Evanston. This beautiful, spacious and airy venue will host us once again to meet and greet, hear some great music, and enjoy refreshments together. Mexican Christmas is back, this time with supertitles! Then, in the Winter/Spring 2022 we will present “Music Fit for the Medici” and “Fun and Games”. Dates and venues will be announced shortly, so make sure you’re on our mailing list!
We wish everyone good health and we look forward to seeing you in person soon!
Newberry Consort Co-Directors David Douglass & Ellen Hargis
The Newberry Consort brings together singers and instrumentalists of the highest caliber to create accessible and historically informed performances of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. We inspire audiences, musicians, and scholars by providing a window into earlier times and cultures through performance, education, and research.
Beguiling and intelligent, provocative and classic, ravishingly beautiful and deliciously edgy, The Newberry Consort has been delighting audiences for three decades. Directed by David Douglass and Ellen Hargis, the ensemble plumbs the Newberry Library’s vast music collection and assembles a star-studded roster of local and international artists to present world-class performances of music from the 13th to the 18th centuries…and occasionally beyond! Practitioners of “historically informed performance,” also referred to as “early music,” The Newberry Consort brings to the stage the sounds, stories, and spirit of times past. The Consort performs from its vast range of repertories in a series of programs in the Chicago area, and tours nationally and internationally. The Consort is affiliated with the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, offering interdisciplinary classes in the humanities to the Center’s consortium of colleges and universities. The Consort also serves as an ensemble-in-residence at both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, interacting with college students in both the classroom and in performing ensembles.
Early Music from the Newberry Library
The Formation of the Consort
JUAN DE LIENAS: VESPERS
MUSIC FROM THE CONVENTO DE LA ENCARNACIÓN, MEXICO CITY
THE NEWBERRY CONSORT
Ellen Hargis Director
Chicago’s best-known early music ensemble The Newberry Consort exhilarates with VESPERS, a collection of dazzlingly original music for women’s voices. The composer? A mysterious early-17th-century Mexican named Juan de Lienas, whose style energetically oscillates between Renaissance and Baroque elements.
Little is known about de Lienas beyond the manuscripts, which, much to the undeserved discredit of the poor composer, occasionally include unflattering personal remarks scrawled in the margins. Perhaps that these insults on his appearance and personality stemmed from mere envy, for the music captured by his hand presents such skill, wit and zest that it can still be enjoyed a full four centuries after its inception.
Not an easy feat by any means, and certainly facilitated by a spectacular performance of The Newberry Consort under the direction of director and soprano Ellen Hargis. Since the music on VESPERS was originally composed for use in women’s convents, the bass voice is either sung up the octave, or replaced by bassoon or viola da gamba. The result is graceful, airy, ethereal, otherworldly. Easy on the ears not only for lovers of early music, and for these: a veritable treat.
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Catalog #: NV6333
Format: Physical & Digital
Upon his death, Howard Brown left the Library the largest bequest it was to receive in the 20th century. The Consort made three recordings to honor his memory and a few of his many musical interests: “Villon to Rabelais” was built upon Brown’s early work with French theatrical songs; “A Candle in the Dark” honored his passion for the English Renaissance; “Puzzles and Perfect Beauty” was a mirror of Springfels’ and Brown’s shared fascination with late 14th century music.
Time for a Change
After 25 years of program research, essays, lectures, and performances, Mary Springfels decided to retire from the Library, and in 2007, Consort member David Douglass took over direction of the ensemble. During the economic downturn of 2008, the Newberry Library was forced to end many public programs, including the Consort’s residency, Immediately several loyal supporters of the Consort banded together to ensure the continuation of the ensemble. Thanks to the pro-bono efforts of these friends, the Consort organized as a not-for-profit group, and a small but determined Board of Directors was formed. After many years of hard work, the Consort boasts a strategic plan, a strong donor base, a robust Board of Directors, and continues as a treasure in the Chicago cultural scene. In 2009, Douglass was joined by co-director Ellen Hargis. Together they have continued the cutting-edge work begun by Springfels, while expanding into new territory. Douglass assembled, arranged, and directed a period-music score for Sarah Bernhardt’s silent film “The Loves of Queen Elizabeth”. Hargis has researched, edited, and produced three programs of Mexican convent music drawn from a rare set of 17th c. choirbooks at the Newberry Library.