Each year, the Newberry Consort invites rising stars in the early music field to participate in our Young Artist Mentorship Program, where they have the chance to rehearse and perform with our seasoned performers.
For our next concert, we are pleased to welcome two young artists to perform with us: bass baritone Daniel Fridley and soprano Margaret Carpenter Haigh. Fridley is currently pursuing his doctorate in historical performance at Case Western Reserve University, and Haigh recently received her doctorate also at Case Western.
In our concert, “Dangerous Love,” April 27 to 29, Fridley and Haigh will sing a variety of pieces by Monteverdi, Rossi, Mazzochi and other 17th century Italian composers whose works were part of the transition from Renaissance to Baroque periods. The music is all about the passion of love and the pangs of heartbreak, and the works give ample opportunity for vocal flourishes and ornamentation.
We recently caught up with both Fridley and Haigh to ask them more about what they like about early music and what they are looking forward to about performing with the Newberry Consort.
Q: When did you first become interested in early music?
Fridley: I grew up listening to early music recordings that my father played, and just carried my love of that music through my actual studies. I made sure to include explorations of early music on my undergraduate recital, and continued to seek out opportunities to pursue those interests throughout my education.
Haigh: I always loved early music and grew up singing choral music by Byrd, Tallis, and Victoria — but there are a few things that particularly cemented my interest. When I was an undergraduate at UNC-Greensboro, the school’s Chamber Singers included a performance of Morales’ “Parce mihi Domine,” and I was thoroughly absorbed by the starkness of Morales’ writing coupled with lush improvisation from our brilliant saxophone professor.
As a master’s student at Cambridge, I participated in a weekly facsimile singing get-together in St. Cath’s chapel with Edward Wickham, and I loved the addictingly puzzling adventure of stumbling through page after page of the Dowland partbooks.
What keeps me drawn to historical performance is the opportunity to perform with colleagues who are interested in making sense of the complex web of notes on a page, notes not written on a page, history, language, instrumentation, etc., and therefore the opportunity to give a new — and never static — voice to old music.
Q: As a singer, how do you approach early baroque music differently from later music?
Fridley: What strikes me as unique about baroque music is the level of emphasis on the rhetorical delivery, as well as the rather intimate aesthetic with smaller orchestras. I’m fascinated by the early adoption of recitative style, and the attempts to create a sung representation of speech, as well as the efforts to imbue music with the magical powers thought to be present in the music of the ancient Greeks. Though this particular concert focuses on Italian music, there’s also this lovely period in France where my voice part gets all of these leading romantic roles — you don’t see that in later operas, that’s for sure!
Haigh: This particular repertoire is so passionate! It has plenty of virtuosic diminutions — getting them in my voice is a very different process from absorbing the agréments in 17th-century French sacred music or a bel canto line in a Mozart opera. The texts of these works are also hugely grounded in wit, and getting that across is one of the main challenges, I think. One has to convey that he or she is “in the know” and invite the audience to experience these works from the same informed place. You’ll hear huge shifts in pacing and range as well as florid effects passed from line to line, all of which are used in the service of the text or poetic structure at hand.
Q: What are you looking forward to about the “Dangerous Love” concert?
Fridley: The program includes a number of very exciting selections, and it’s hard to pick favorites! The emphasis on virtuosity in this era means that I’ll really get a chance to explore my whole range. The program includes “Sonetto contra la gelosia” by Mazzochi, a very virtuosic piece that lets me play around a lot in the vocal basement, and on the other end of the spectrum, I’ll be singing a low tenor part in Merula’s “Amo, l’è ver.” Mostly, though, I’m excited to collaborate with the instrumentalists and other singers. The theme really lends itself to a lot of passionate solo music and fantastic relationships between the different parts.
Haigh: I can’t wait to sing with Ellen and Daniel! None of the pieces are works I have sung before. Performing early Italian music used to terrify me, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of years getting my hands dirty with late 16th-century madrigals and 17th-century laments, so I am thrilled to have a chance to explore more of this repertoire. Ellen has chosen some very cool works that will make an amazing program — they have fire, virtuosity, sensuousness, and some totally surprising mannerist shifts that are sure to raise an eyebrow or two in wonder!
Q: What are you looking forward to about working with Ellen Hargis?
Fridley: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ellen Hargis a great deal, both with the Boston Early Music Festival, as a private teacher at Case Western, and in her summer Compleat Singer Programme in Vancouver, BC. She has an amazing sense of the rhetoric of this music, and ensures that you’re making musical shapes, not just singing notes and rhythms. Her vast experience, both as a teacher, chamber singer, and historical stage performer, is something that she translates remarkably well into her work with singers, and it’s always a privilege to learn from her.
Haigh: I love working with Ellen because she approaches music with so much accrued knowledge. She can contextualize works from so many times and places, and she inspires me to do more research. Ellen was my primary voice teacher for three years, so I feel like we have gotten to know each other musically, but I’ve never had the opportunity to sing next to her in a professional setting. It will be a fun experience to explore this repertoire with her, knowing that she knows my voice well and will be listening for stylistic as well as technical choices. One particular thing I appreciate so much about Ellen is her ability to untangle the dense strands of 16th- and 17th-century poetry set to music. I look forward to parsing these texts with her and furthering my own understanding of them.