Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Posts tagged “Folger Consort

“A New Song: Celebrating the King James Bible” from Folger Consort

We’re delighted to announce that CDs and mp3 downloads of Folger Consort’s “A New Song” are now available online. You may recall from this earlier blog post that the Folger’s resident early music ensemble, Folger Consort, joined forces with the Washington National Cathedral’s vocal chamber ensemble CATHEDRA in late September and early October to perform “A New Song: Music Inspired by the King James Bible.” This new release is the happy result.

A New Song: Celebrating the King James Bible is Folger Consort’s first entirely new recording in eleven years. Musical settings of biblical verse and other sacred works from the reigns of England’s James I and James II by composers Henry Purcell, Thomas Tomkins, Orlando Gibbons, and John Blow are complemented by instrumental fantasies by Purcell, Gibbons, and Giovanni Coprario. Much more information, including preview audio clips, album notes, and more, is available at the link cited above, www.cdbaby.com/cd/folgerconsort11.

Performers include Washington National Cathedral’s chamber vocal ensemble CATHEDRA and instrumentalists Risa Browder, violin; Robert Eisenstein, violin; Christopher Kendall, lute, theorbo; Adam Pearl, organ; Alice Robbins, viol, basse de violon; and Henry Valoris, viola. Robert Eisenstein and Christoper Kendall are the artistic directors of Folger Consort. The running time for the full CD is  77 minutes, 24 seconds.

The “New Song” concerts were among several KJB-related Folger Shakespeare Library programs produced during the current Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition, on display through January 16. Another Folger Manifold Greatness program takes place this Friday, December 16: Poetics and the Bible, with poet Jacqueline Osherow and scholar Michele Osherow.


Sing unto him a new song

Cathedra, the chamber vocal ensemble of Washington National Cathedral

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s resident early music ensemble, the Folger Consort, presents A New Song: Music Inspired by the King James Bible this week from Friday, September 30, through Sunday, October 2, with period strings, organ, and Washington National Cathedral’s chamber vocal ensemble Cathedra, Michael McCarthy, director.

An early music seminar will be held this evening, September 28, to discuss the program, and there is an audience discussion period prior to the Friday concert.

The following text is excerpted from notes by one of the Folger Consort’s artistic directors, Robert Eisenstein.

 

“Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.”
Psalms 33:3, King James Bible

The Folger Consort’s A New Song is part of a worldwide—and, with the current exhibition, Folger-wide—celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. We have decided to center our musical offering on settings of biblical texts from the reigns of King James I and King James II. In the case of the former, we will mostly be presenting anthems based on English translations that preceded the King James Version, many of which were important sources for the committees of scholars who translated the King James Bible.

It is difficult to find 17th-century musical settings of the King James Bible version of the Psalms because Coverdale’s beautiful prose from his 1535 Bible made its way into the Book of Common Prayer, which was still in use throughout our chosen period. By the time of the Restoration, however, most English settings of biblical texts other than the Psalms were taken, sometimes with a bit of variation for musical reasons, from the King James Version, and this will be apparent in our selections of anthems by Henry Purcell, Pelham Humfrey, and John Blow. All of this music will be performed with the forces most commonly used for anthems in the 17th century—a small choir supported by organ and often by strings that accompany the verses and provide an opening symphony and instrumental interludes. We have also included some wonderful representative instrumental music from the time.

(L-R) Folger Consort artistic directors Robert Eisenstein and Christopher Kendall. Credit: Mig Dooley

We begin with an anthem by Thomas Tomkins written for the coronation of James I. Other composers represented in the program include Giovanni Coprario (tradition has it that he taught music to James I’s children); Orlando Gibbons, who was, with Coprario, a member of the household of James I’s son, Prince Charles; Henry Purcell, one of the greatest composers of the Baroque and certainly one of the greatest English composers of any era; and two other wonderful English Restoration composers, Pelham Humfrey and John Blow.

We conclude with an anthem for the next rulers of England after James II. Purcell’s Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem was composed for the coronation festivities for William and Mary at Westminster Abbey in 1689.

 

Robert Eisenstein is, with Christopher Kendall, one of two artistic directors of the Folger Consort, the resident early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Shake Up Your Saturdays! (And Sundays, and Mondays, and…)

Family programs. Folger Shakespeare Library.

As the Folger Manifold Greatness exhibition gets ready to open to the public this Friday, a host of related Folger programs and events are on the way—right away—from this Saturday’s family program to concerts and plays, a major conference, lectures and conversations, and much more!

First out of the gate, this Saturday morning at 10 am, is a Folger family program in the Folger’s “Shake Up Your Saturdays!” series, tailored specifically to the King James Bible. Registration is required, but admission is free. To quote the organizers: “During the reign of King James I, Shakespeare wrote some of his best known work, including the witchy Macbeth. Join us to learn about the translation of the most famous book in the world, and how it still affects us today!”

Jill Lepore

But that Saturday wake-up call is just the beginning. Next week, the Folger Consort, the resident early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library, is holding an early music seminar on September 28 that considers its upcoming concert, A New Song: Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible.Concerts take place September 30 through October 2.

And at just about the same time, the Folger Institute—a consortium of 41 colleges and universities and the Folger Shakespeare Library—hosts a major academic conference on An Anglo-American History of the KJV, September 29 through October 1. Jill Lepore, a noted scholar and staff writer for The New Yorker, kicks off the conference with her keynote address, “KJV in the USA: The King’s Bible in a Country Without a King.”

And that’s just next week! Looking ahead:

On October 4, Folger director Michael Witmore introduces and moderates a conversation with former three-time US poet laureate Robert Pinsky inspired in part by the Manifold Greatness exhibition (the event is part of Folger Poetry’s prestigious O.B. Hardison Poetry Series, named after a former Folger director.)

Owiso Odera, Ian Merrill Peakes, Othello, Folger Theatre, 2011. Photograph by James Kegley.

On October 18, it’s the premiere of the Folger production of William Shakespeare’s Othello, written and performed about the time that King James came to the throne—more about that closer to opening night! We could go on (and there are already more events scheduled for November and December…) but you get the idea.

We’d love to have your family join us for Shake Up Your Saturdays! this Saturday morning. Just don’t think for a moment that there isn’t much more to come, for every audience and age.


Curt Wittig: In Appreciation

Messiah. London, 1749(?), Folger.

We were saddened to learn of the death of recording engineer Curt Wittig, who contributed in a very significant way to the Handel’s Messiah portion of our Manifold Greatness website. Composer James Primosch has this tribute on his blog, with additional links.

Soon after starting work on the Manifold Greatness website, we discovered that Handel’s Messiah—which, as we have previously noted, takes most of its text from the King James Bible—had been performed in 1991 by the Choir of Oxford’s Magdalen College and the Folger Consort, the resident early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The 1991 Folger-Oxford performance was a nice parallel to Manifold Greatness, a joint project of the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas.

Recordings of the three 1991 performances were thus a natural source for audio clips to be included in the Handel’s Messiah portion of the website. Archival recordings of multiple concerts in a public space cannot simply be used as-is, however. Curt, the long-standing audio engineer for the Folger Consort, came to the rescue. Having made the original recordings of the 1991 concerts, he worked closely with us last year to edit clips from the multiple performances, while also suggesting the best segments of the work to use from an audio perspective. His meticulous and thoughtful edits now make it possible for website visitors to hear how Handel and his librettist Charles Jennens set the words of the King James Bible to music, producing a work that has become so widely performed that it may well be the primary way in which many people hear the language of the King James Bible today.

You can hear Curt’s audio excerpts from the Messiah here.