A New Approach & MM

"The length of the syllables of the verse must be strictly observed, for in rhythm, are the images of the affections". - Aristotle

Solo song performances and especially singing to the lute were held in high regard in courtly circles and popular culture in early sixteenth century Italy. Renaissance songs have a beauty and emotional truth that have been sadly neglected: when performed in a style within the musical culture, we believe, they can gain new life for a modern audience.

We read descriptions of performances where singers delivered their lines and rendered their stories in dramatic fashion. In order to achieve this vitality today, it is essential to move beyond performances tied too closely to the score, to a literalness of interpretation and to an evenness of expression.

We discovered in the musical treatises and related sources of the early Renaissance that the art of singing (and playing) was rooted in oration and was closely aligned to persuasive speech where singers modelled their art on that of the orator or actor, giving their words the natural rhythms of speech.

That meant bringing out certain words and syllables and playing down others; adhering to long/short syllables; slowing down in certain passages and speeding up in others; stretching and swelling notes in expressive ways; singing louder or softer, and varying the tone of voice, according to the meaning of the text.

It also meant analysing any given sentence in a song, breaking it down into its various phrases and clauses, and leaving gaps with pauses between them when performing them; the song thus came across as a series of separate segments, creating a highly articulated style of delivery, one that makes a sharp contrast with a seamless legato, a single long unbroken line. All of this was possible because singers were free to adjust the notes on the printed page and add emphases, pauses and other nuances (and even ornaments) of their own.

In performing these songs, we have also made an effort to give them an authentic Italian flavour. Kate sings her songs not only with Italian speech rhythms but with Italian gestures (which most singers nowadays would consider exaggerated).

The final period touch is that her singing is accompanied by the lute, as it would have been when the songs were first performed.

The songs are suited to intimate settings, small rooms where we are free to draw on the full range of expressive resources available to musicians in early sixteenth-century Italy. You are invited to listen and see the results in our video of a characteristic song of the period - ‘Come harò donque ardire’ (‘How, then, could I ever dare’) - by one of the leading musicians, Tromboncino, to a poem by none other than Michelangelo, a supreme artist and accomplished poet.

Robert Meunier played guitar in a band in Toronto before turning to formal musical studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He studied the lute in London, England and obtained a diploma in performance from the Royal College of Music. As lutenist and musical director, he has been playing and researching early Italian Renaissance song and solo lute repertoire for over thirty years. He has taught the lute, recorded for CD releases with Chandos, CRD and BIS and radio broadcasts, and performed throughout Europe and North America both as a soloist and with specialist ensembles. In recent years, he has worked with Robert Toft, a world renowned expert on historical performance practices of vocal music who has published five books on the subject.

Kate Macoboy, Australian soprano, is a highly experienced ensemble singer and soloist. She performs regularly in the UK, Europe and Australia freelance with the leading ensembles, Ars Nova Copenhagen and Chamber Choir Ireland (under the direction of Paul Hillier). In 2010, she completed a Master in Advanced Vocal Ensemble Studies under scholarship at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. She also sings with a number of professional church choirs in London and has recently had European engagements with The Bach Consort and The Danish Radio Vokalensemblet, and a tour to Hong Kong with Theatre of Voices.