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Medieval & Renaissance Semester » Boston Camerata


Illuminated Disinguished Visiting Artists in Residence:
       The Boston Camerata at UT

September 15 – November 20, 2007

Joel Cohen and Anne Azema of the Boston Camerata

The University of Tennessee is privileged to welcome back to campus the Boston Camerata, America’s foremost early music performance group. Director Joel Cohen and mezzo-soprano Anne Azéma will arrive on September 15 for a semester-long residency, engaging with faculty and students in special courses in musicology, language and literature, and medieval studies; working with students in vocal and instrumental music; and participating in large productions of outstanding musical performances in their Knoxville premiers. All performances will be open to the public and free of charge.

Scheduled Programs

Cantigas: Christians, Jews, and Muslims at the Court of King Alfonso the Wise
September 20, 2007 at 8:00pm - Cox Auditorium

This program features the most important body of vernacular song from the Spanish Middle Ages, composed for the court of Alfonso X (1221-1284), called ‘el Sabio’ (the Wise one). While they are a summit of medieval Christian spirituality—many of them celebrate miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary--Alfonso's court was a reflection of the general situation of Spain during this period. Calling himself "King of the Three Religions," the liberal-minded Alfonso surrounded himself with scholars and artists of all faiths. Thus this concert will prominently highlight the Muslim and Judaic influences present everywhere in Alfonso’s world.

Nueva España: Close Encounters in the New World, 1590-1690
October 9, 2007 at 8:00pm - UT Music Hall

Director Joel Cohen describes the sacred music of the ‘New World’ as "the meeting places of light and beauty that existed in those terrible, hard centuries" of European colonization. This program will explore the fruitful intercultural exchange that transpired as traditional Spanish music was transformed by its encounter with the indigenous cultures of Africa and the Americas.

Singing School: A Celebration of American Folk Hymnody
October 13, 2007 from 10:00am to 4:00pm - Knoxville Arts & Culture Alliance Annex (the corner of Gay St. & West Jackson Ave)

Knoxville and the surrounding region is host to a variety of groups who keep alive the vibrant customs of shape-note singing, Appalachian hymnody, and music from the Sacred Harp tradition, itself rooted in the music of the Middle Ages. Such groups will be invited to the UT campus to participate in a ‘Singing School’ led by the Boston Camerata.

The Abbey of Love: Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères, 1200-1400.
November 16, 2007 at 8:00pm - UT Music Hall

Dynamic changes in the central middle ages produced an explosion of rich and vibrant movements that transformed the culture of the European nobility, placing a new premium on the emotional life and fostering the celebration of ‘courtly love’. The program will provide an overview of secular monody in the Middle Ages, with texts in Old Provençal, Old French, and medieval German.  It will contain songs of the troubadours and trouvères, excerpts from the legend of Tristan and Iseult legend, and works by the great 14th century musician/poet Guillaume de Machaut. The theme throughout is love, with all its joys and deceptions: love as an overarching principal and motivation of human existence, "courtly love" as a philosophy of being.  But of course the main purpose of such a program, trumping questions of ideology, is to give pleasure!

A Quick Portrait of The Boston Camerata

The Boston Camerata preserves and reawakens human memory as expressed through the art of music. It accomplishes this mission through live, historically informed, professional performances of European and American music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras; through study and research into musical sources of the past; through sound recordings and media projects; and through community outreach and musical education.

Boston Camerata CastFounded in 1954, The Boston Camerata was associated until 1974 with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Since 1968, Joel Cohen has directed the ensemble's teaching, research, recording and concert activities. Camerata began touring overseas in 1974, and has maintained an international presence ever since. In recent seasons, Camerata has been heard in Canada, England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Israel.. In the United States, Camerata has participated in recent early music festivals at Berkeley and San Antonio, as well as in most of the biennial Boston Early Music Festivals from 1981 to 1993. The ensemble has maintained an extensive touring schedule across the entire United States. Camerata's second, third and fourth invitations to the renowned Tanglewood Festival came in 1992, 1994 and 1995, respectively. Camerata undertook its first Japanese tour in 1995; it gave its first Scandinavian performances in 1996. The group's first invitation to participate in the Kalamazoo Medieval Institute came in 1997.  A widely praised national tour of Cantigas in 2000 marked Camerata’s first collaboration with the Sharq Arabic Music Ensemble; the two groups most recently appeared together in Paris in April, 2007.  Camerata celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2005 with festive productions in Boston (Boston Early Music Festival) and Paris (Théatre de la Ville). At the latter appearance,  director Joel Cohen was decorated by the French government.

Performed in collaboration with the Tero Saarinen Company, Borrowed Light, a dance production using Shaker songs,  has toured extensively in Europe and America (France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, USA) since 2004,  with a south Asian tour programmed for early 2008.  Additional Camerata tours of early music repertoires are scheduled for 2008 in France and South America.

Media appearances by the Boston Camerata have included a nationally syndicated radio series in the U.S. and numerous broadcasts on French, English, Canadian, Dutch, Spanish, Swiss, Norwegian, and Swedish radio. The ensemble has made several appearances on French television; in the spring of 1992 its video production of the Roman de Fauvel was telecast nationwide in France. In the United States, Camerata provided the music for Guardian of Memory, a 1993 TV project for the Library of Congress. Camerata's video of Shall We Gather at the River received numerous "plays" on American cable television during the winter of 1992-93. Simple Gifts (1995), and The Golden Harvest, (2007)  the group's Shaker music projects, have been the subject of extensive coverage on national television, on American public radio and the BBC.

The Boston Camerata's numerous recordings on the Erato, Harmonia Mundi, Nonesuch Telefunken, Glissando,  and Warner Classics  labels have received worldwide distribution. In 1989, Joel Cohen and the Camerata were awarded the coveted Grand Prix du Disque for their recording, based on original sources, of the medieval Tristan and Iseult legend. This now-historic recording is scheduled for re-release in the autumn of 2007.  Camerata's recorded performance of Jean Gilles' Requiem became a bestseller in Europe during the spring of 1993. The CD recording of the ensemble's 1992 Tanglewood Festival program, Nueva España: Close Encounters in the New World, was released in autumn, 1993 to critical acclaim in both Europe and America. Simple Gifts, a recording of Shaker spirituals and chants was the number one bestseller on the national Billboard magazine classical chart during later 1995 and early 1996. Three new releases in 1996, Dowland--Farewell, Unkind: Songs and Dances; Trav'ling Home: American Spirituals 1770-1870; and Carmina Burana each won critical acclaim in the European musical press; the Dowland recording was nominated in January, 1997 for the French Grand Prix des Discophiles.   The Boston Camerata’s most recent recording, A Mediterranean Christmas, (Warner Classics) became an international bestseller during late 2005.

During the fall semester of 2007,  the Boston Camerata will be in residency at the University of Tennessee,  Knoxville.  This residency,  under the auspices of the university’s Marco Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies,  marks Camerata’s most extensive and ambitious educational project to date.