Shepherd Express, December 12, 2002:
Old Music Comes Alive
High-minded and historical aren’t words usually associated with breezy and fun. However, the ensemble Fortune’s Wheel made those qualities come together last weekend on the Early Music Now series at North Shore Congregational Church in Fox Point.
This is a four-person ensemble, two singers and two players who alternate on fiddle and harp. The players also sing harmony occasionally. In spirit, this group sometimes resembled a folk music act, which was refreshing for a concert of medieval music. The performances had fresh spontaneity and not a bit of stuffiness, making this old music come alive.
The Christmas-themed program was entitled Angelus ad Virginem, with emphasis on the figure of Mary. The literature, in Latin more often than not, ranged from the 13th to the 15th centuries, from France, Spain, and, most prominently, England.
Lydia Heather Knutson is a soprano with a light, quick vibrato and a clear, sure sound. I would classify Paul Cummings as a bari-tenor, a singer on the fence between those two men's vocal ranges. His voice is also light and agile, very honestly produced, with little of what classical singers call “cover.” Together or alone, these artists gave the music variety and personality. No matter which instrument was played, Shira Kammen and Robert Mealy were fluent and expressive.
Music of this period is largely a matter of performance style, requiring lots of improvisation and arranging. Fortune's Wheel made every note interesting, and the many-versed songs progressed with variety and musical intrigue. The best asset of Fortune’s Wheel isn't their historical knowledge, their vocal or playing ability or even their keen sense of programming. It is their obvious love of making music together.
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lydia knutson · aaron sheehan · shira kammen · robert mealy