Piffaro Brings Ancient Traditions to Delaware, Now thru 12/30

If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, imagine how long and unimaginably dark winter was in the Renaissance world, especially in the northern reaches of the British Isles, France, and Flanders. To combat the fear and depression that must have pressed in during the "famine months," peasants and gentry alike gathered together in their halls to light great fires and make music - singing back the darkness, as humans have done since the beginning of time. Christian stories of rebirth and Sephardic songs of light were sung, often in 4, 5, or 6-part polyphony, and ancient rhythms echoing pagan assurances that spring would indeed quicken again were danced with earthy vigor. For centuries this music helped "To shorten winter's sadness," as the Thomas Weelkes tune goes.

Delaware Valley audiences can partake of that ancient tradition this December with Piffaro, the Renaissance Band. Tickets range from $15 for students to $40 for premium seating and are on sale now. Call 215-235-8469, email info@piffaro.org, or visit www.piffaro.org.

Laura Heimes, who has performed with Piffaro every December excepting two since 1994, joins the ensemble and together they will perform French noëls, songs of the Sephardim, selections from the Henry VIII Songbook, pavans and masque dances in the style of the English wind bands, and of course the old ballad that gives these concerts their title, Drive the Cold Winter Away.

Piffaro does not count a cornetto amongst the instruments in its vast arsenal, and so it is always a special treat for the ensemble's musicians and local early music lovers alike when the highly regarded cornettist Kiri Tollaksen joins the group, as she will this December (her last appearance was in 2009). The cornetto was the supreme virtuosic instrument of its day, with an uncanny ability to emulate the human voice in its lower registers and a trumpet-like ringing clarity in the upper, and Tollaksen is a modern-day master of this fiendishly difficult instrument.

After months of commercial carols repeated ad nauseum, the traditional sounds of the Renaissance will be balm to the ears in the quiet weekend after Christmas.


Tonight, December 28 @ 8PM, Trinity Center for Urban Life, 22nd and Spruce

Saturday, December 29 @ 8PM, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave

Sunday, December 30 @ 3PM, Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 Buck Rd, Greenville DE (new venue)

About Piffaro, The Renaissance Band: Philadelphia-based Piffaro delights audiences with highly polished recreations of the rustic music of the peasantry and the elegant sounds of the official wind bands of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. Its ever-expanding instrumentarium includes shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion - all careful reconstructions of instruments from the period. Under the direction of Artistic Directors Joan Kimball and Bob Wiemken, the world renowned pied-pipers of Early Music present an annual subscription concert series in the Philadelphia region; tour throughout North and South America and Europe; and appear as performers and instructors at major Early Music festivals. Piffaro has released 16 CDs since 1992, including 4 on the Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion label. Piffaro is the recipient of Early Music America's Laurette Goldberg Lifetime Achievement Award in Early Music Education and Outreach.

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