GROUP'S GREGORIAN CHANT SOARS AT SOUTHERN
The Columbus Chamber Music Society moved its repertoire to medieval Paris for yesterday's concert by Lionheart, specialists in Gregorian chant. Lionheart's six talented voices presented "Paris 1200: Chant and Polyphony of 12th Century France'' at the Southern Theatre.
A crucial element of concerts involving small groups is the venue. This is especially true of early music and other programs of the original- instrument genre.
For the unaccompanied voices of Lionheart, the Southern's acoustics preserved the clear diction and accurate pitch -- after minor misses at the beginning -- of each combination of voices.
The program's progression from simple plainchant to early polyphonic music captured the attention of a 21st-century audience used to modern harmonic and tonal idioms.
The decision to omit an intermission contributed to this attentiveness. So did Lionheart's program notes, pointing out the "austere passion'' of the monks who began erecting the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the setting for which many selections are thought to have been conceived. That austerity was evident in many of the concert's early pieces, which used the simple harmonic technique of two voices singing a constant interval apart.
Lionheart most convincingly demonstrated this in the Ave virgo virginum and the Pange melos lacrimosum, reminding us that austerity of means can convey immense emotion, as Mozart showed centuries later when he used this technique to eerie effect in The Magic Flute.
Still, the audience's fascination grew with the addition of musical devices to other pieces in the program, whose middle selections switched from the most sacred to the most secular text, bawdy on its face and even more so by not-so-delicate allusions.
The longest secular piece showed the evolution of musical styles and combinations. Lionheart's return to sacred texts concluded the program as it began, with a processional.
The group's encore moved to 19th-century America: a barbershop- quartet treatment of Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland.
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