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Renaissance music is especially resonant during the winter holidays, and much of it was originally composed as an uplifting antidote to that long, cold, drafty time. It still fills that joyful function as 2021 comes to a close. This week, Philadelphia’s renowned Renaissance band Piffaro is offering a sampler of audience favorites drawn from four decades of holiday concerts, presenting music composed for or played during Christmas and Hanukkah or in celebration of the winter solstice.
The old year now has fled
In addition to the remarkable band of multi-instrumentalist Piffaro players and their over-50-piece instrumentarium of recorders, bagpipes, lute, and more, the concert will also feature two accomplished vocalists: noted American soprano Clara Rottsolk (who specializes in historically informed performance practice) and tenor Jason McStoots (fresh from an all-star Messiah performance with Tenet in New York City).
The concert’s diverse line-up, always a Piffaro hallmark, will include German chorales (including Vom Himmel hoch, Resonet in laudibus and In dulci jubilo); French noels (in arrangements for recorders, bagpipes, lute, and voices); Marian hymns from Spain; seasonal music from England (including variations on Greensleeves and The Old Yeare now has fled); and Sephardic songs celebrating the preparation of food for Hanukkah.
One of these Hanukkah “recipe tunes” is featured in Piffaro’s short preview video. Quita’tas mete’l tas is an anonymous song from an aural tradition that was carried by Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. As they spread through Europe, North Africa, and Turkey, they frequently adapted the music they brought with them to mesh with the cultures of their new homelands. In this and other Sephardic songs can be found in many features we associate with Turkish or Middle Eastern styles.
Let the Holidays Resound! will be presented live in Philadelphia and Wilmington. Those who purchase a virtual-only ticket (as well as in-person purchasers) can see the concert in a filmed version (slightly shorter), on view from December 18-28. This December musical offering continues the “farewell tour” of Joan Kimball and Bob Wiemken, Piffaro founders retiring at the end of this season, and this performance celebrates the duo’s 38 years of finding and presenting Renaissance holiday treasures.
What, When, Where
Let the Holidays Resound! A Christmas, Hanukkah & Solstice Celebration. Clara Rottsolk (soprano) and Jason McStoots (tenor). Piffaro, The Renaissance Band. $29, $49, $19 for streaming on-demand. December 10 at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 S. 38th Street, Philadelphia; December 11 at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia; and December 12 at Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 Buck Road, Wilmington, DE. Streaming online December 18-28, 2021. (215) 235-8469 or piffaro.org.
Entry to Piffaro concerts requires ID and proof of vaccination, and masks are required. Check the website for pandemic protocols and accessibility at each venue.
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