Renaissance music for a musical renaissance

Piffaro welcomes the new and old with A New Sun Rising

2 minute read
Six performers pose in front of gazebo pillars, dressed in all black.
Variant 6 will guest on Piffaro's first performance of the new season. (Photo by Andrew Bogard.)

Piffaro will mark its return to in-person concerts with a program that combines Renaissance music with a world premiere by Kile Smith. All the pieces on the program celebrate stars and suns. The oldest is an ancient hymn, "A solis ortus cardine" (From the point of the rising sun). The newest is Smith’s new work, composed for voices and the Renaissance instruments Piffaro plays. Smith’s piece takes its words from the "Ave Maris Stella" (Hail, Star of the Sea), a medieval hymn that refers to Mary as the protector of sailors and, by extension, anyone wandering in hazardous environments.

In with the new

Smith’s first collaboration with Piffaro, his 2008 Vespers, made a big hit locally when it premiered and earned rave reviews. When he started working on the "Ave Maris Stella" over two years ago, Smith notes, no one could have known “that its refrain would sound poignantly in the midst of the troubled waters of pandemic and national strife.”

The concert will inaugurate a new era in Piffaro’s history. Piffaro’s co-founders and co-directors, Joan Kimball and Robert Wiemken, have announced they will be retiring at the end of this season. They have led Piffaro through 40 crowded years, developing it into an international leader among groups that play Renaissance and Baroque music on period instruments.

Many music groups struggle to find their footing when their founders retire. However, Kimball and Wiemken have named a promising successor, Priscilla Herreid. Herreid is one of the troupe’s younger members who has demonstrated a capacity for leadership. She’s a skilled musician who’s popular with audiences and her colleagues. She’ll be studying her new role as the season progresses.

The guest musicians for the concert will be two of Piffaro’s most popular visitors, the Variant 6 vocal sextet, and cornetto player Kiri Tollaksen. Variant 6 showcases six singers who are familiar faces to anyone who follows Philadelphia choral music. Tollaksen is a star player on one of the most attractive instruments we’ve inherited from the Renaissance.

Editor’s Note: Kile Smith is a contributor to Broad Street Review.

What, When, Where

A New Sun Rising. Kile Smith. Piffaro, the Renaissance Band. $29-49. In-person on October 8 at 7:30pm at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 23 S. 38th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; October 9 at 7:30pm at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and October 10 at 3pm, at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, 719 N. Shipley Street, Wilmington, Delaware. The concert will be available online on-demand October 16-26. (215) 235-8469 or

Patrons must provide proof of vaccination. All in attendance must wear a mask and observe social distancing. All musicians, staff, and volunteers are vaccinated. Staff and ushers will be masked at all times. Musicians will not be masked but will perform with a large open area between the stage and the audience. Attendance will be limited to 50% of venue capacity. There will be no ticket or merchandise sales at the venue.

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