Sunday, February 8, 2015

Camerata Milwaukee


Camerata Milwaukee is an ensemble of professional musicians in Milwaukee who perform a repertoire of music from the Baroque Period several times each year at St. Robert's Parish in Shorewood, free of charge.  Their music is breathtakingly beautiful and is performed with such obvious love and joy that it's impossible not to be deeply moved by their performances.

As Ruth Brown, the soprano, waits to begin her solo, you can see her summoning up the music within her with all of her being, and when she begins to sing it's as if her voice comes straight from heaven. The musicians on the stringed instruments move to the sound of the strings as though they play, not just with their hands and fingers, but with their whole bodies, making their music a complete and prayerful offering of their entire selves.  I marvel over the talent and dedication of the harpsichord player, Floralba Vivas.  Her instrument adds a light and lovely dimension to the music, but the thought of carrying and setting up the harpsichord for each concert seems like it would be a chore. Yet, it's obvious through the beauty of her music and the smile upon her face, that it's not chore, but an act of love for her.

A beautiful brochure is created for each performance which includes not only the evening's musical selections, but also the Latin and English translations of the vocal choices and well-researched program notes that give a detailed background on the lives and works of the composers written by Marianne Kordas, the Director of the Music Material Center for the James White Library at Andrews University and her assistant, Timothy Arena.

The concerts that I have had the joy of attending have had a very sparse audience, which is heartbreaking considering that this is professional musicianship offered for a mere free-will offering. Following the performance, there is a social gathering with a variety of cheese, crackers, desserts and wines available with an opportunity to meet the musicians.

Camerata Milwaukee has been in existence since 2010.  Please visit their website here for more details about the musicians, their performances and several videos of recent performances.

These English lyrics below are from the performance held on February 6th and 7th, 2015.  They are a divine prayer on their own, but when sung by soprano, Ruth Brown, alto, Leigh Akin, tenor, Cameron Smith, and bass, Brett Hanisko, they were brought to soul-stirring life.

O Jesu, summa charitas 
by Johann Schmelzer (1620-1680)

O Jesus, sum of all love,
O Jesus, strongest in love,
Heart's ray, joy's wellspring,
Sweet hope of the soul.

What words,
What tongue could tell
How thou consolest those who love thee,
How thou consolest those who seek thee,
How thou consolest those who call upon thee,
How delightful thou art to them who love thee?

Wherefore, O Jesus,
We take refuge in thee in tears.
We shed our sins,
We pray for joy,
we open our innermost souls.
We who love thee call upon thee.
Hear our humble prayers.

-Translated into English by Paul Britten Austin, taken from liner notes to the recording Laudate! Music from the Duben Collection in Uppsala, Sweden PRCD 9100.

The video here and below was performed: 15 December 2012, at the St Robert Catholic Church, Shorewood-WI.
Ruth Brown, Soprano
Tony Perez & Jennifer D'Alessio, violins
JoAnn Haasler, viola --- Marie Sinco, cello
Floralba Vivas, harpsichord

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