Friday, September 16, 2016

Renaissance Newsletter #10

Knights of New Jersey - A new web series

…How did Knights of New Jersey begin? What seed planted the idea of a sitcom about Renn faires?

I was always intrigued by the people who put [Renaissance faires] together. I don’t have a huge background, I’m kind of an interested observer. I grew up in Rhode Island, we would go to Renaissance faires in that area. It wasn’t until I started having kids that I gave myself permission to start going again.

[Then] one of my sons had a birthday party to Medieval Times. Off Route 3, not far where I live, in Rutherford. That was the seed, professional people play acting. It’s a spectacle, it’s cool but kind of silly. That was the inciting incident to thinking about the characters and the scripts initially, and still is, for a film.

Why did you pursue Knights of New Jersey as a web series instead of a movie?
The rise of web video, in particular a series called High Maintenance. You can take an idea and peel it apart, do it in chunks. A web series gave me a new way of thinking about the material. Instead of spending three years trying to develop and sell a script, at the end not even have a film, we could just do it on our own.

Modern Renn faire culture is very layered now, especially from “nerds” going mainstream to new people joining in the fun. What were your impressions of Renn faires and the people who go to them? Who introduced you?

From my friends in the Renn faire community, chief among them Sandy Spano with the New Jersey Renaissance Festival Players, an acting group which is defunct. They validated things I had written based on my own observations or out of my imagination.
I have a lot of feelings towards [that] community, I’m in awe of them. What they do is terrific, it’s fun and funny. All those threads combined into this, what would it be like to work at a Renaissance faire and live that life. Regardless of scenario or environment, people are people. They have goals, desires, obstacles. Just because you’re in a “magical” environment doesn’t mean reality goes away. All the emotions, politics [enter] fantasy, so to speak.

I’m familiar with faires, I go to the New York Renn Faire in Tuxedo Park every summer. But I’ve never worked at one, so what do you mean by politics?
It’s true. Faires have a very political organization. There is a Queen, a mayor, and it breaks down from there. The folks that toil in the trenches are looking to work their way up the ladder to become literally royalty. Down from that you have the knights, the ladies. You have street performers. You have folks just starting out. Any organization, you learn the ropes and work your way up. It does parallel the social strata they’re trying to emulate, which I think is fascinating…

The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon  

Recently identified by the editors of The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon  as the Rua Nova dos Mercadores, the principal commercial and financial street in Renaissance Lisbon, two sixteenth-century paintings, acquired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1866, form the starting point for this portrait of a global city in the early modern period. Focusing on unpublished objects, and incorporating newly discovered documents and inventories that allow novel interpretations of the Rua Nova and the goods for sale on it, these essays offer a compelling and original study of a metropolis whose reach once spanned four continents.  


The Rua Nova views painted by an anonymous Flemish artist portray an everyday scene on a recognisable street, with a diverse global population. This thoroughfare was the meeting point of all kinds of people, from rich to poor, slave to knight, indigenous Portuguese to Jews and diasporic black Africans.

The volume highlights the unique status of Lisbon as an entrepôt for curiosities, luxury goods and wild animals. As the Portuguese trading empire of the fifteenth and sixteenth century expanded sea-routes and networks from West Africa to India and the Far East, non-European cargoes were brought back to Renaissance Lisbon. Many rarities were earmarked for the Portuguese court, but simultaneously exclusive items were readily available for sale on the Rua Nova, the Lisbon equivalent of Bond Street or Fifth Avenue. Specialized shops offered West African and Ceylonese ivories, raffia and Asian textiles, rock crystals, Ming porcelain, Chinese and Ryukyuan lacquerware, jewellery, precious stones, naturalia and exotic animal byproducts. 

Lisbon was also a hub of distribution for overseas goods to other courts and cities in Europe. The cross-cultural and artistic influences between Lisbon and Portuguese Africa and Asia at this date will be re-assessed. 

Lisbon was destroyed in a devastating earthquake and tsunami in November 1755. These paintings are the only large-scale vistas of Rua Nova dos Mercadores to have survived, and together with the new objects and archival sources offer a fresh and original insight into Renaissance Lisbon and its material culture.

Complete description:

Jean Bretel’s description of the festive music and dance at Chauvency c. 1310, set to music.

Le Tournoi de Chauvency, written by the French poet Jacques Bretel, narrates a courtly celebration in Lorraine, and is the inspiration for Anne Azéma’s musical theater piece “The Night’s Tale,” presented by the Boston Camerata and the Longy School of Music at Pickman hall, Cambridge, April 16th-17th. The poem, and this performance, evokes festivities at the chateau of Chauvency. Daylight is the domain of men, who joust and fight in ritual encounter; when night falls, women converse in music and dance, far from the masculine violence of the daytime. Mutual desire aroused during the day culminates in the evening’s rites — aggressive and courtly, passionate and playful.

From Azéma’s program notes :

Why the focus on the Tournoi de Chauvency?

 It is an important source for the understanding of medieval society from many points of view—literary, historical, visual, aesthetic, and musical. It reveals much about love relationships and their social context. The Tournoi text, a rhymed narrative of over 4000 lines, relates with verve and relish a weeklong program of combats and jousts, and the amorous exchanges of a privileged, youthful European crowd. …

Yet another reason for our interest in the Tournoi is its vivid evocation of music, dance, and festivity. For all that, the manuscript contains not a single scrap of notated music. To make our project function in the here and now, the source itself urges us on. It obliges us, performers already familiar with many dimensions of medieval music, to push our inquiries still further, to create something new based on the skills we have already acquired in more familiar, less enigmatic contexts. Important among these is the practice, widespread already in the Middle Ages, of adapting or « twinning » new texts to already existing medieval melodies. Using this and other techniques we set out to create a new performance piece, meant to give delight and pleasure, guided every step of the way by Jean Bretel’s narrative, so generous and detailed in its descriptions of the festive music and dance at Chauvency c. 1310.

We cannot, of course, re-create with total precision the music of 1310. Even as we proceed with as much care and respect for our sources as possible, using Douce 308 and related manuscripts of the period, we hope to avoid the pitfalls of pseudohistoricism. Many decisions about performance style and manner must of necessity be supplied by the performers and by the artistic director; we embrace the large responsibility of making such decisions with humility, but also with enthusiasm and joy. What we present is a work for our time, drawing on the incredible life force that emerges from the manuscript’s folios, redirecting this magnificent force, to the best of our abilities, into our own ears, minds, and hearts.

Performance of music composed for chapel choirs of the Renaissance

Pomerium is a 14-voice choir performs music composed for the famous chapel choirs of the Renaissance...

In a recent concert at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.the choir  explored the evolution of the sacred motet from the time of Palestrina in the 16th century to Bach’s tenure in Leipzig in the 18th century.

The program featured a kaleidoscope of motet types: with continuo and without, single-choir and double-choir, chromatic and diatonic, four-voice, five-voice, six-voice, eight-voice, and 10-voice. The continuo group consisted of organ, viola da gamba and violone.

Stile Antico explores sensual music made spiritual during the Renaissance

Stile Antico, twelve-person ensemble that was formed when a number of the singers found each other and began performing during their years of study at Cambridge University, has traced the blurred boundary between sacred and secular music in the Renaissance. They encountered risqué, racy chansons transformed by Lassus, Morales and Victoria into devout Masses and Magnificats, and ribald folk songs worked into prayerful polyphony by Dufay and Taverner. 

New Yorker critic Alex Ross called his experience of a Stile Antico concert, "Perhaps the most ravishing sound I heard this year." Steve Smith of the New York Times concurred, calling Stile, "an ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality, and balance." The Vancouver Sun called Stile Antico, "The best and most exciting new vocal ensemble in the world."

A recent concert featured Mara Winter on the Renaissance flute

Musica Maestrale a Portland-based early music ensemble, brings together local musicians with national and international reputations to perform the exquisite, varied repertoire from between the 16th and 18th centuries. Using only historically accurate instruments, Musica Maestrale explores the tone, depth and character of the quieter, temperamental Renaissance and Baroque instruments, and aims to provide an intimate musical experience. A recent concert featured Mara Winter on the Renaissance flute, a notoriously difficult yet hauntingly beautiful instrument. Musica Maestrale artistic director Hideki Yamaya will also perform on the Renaissance lute. Included in the program will be masterworks by Attaining, De Rore, Dowland and Palestrina.

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Winter is a specialist in historical flute performance. She can be heard performing chamber music on period instruments spanning from the 11th century to the present. 

In the past she has been featured at the Berkeley and Vancouver Early Music Festivals. Winter has also performed with the historically informed Berwick Academy Orchestra during the Oregon Bach Festival under the direction of Matthew Halls.

Complete article:

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