Ensemble Sonaris Program Description

Chiaroscuro: Sounds and Sights of Darkness and Light
Music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque

Chiaroscuro:  Italian: [kjaroˈsku:ro]; chiaro (“clear” or “bright”), oscuro (“obscure” or “dark”)

Expression of possibility, of change, of individuality, of contrast, subtlety and complexity, can be described by the word, Chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro can describe contrast and complexity in expressions of visual and aural color, personality and emotion, structures and subtleties of human beliefs, customs, ideas and imagination. Through the centuries, the use of the word “light” as contrasted with “dark” has associations with spirituality (personified or not), reason (rational rather than emotional), pure, positive intelligence, optimistic hope and truth. Contrast of darkness and light is elemental to human experience.

Centuries ago in the late Renaissance, a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals gathered in Italy to discuss their visions, experiences, loves, hopes and dreams for themselves and the arts; this creative assembly took place in a supportive and safe “incubator” environment (under the patronage of Count Giovanni de’ Bardi). They called themselves “The Florentine Camerata” and “Camerata de Bardi.”

This consortium brought to life the musical version of the Italian Renaissance during the second half of the 16th century. Through informal work group gatherings, they collectively rejected the polyphonic tradition of the Renaissance and created a new musical language based on their views and vision through different colored lenses on Classical musical drama.

Rooted in the conventions and spirit of classic rhetoric and oration, this new style (which the Camerata and their witnesses termed, ” Second Practice”) was rooted in and inspired by “monody;” a term for the venerable tradition of reciting ancient Greek literature–a style which required one person chanting the literature. This monody was a point of departure for that think tank, the Florentine Camerata.

The Camerata’s “big idea” created the Baroque era of music. Their collaborative work threw a railroad track switch which witnessed the birth of opera, the aria, the cantata and instrumental musical forms; all still part of today’s musical landscape. That consortium’s brainstorm resulted with a shift in musical style which radically changed the course of music history.

The music performed by Ensemble Sonaris explores the paths to and from this nuove musiche (“new music”) in a journey of organized sound and words. This voyage will be in the form of an arch – a palindrome. We begin with early Medieval chant composed by Hildegard von Bingen; we then journey through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, early and later Baroque…then return, the way we came…via the “way back machine” (think either website archeological tools or the WABAC machine of Mr. Peobody in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends Show) and end with another Medieval chant by Hildegard von Bingen.

Thanks to the magic of music, and the collaborative minds, talents and variety of colors and contrasts provided by the music, instruments and musicians of Ensemble Sonaris, enhanced by visual projections from the Picker Art Gallery, we can metaphorically experience a 24 hour day from sunrise to sunset, then back to sunrise again–with all of its chiaroscuro–its contrasts of darkness and light.

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