Repeatedly crowned the top Classical Chamber Ensemble at the Washington music industry’s annual Wammie Awards, this early music ensemble also regularly wins praise for its original approach to holiday programming. Invariably, every year the Folger Consort offers the most refreshing, sophisticated, and enlightening holiday concert in town, far removed from the typical seasonal fare of sing-along carols and overplayed standards.
Last year’s return to live, in-person programming also served to emphasize the organization’s distinctiveness, given the particular program of yuletide tunes from the European Middle Ages between 700 and 1,000 years ago. The program was chiefly inspired by and named after the Consort’s 2007 album A Medieval Christmas.
A year later, the Folger Consort has decided to leap ahead to celebrate the far less ancient, even the “new” — relatively speaking, that is, as the focus is on music from “only” between 250 and 500 years ago, and all of it from the New World. The 2022 program was also principally inspired by a previously released Consort album — Christmas in New Spain, the live recording that garnered the organization another Wammie Award, 2015’s Best Classical Recording.
Now bearing the slightly revised title A New World Christmas, the reprise highlights festive music from Spanish colonies in Central and South America — namely Mexico and Peru — between the late-16th and 18th centuries.
While most composers from this “New Spain” time and place were Spanish immigrants and their descendants, they mixed indigenous American and African influences with Spanish and European traditions to create a distinctive Latin American fusion that the organizers call an “extraordinarily colorful, spirited, and diverse music,” that includes, among other things, “lively dance rhythms, call-and-response vocals, and contemporary-sounding chord progressions.”
With the Consort’s normal home in the Folger Shakespeare Library closed due to a major multi-year renovation, the concert, as with others this season, will be presented at the church across the street, St. Mark’s Episcopal. A 13-member core ensemble featuring both singers and musicians playing harp and guitar, strings, winds, and percussion, will be joined by special guest The Western Wind, an internationally acclaimed, New York-based a cappella vocal sextet.
An eclectic mix of high and low, formal and folk, and instrumental and vocal music, the program ranges from sacred pieces composed by Gaspar Fernandes, Juan de Araujo, and Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla — likely performed in the major cathedrals of Mexico and Peru at the time — to anonymous, “decidedly non-European style” selections from the Trujillo Codex, a remarkable manuscript compiled by an 18th century bishop in Peru. In addition to four live performances, a video recording will be made available for on-demand streaming.
Performances are Friday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, at 4 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2:30 p.m. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, 301 A St. SE.
Tickets are $60, or $20 to $50 for streaming access between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5.
Visit www.folger.edu/consort or call 202-544-7077.
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