Dowland in Dublin

Dowland in Dublin: An evening of Lute Songs in an Irish pub!

La Nef (Montreal)
Michael Slattery, tenor (USA)
Saturday, 4 October, 8 pm Pre-concert talk 7:10 pm Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora (at Quadra)

“Dowland, as it turns out, sounds great when suited up, as here he is, in Celtic attire … They achieve a seamless, hand-in-glove result, and while the semper dolens qualities that define Dowland are evident, there’s a new and mitigating sweetness brought to bear. Slattery’s voice is perfectly suited to Dowland.” CBC Music

La Nef has fancifully placed the British composer John Dowland (1563-1626) into a modern Celtic setting by stripping away much of its complexity and letting the beauty of the underlying melodies shine through. Dowland’s usually plaintive music, rooted in the stately pavane and the galliard, has been rearranged by the musicians as if the ensemble were setting out to play an evening’s gig in an Irish pub. The singer is American tenor Michael Slattery, whose high, sweet voice perfectly matches the mood of the music and the Elizabethan instruments brought along by La Nef.

Celebrated during his life for his lute performance and compositions, Dowland is known today mainly for his songs and for the melancholy mood which dominates his musical output. In his settings and choice of titles, however, Dowland reveals another side. On the one hand, he is the man of melancholy, the man who wrote so many weepy works: Lachrimae, Flow my tears, I saw my Lady weep, Go Crystal tears. On the other hand, he is a man of lightness, wit, and satire: My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe, Mistress Winter’s Jump, Mrs. White’s Thing. For this concert, La Nef has chosen to focus on Dowland’s light-hearted side while including some of his more melancholy hits.

The greatest composer of secular music of his age, Dowland wrote and set several songs in praise of his monarch, Elizabeth I. Nevertheless, he was unsuccesssful in obtaining a post in her court. Elizabeth’s tastes in music–she was a composer in her own right and a talented keyboardist–ran towards the religious and ceremonial and her courtly preferences ran to Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. So the virtuoso luthenist Dowland travelled Europe, working for a time in the court of Denmark and winning fame as the composer of the greatest international hit of its day, the pavane Lachrimae, which he turned into the song Flow my tears. At last, in 1612, he was engaged as a lutenist in the court of James I, when his compositional career essentially came to an end.

La Nef is a company dedicated to the creation and production of early and contemporary music. It hires musicians and artists in all disciplines according to the needs of its productions. La Nef produces concerts and recitals of early and traditional music that are based on historical and literary themes. In 2001, La Nef broadened its field of action by launching a sector dedicated to contemporary music and to the creation, research, and development of new forms. The company alternates projects that are essentially musical with theatrical projects that involve multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, multimedia, and operatic elements.

Since graduating from Juilliard, Michael Slattery has enjoyed an exciting international career. He has worked with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the French National Orchestra in Paris, the Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall. Career highlights include Peter Sellars’ Tristan Project at Lincoln Center, the title role in Bernstein’s Candide at Royal Festival Hall in London, and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the Châtelet Theater in Paris, the Staatsoper in Berlin, and at Glimmerglass. His voice has been recorded for film and television and he was recently included in the Spectator’s list of “Heroes of the Concert Hall”. In this concert, he also plays the shruti-box, an instrument whose origin is in early India, where it served as a chanter to accompany religious songs.

Michael Slattery: tenor, shruti-box
Sylvain Bergeron: lute
Sean Dagher: cittern
Grégoire Jeay: flute, recorder
Amanda Keesmat: cello
Alex Kehler: violin

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