Seattle’s vibrant early music scene

In recent years, Seattle has become a mecca for early music, the world of music created from its earliest beginnings to about the year 1750. World-class performers such as Stephen Stubbs have moved here to join long-time Seattleites Margriet Tindemans and Nancy Zylstra. It means that there are some thrilling opportunities for exploration of the world of music before Mozart, right in our own backyard!

An upcoming concert that is a must-hear (and, in the spectacular surroundings of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, is a must-see as well) will be presented on Sunday, July 27, at 8 p.m. by the internationally renowned Tallis Scholars, in Seattle for their summer school, performing with members of the local group The Tudor Choir.  They’ll be singing English church music with a small

group of voices, transporting you in to the world of soaring Gothic cathedrals. Musically, these works range from somber to virtuosic, with every shade of emotion in between, and include some conventions that sound marvelously strange to our modern ears. If you can’t hear them live, try this recording of the Tallis Scholars singing Robert White’s Tudor Church Music, which is a great introduction to this sound. Pair that with the DVDs of the two movies about Queen Elizabeth the I starring Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and you’ll get a full exposure to this fascinating time in history.

Another group to check out this fall is the Medieval Women’s Choir. This group, run by the world-famous Margriet Tindemans, has been gaining increasingly outstanding reviews for its mix of fascinating programming and visual interest of its presentations. Programs have included a dramatic presentation of the story of the ill-fated lovers Heloise and Abelard, and a staged version of the music of the mystic healer Hildegard of Bingen (all three of whom lived before the year 1200!). Pair these concerts with a volume of the The Letters of Heloise and Abelard, the biography Heloise & Abelard by James Burge, or one of the volumes of selected writings of Hildegard of Bingen, selected and edited by Sabina Flanagan.

And if you become captivated by this mysterious yet accessible genre of music, Seattle’s Early Music Guild (EMG) is a great resource for keeping up to date with what’s going on around town. They sponsor a concert series that brings the hottest new early music groups from all over the world, produce a newsletter called MUSICA!, and this year will be sponsoring their second full-length opera, Monteverdi’s ravishing Orfeo, first performed in 1607, and one of the earliest works to be recognized as an opera. The library has Orfeo in CD and digital format, and even has a DVD of a performance. And don’t forget to check out EMG’s wonderful page of links!    ~ Ann G.

2 thoughts on “Seattle’s vibrant early music scene”

  1. Thanks for all this early music information and letting everyone know about the Early Music Guild, the Tudor Choir and the Medieval Women’s Choir.

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