In my book, they just don't come any better than the Baltimore Consort. Not only proficient in their early-music instruments, and not only unsurpassed as musicians, they also possess what so many performers lack, namely a communicated joy in music-making and in sharing it with an audience. This group has been performing for 33 years, and yet the energy and fun with which they played and sang in this Early Music Guild concert was like that of an up-and-coming band just hitting their stride. (For complete review, click here)
..They brought their lutes and viols to Glasgow, along with
bewitching soprano, Custer LaRue...It ought to be offensive
that the most exhilarating Scots music performance to turn
up on our native soil this year should come from America...They
bring to this music researched by them with awesome thoroughness,
a mix of jazz and joy, of improvisation and uncanny insight...
"Crossing to the New World" was the name of the
program...You'd have to see this group in action to believe
what your ears tell you you're hearing...The audience loved
Few early music players have more fun making music than the
Baltimore six, who through their performances, take the position
that echos of renaissance secular music are still to be found
in modern folk practice.
True to form, the rambunctious sextet from Baltimore found
material for a Christmas program that was unfamiliar, imbued
with the common touch and full of delightful surprises
...superb musicianship...achieved with the ease, fluidity
and flawless skill long taken for granted for string quartets
and other "modern" chamber ensembles.
The Baltimore Consort is perhaps the best balancing act of
period authenticity, instrumental precision and sheer fun
in the early music community today.
It's not hard to understand why the Baltimore Consort has
such a large following...they are able to make an instant
connection with the audience....The group offers a lively,
eclectic mix of early music on instruments that tickle the
fancy, intrigue the eye and please the ear. The fact that
all six musicians are superbly talented at their art doesn't
The Baltimore Consort gave new life to popular songs and
dances of France four centuries ago in "La Rocque 'n'
Roll" at Synod Hall..these musicians, with their clever
arrangements, project delight and spontaneity in their performances.
One of the best concerts I attended last season was given
by the Baltimore Consort: titled 'La Rocque 'n' Roll:Popular
Music of Renaissance France,' it was devoted to songs and
dances that delighted people 450 years ago, and still give
The Baltimore Consort is one of the best period instrument
ensembles around...distinguished by the absolute joyous mastery
of their instruments to the degree that they can improvise
To the musicians of the Baltimore Consort, it's an easy jump
from the Elizabethan court to the Appalachian countryside.
In their entertaining program at the Cleveland Museum of Art
... they balanced scholarly knowledge with the communicative
skills of storytelling and the improvisatiory techniques of
The Baltimore Consort is continually surprising, even after
fifteen years. Each of the concerts this reviewer has heard
has been unlike the others...the early-music movement has
no more distinguished practictioners than this group.
Music Review: Great Scot! The Baltimore makes vibrant, virtuosic early music
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 4, 2008 (excerpt below)
The Baltimore Consort brought early Scottish music's rhythmically vibrant textures to Synod Hall and the Renaissance and Baroque Society Saturday night.
The early music ensemble displayed its virtuosic performance skills in works from folk music to minstrel and court music of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Supported by Ronn McFarlane's steady lute and the silky textures of viol performances by Mary Anne Ballard, Mark Cudek and Larry Lipkis, flutist Mindy Rosenfeld carried the melodic intricacies of many of the evening's works.
Soprano and Somerset native Danielle Svonavec achieved a beautifully soft dynamic in "O lustie May."
Rosenfeld's flute provided an interesting counter-commentary through her flutter-tongues and excellent tonal balance with Svonavec's voice. The softness of the ensemble's dynamic in this work was countered by a rousing crescendo in the instrumental "A Scot's Tune."
With their whistles and crumhorns (a capped reed instrument, visually reminiscent of the letter J) Rosenfeld and Lipkis found plenty of humor in "Branles d'escosse."
The pair played off of the crumhorn's naturally buzzy timbre, honking at each other as the accompanying strings evolved into a tight rhythm band. McFarlane expertly voiced his lute solo "Two Canaries," so that his instrument's melodic and bass lines remained clear. The second of these "canaries" (named for the Canary Islands) had a strong resemblance to the refrain of the Simon and Garfunkel tune "Homeward Bound." Though not always as specific, similar references to American popular and folk music could be heard in many of the works on the concert.
The Consort made these references explicit by including "The Ballad of Johnny Faa," a Scottish-American folk song from the Appalachian region of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Svonavec tossed off the ballad's vocal punctuations nicely, achieving a strong balance with the plucked string accompaniments.
Seattle Gay News: The Baltimore Consort Delights on Many Levels
Tuesday, February 26th
A concert by The Baltimore Consort is like sitting down with some incredibly gifted friends to have fun. Really! These performers were totally unpretentious, quite informal, and obviously loved what they were doing. They addressed the audience in a playful manner and seemed genuinely delighted to be back in Seattle to play in Town Hall for this audience.
The members of this 28-year-old ensemble were Mary Anne Ballard, Mark Cudek, José Lemos, Larry Lipkis, Ronn McFarlane, and Mindy Rosenfeld. Only one lives in Baltimore!
The instruments they traded off playing were varied indeed: lute, flute, recorders, crumhorn, treble, tenor, and bass viols. Perhaps most spectacular of all was countertenor, Jose Lemos. It’s hard to say which was more impressive about Lemos, his bright and beautiful voice or his musical personality. His voice was strong and gutsy yet light and extremely flexible. His technique is perfected to the point of invisibility, and he performed the most elaborate vocal decorations with ease and gleeful expression. He combined an impish glee with elegance. Although translations were provided, one did not need them to find delight in his singing.
While there were welcome instrumental numbers in the varied program, well over half the pieces were sung by Jose Lemos. A native of Brazil and Uruguay, he was such a popular part of this performance (and an earlier appearance by the Consort in Seattle) that we were told that this program will be recorded this year and that Jose has recorded with other musicians too.
The music was subtitled “Romances, Villancicos, and Improvisations of Spain, circa 1500.” The printed program included a fascinating essay by performer Mark Cudek about this historical period and the traditions and variant forms of the Sephardic-influenced music of the time. Anyone could become quite involved intellectually with what we were hearing. Or one could choose simply to listen and be entertained. The program of almost entirely unfamiliar music worked equally well either way.
The Baltimore Consort has recorded 13 CD’s so far on the Dorian label. Their energy and enthusiasm would point to the appearance of many more. Any lover of early music would do well to sample this ensemble and to watch for their next appearance in Seattle.
Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Gut, Wind and Wire” - Instruments of the Baltimore Consort - Dorian
The actual instruments are replicas of those used from 1500 to about 1700 to play instrumental music.
Published on November 08, 2007
“Gut, Wind and Wire” - Instruments of the Baltimore Consort - Dorian DSL-90601, 58:13 ****:
(Mary Anne Ballard - viols, fiddle, rebec; Mark Cudek - cittern, recorder, crumhorn, viol; Larry Lipkis - bass viol, recorder, crumhorn; Ronn McFarlane - lute; Chris Norman - flutes, bagpipe, bodhran; Mindy Rosenfeld - flutes and fifes; Guest Artists: Edwin George - recorder on tr. 1; Wm. Simms - bandora on tr. 24, 25, 29)
This all-instrumental 36-track compilation comes from both the past eight Dorian CDs by the Consort plus 12 new and previously unreleased tracks. The selections come from 15th and 16th century sources and collections, including The English Dancing Master, Liber Primus Leviorum Carminum, The Dublin Virginal, and various lute books. Three selections from Michael Praetorius’ important collection of dances, Terpsichore, are included, but most of the music is anonymous, from traditional folk sources of the British Isles.
The back cover of the note booklet shows most of the instruments heard on the disc, together with a legend identifying each one and a paragraph in the notes on the history and uses of each instrument. The actual instruments are replicas of those used from 1500 to about 1700 to play instrumental music. Anyone will be instantly up to date on what instruments are heard in early music after looking over and listening to this fascinating CD. The selections are grouped with various titles to indicate their connection. For example: Celtic Flute, Renaissance Italy, An English Country Ball, and some of the lusty, rhythmic dances grouped under the sobriquet “La Rocque ‘n Roll.”
Clean and present sound from close miking makes this a dynamic and satisfying program to hear. The variety of instrumentation also makes the program more interesting and tweaks the ear to listen for specific instruments one has just read about.
- John Sunier