While sedate in name, Sonnambula Viol Consort teems with life in its upcoming performance on Feb. 12 in St. Paul’s Chapel. The name Sonnambula, Italian for sleepwalker, evokes the lively nature of the music performance for this early music group, whose name references the counterpoint Renaissance piece “Fantasia.”
Titled “Le Jardin des Delices: Courtly Song in the time of Josquin,” Sonnambula Viol Consort’s second concert at Columbia features a combination of instruments and vocals in a Renaissance repertoire including works by Josquin Desprez and Marbianus de Orto. Layering voice performance over historic instruments such as the viola da gamba, the repertoire evokes the Franco-Flemish madrigal tradition and includes music from Renaissance Spain and the court of Elizabethan England.
The viola da gamba, or viol, Sonnambula’s namesake instrument, is a stringed instrument resembling a modern viola but played on the gamba—“leg” in Italian. All of Sonnambula’s performances center around this rare instrument, which fits the group’s Renaissance and early Baroque character.
Based in New York, Sonnambula Viol Consort has been featured at venues around the city, including Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at which the group hopes to perform again. Susan Boynton, Columbia historical musicology professor and co-organizer of the Columbia Early Music concert, said that this potential concert will include a program similar to the one at St. Paul’s Chapel this week. Though centered in New York City, the group includes members from Boston and Washington, D.C., and travels around the East Coast to perform at events such as the Amherst Early Music Festival.
“There’s only a few of us around,” Elizabeth Weinfield, viol player and artistic director, said, “so we all know each other. The early music world is pretty small.”
Weinfield joins two other viola da gamba players, a violinist, an organ player, and two vocalists for Wednesday’s concert.
Though the violin had roots in that time period, it was not as popular an instrument, but Sonnambula Viol Consort hopes to combine this modern instrument with its Renaissance music.
Boynton hopes that St. Paul’s acoustics will highlight the “vibrant, delicate strings with voice.”
Boynton also points out the vocal aspect of this concert, specifically tenor singer James Kennerley, previous choirmaster at Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square.
“This is a great chance to hear solo songs accompanied by the viol consort,” Boynton said.
Weinfield notes that some pieces on the program have never been recorded and are seldom performed. One such piece is Marbianus de Orto’s “Il y a trois dames à Paris.”
Weinfield said that the group was invited back to campus after performing “Armada” last year.
“Le Jardin des Delices: Courtly Song in the time of Josquin” will take place at 8 p.m. on Feb. 12 in St. Paul’s Chapel.