The Vancouver Bach Festival presented by Early Music Vancouver is now underway with shows at Christ Church Cathedral and The Chan Centre. Wednesday night’s program, Songs of Religious Upheaval featured the European quintet Cinquecento. For their first performance in Vancouver the group performed a selection of music from Reformation England by composers Thomas Tallis, Christopher Tye and William Byrd. The group’s name Cinquecento is taken from the Italian term for the sixteenth century, the period of the reformation. The pre-show talk with Countertenor Terry Wey and Baritone Tim Scott Whiteley moderated by Early Music Vancouver Artistic Director Matthew White introduced the groups history as well as a bit more about the era of their speciality Renaissance Music.
The Religious Upheaval refers to this period as Henry VIII broke with the Pope and Catholic Church, forming the Church of England in its wake. Then Catholicism was restored under Mary I before again being replaced by the Church of England under the reign of Elizabeth I. During this time musical works switched from melismatic (multiple notes to sing a single syllable of text) Latin favoured by the Catholic Church to simple syllabic English composition as decreed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, compositions to a more moderate blend under Elizabeth I.
Knowing this back story added to the evening’s performance, being able to contrast the styles. A melismatic composition with just a few lyrics taking twice as long as a lengthy syllabic one but both are equally stunning as performed by Cinquecento. The evening of beautiful music in the beautiful setting of Christ Church Cathedral was well attended with few empty seats in the pews. With tickets from $20 and shows throughout the days until August 11th, there’s surely something to appeal to all music fans, not just those interested in classical works.
For the full program and for tickets visit the Vancouver Bach Festival website