"Some of the pieces we'll perform are like the Italian Renaissance version of Martha and the Vandellas' 'Dancin' in the Streets,' " says baroque flutist and recorder player Frances Feldon. "You'll sure get your money's worth of notes," chimes in fiddler and harpist Shira Kammen, as the two describe Sunday afternoon's concert by Danza!, a Berkeley-based mixed Renaissance consort specializing in music of the early sixteenth century. "The concert's like a good Sicilian meal," exclaims Kammen, "with different courses for different tastes."
The concert features Florentine music from the time of Lorenzo dei Medici, including lively carnival street songs, intellectual art songs, courtly love songs, and contrapuntally complex instrumentals. Danza's performers include Feldon on Renaissance winds and tenor viol (viola da gamba), Kammen on vielle (fiddle) and harp, Herb Myers on fiddle and Renaissance winds, Roy Whelden on bass viol, and the marvelous Susan Rode Morris singing soprano. "Some of the music is very fun and robust, and some is for a more settled kind of sensibility," explains Feldon.
Lorenzo de' Medici, aka Lorenzo the Magnificent, composed some of the poetry in the concert's songs that celebrate the Medici family. Because in some cases only one line of music survived, Danza's members have performed a significant amount of reconstruction and improvisation.
Danza's concert is one of five or six presented each year by Hausmusik, a series devoted to Bay Area musicians and ensembles who perform medieval, Renaissance, baroque, and crossover music (music that blends early and ethnic traditions) spanning the late Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Founded in 1987 by Eileen Hadidian, Hausmusik's concerts were initially held in Bay Area homes. The group moved to its current location, St. Alban's Episcopal Church (1501 Washington St., Albany), in 1992. Feldon joined Hausmusik as series co-director in 1999.
Each Hausmusik concert focuses on a different theme, and since each group is auditioned in advance by CD or tape, performance ensembles are of high quality. The concerts usually sell out in advance, drawing a full house of 120 people. Reservations (510-527-9029) are advised.
Feldon explains that more and more young people attend Hausmusik performances, especially children interested in early music, because "it's very accessible and fun to listen to." Feldon should know. Raised in Southern California, she began playing flute and recorder when she was nine. "Music was something I always did," she explains. "When I was in college, I heard some early musicians and felt a very deep connection to this music -- like I had probably been a musician in the Middle Ages, and here I was doing it again in the twentieth century." After she heard Concentus Musicus of Vienna performing Bach's B Minor Suite for Flute for Orchestra on baroque flute, she said to herself, "Wow, that's my sound."
Kammen, raised in El Cerrito, also began to play violin and cello as a child. "When I was in high school, I started taking LPs out of the library and listening to all this weird medieval music. It never really occurred to me to play it, but I fell in with a band of musical ruffians and learned to play the vielle. I even sang when they let me."