MIDDLEBURY, Vt.?Renaissance choral music gathers new life in the hands of I Fagiolini, a distinctive English vocal ensemble visiting Middlebury College for a performance Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The group also plans a master class with the Middlebury College Chamber Choir, open to the public on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Mead Chapel.
The 11-member ensemble performs under the direction of Robert Hollingworth, the founder of I Fagiolini, which formed in 1986 when the singers were students at Oxford University. The Middlebury performance will feature works by Italian and English composers along with a sample of I Fagiolini's signature specialty: a semi-staged Renaissance madrigal comedy that brings life to a selection of early music.
I Fagiolini translate their Italian name as "little beans." On its Web site, the group explains that the choice stems from the slang at the time the members came together in the mid-1980s, when there was a keen interest in period music, often referred to as "beany" music. "Most of the musicians that appeared to be interested in it seemed to be card-carrying vegetarians with an alternative lifestyle," the group recalls, explaining the reason for the name. "Stuck for a name at short notice, we called ourselves the beans, translating it into Italian as we were singing Monteverdi and it sounded nicer like that. It stuck."
In 1988 the group won the U.K. Early Music Network's Young Artists' Competition and has since produced 11 compact discs. They have performed around the world from the Far East and the United States to Africa in concert venues, festivals and a variety of collaborations.
While I Fagiolini's roots are in the classics of Renaissance vocal repertoire, the group's members have experimented in recent years with an innovative approach to dramatize some of their more obscure selections for modern audiences. They call the technique "The Theatre of Music." The Daily Telegraph described it this way: "I Fagiolini is a group of young singers that has carved out a niche for itself exploring some of the more off-the-wall corners of the early music repertoire in a performance style that is at once true to the period and communicative to today's sophisticated audiences."
BBC Music Magazine called I Fagiolini dynamic and expressive with its rare choices: "You won't find more heartfelt singing of unfamiliar and lovely music than this."
I Fagiolini's visit is sponsored by the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series. The Nov. 4 master class is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. in Mead Chapel on Hepburn Road off College Street. The Nov. 6 performance in the Concert Hall at the Center for the Arts on South Main Street (Route 30) also begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors. For tickets and information, call the College Box Office at 802-443-6433 or visit online at www.middlebury.edu/arts/.
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