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From the Baroque to the Blues

Travel back in time for a while
Bill Keale
Bill Keale

At the moment, 21st-century America’s immediate future is looking a little scary. Maybe for just a few days, let’s try — musically at least — living in the past.

Italian music had been all the rage in Europe for at least a century, thanks in part to the extraordinary explosion of music in early 17th-century Venice that birthed the Baroque style.

You can hear some of those revolutionary sacred sounds on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Central Lutheran Church (1857 Potter St.), when three fine Northwest ensembles converge to perform the concert equivalent of a Venetian vespers service from the 1600s. Composers include the greatest of the era, Claudio Monteverdi, along with rarely performed Italian Baroque masters Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Dario Castello and others. The ten singers are Tacoma’s early vocal consort Canonici combined with The Ensemble of Oregon, drawn from Portland’s top choirs, all accompanied by Portland’s historically informed period instrument group Musica Maestrale performing on archaic instruments like the theorbo (a big guitar) and viola da gamba, which superficially resembles a cello. 

Other music from other places include traditional and other Hawaiian music by singer-guitarist Bill Keale on Jan. 20 at Whirled Pies, and Laura Kemp (better known for folk and, lately, jazz) this time singing Sanskrit devotional music called kirtan in a Jan. 22 house concert at 755 River Road (mmeyer@efn.org for reservations).

And on Jan. 25 The Shedd brings blues harmonica master Mark Hummel to town along with an all-star team of fellow blues titans: Grammy winner Howard Levy (who’s worked with Bela Fleck, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon and many others), the great guitarist Duke Robillard (a founder and mainstay of Roomful of Blues), Chicago legend Corky Siegel (who’s been blowing the blues since the mid-’60s), Jason Ricci (a Johnny Winter sideman) and Canada’s Son of Dave. Hummel’s been organizing these roundups for 25 years now, and the musicians tour the world’s blues and folk festivals.

And let’s face it, if we’re going to be singing the blues for the next four years anyway, might as well get off to a good start.