The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 07, 2012

Red Priest brings lively approach to Baroque

Posted by Gregory Stepanich

Red Priest in performance.

It’s a good weekend for early music, with return visits by two groups that do their best to make music of ages long past live for modern audiences.

This year’s concert series at St. Martha’s in Miami Shores begins with a concert Sunday afternoon by Red Priest, the British quartet that takes its name from Antonio Vivaldi’s nickname – the Italian composer was both red-haired and an ordained man of the cloth, and was known in Venice as il prete rosso (the red priest).

Founder and recorder virtuoso Piers Adams has drawn from the irreverence of that name for the group’s performances, which reimagine works such as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or the Bach E major Violin Partita for an energetic chamber quartet and present them while wearing showy garb (say, pirate costumes) amid light shows.

It’s an interesting mix of rock showbiz with serious scholarship and expert musicianship; the idea seems to be that while this music wasn’t originally presented this way, it’s vital enough to survive it, and in spirit is surely closer to the more freewheeling approach it must have had when it was new.

Here’s a performance of Vivaldi’s The Nightmare, from a couple years back on BBC Four.

Red Priest plays at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Martha’s; tickets are only $10, and there’s a reception with the artists afterward. Call 305-751-0005 or visit

Eric Redlinger and Sylvia Rhyne, of Asteria. Photo by Katryn Conlin

The night before, the Miami Bach Society hosts a reception for young professionals at the home of Kathy Gaubatz, the society’s executive director, in Coral Gables, in a benefit concert sponsored by rum-maker Bacardi (which is providing refreshments, too).

Featured will be Asteria, the fine duo of soprano Sylvia Rhyne and lutenist and tenor Eric Redlinger, who will sing songs from the Dijon Chansonnier, a manuscript compiled in the late 15th century that’s an important source of Burgundian secular song. Many of the works are by some of the most important composers of the time, such as Gilles Binchois, Guillaume Dufay and Johannes Ockeghem.

I previewed Asteria’s appearance briefly in the blog earlier this year and referenced a standout performance they did of an anonymous song, Quant la doulce jouvencelle, which I find hard to imagine being done any better – it seems true to the spirit of the medieval French chanson in general and easy to imagine being sung just this way in its time, with gentle lute accompaniment and a haunting tenor line underneath the melody.

Here’s another performance by the duo, of the song Gentilz galans, by the Franco-Burgundian composer Hayne van Ghizegem. As with Red Priest, it’s worth noting how easily these performers wear their learning. They’re experts in this field, but there’s no sense of dustiness here, just pure song.

This is an invitation-only benefit, so I don’t know whether you can get in, but it’s worth a call to the Miami Bach Society at 305-669-1376, or a visit to Tickets for the $50 show are tax-deductible, and the music starts at 7 p.m.

Orchestra Miami update: Elaine Rinaldi’s orchestra is adding some other pieces to its Sunday concert of the Kurt Vonnegut An American Soldier’s Tale, the celebrated writer’s version of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, in which the original story is replaced by the true story of the execution of World War II deserter Pvt. Eddie Slovik.

In order to mark the 94th anniversary of Armistice Day, Rinaldi will offer singers in four operatic arias from the same period: one each from the three operas of Puccini’s Il Trittico: Baritone Nelson Martinez will sing Nulla … silenzio from Il Tabarro, and soprano Marinel Cruz will sing Senza Mamma from Suor Angelica and  the beloved O mio babbino caro) from Gianni Schicchi. And Soprano Elizabeth Beers Kataria will take on Ariadne’s aria (Es gibt ein Reich) from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos.

Pianist Catherine Lan will perform the Toccata and Rigaudon from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, followed by an honor guard with the colors, and the playing of Taps. After a break, the Vonnegut/Stravinsky will be heard. The 7 p.m. performance is at Pinecrest Gardens, and tickets start at $25. Call 305-274-2103 or visit

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