« I know it's only a cappella, but I like it | Main | Back from a lovely vacation! »

May 25, 2006

Cheesy Name, Sublime Music

Washington Post (DC):

Their name sounds more Monty Python than Monteverdi, but the Suspicious Cheese Lords -- a Washington-based men's a cappella group that specializes in music from the Renaissance -- is one very serious ensemble. In a genuinely beautiful performance at the Church of the Epiphany on Tuesday, the Lords showed that they could deliver not only thoughtful interpretations, but rapturous musicmaking as well.

That was clear from the opening notes of Palestrina's 1584 motet, "Sicut Cervus," given a performance so weightless and transparent it practically turned to light. Two dreamlike songs by the 16th-century child prodigy Vittoria Aleotti were equally luminous, though a challenging work by Francesco Landini -- full of pungent harmonies and intriguing rhythms -- came off just a bit ragged. But the final two Renaissance works on the program (including a finely detailed eight-voice lament by Nicolas Gombert) layered wave upon wave of precisely calibrated, exceptionally moving song.

While they were clearly right at home in the 16th century, the Lords also easily negotiated works from our own millennium, including several compositions from the group's members -- all of which resonated with a certain Renaissance flavor. Despite some fine ideas, Gordon Geise's "A Rose Beheld the Sun" felt vague and unsure of itself, but Gary Winans Jr.'s ". . . les cedres et chaque petite fleur . . ." was much more satisfying, with a distinctive musical imagination and firm compositional control. George Cervantes's "Blessing of Saint Francis," meanwhile -- with its faint but wonderful undertones of Brian Wilson -- was a real delight to the ears.

Oh, and the group's name? It's a playful translation of "Suscipe Quaeso Domine," the title of a motet by Thomas Tallis -- more sedately known as "Take, I Ask Lord."

Posted by acapnews at May 25, 2006 12:03 AM