Performance brings music from another place, another time

Morgan Whiteford, Contributor Ω

Cappella Artemisia wowed a 130-person audience at the Alumni Theatre on Nov. 1.

A musical group founded in 1991 in Bologna, Italy, the group sings and plays songs that were written for nuns during the 16th and 17th century in Italy. The cloistered nuns during this time period had to find ways to perform the music given to them, which created challenges like not having men to sing the low keys and using instruments they weren’t allowed to.

“Who’s on bass?” singer Candace Smith asked ironically about the music produced and how it was meant for nuns. This didn’t seem to be a problem for the musical group.

Though Cappella Artemisia’s set list is traditional music in Italian it can be an intriguing performance for anglophones. One doesn’t need to know the lyrics to be able to tell when there are sad or joyful parts of each song. The way it is sung, the performers expressions tell the story.

At the Kamloops performance there were eight women and one man. Five of the performers were vocalists. Two others were cornetto players with one harpsichord and one bass viol (a string and bow instrument similar to a guitar) player rounding out the group.

The harpsichord in Cappella Artemisia was actually electric which also made for an interesting contribution to an older style of music. With each song – sometimes in the middle of them – came a quick switch with the press of a button to a different sound on the piano-like instrument.

“It could imitate human voice better than most instruments,” said Bruce Dickey, a cornetto player.

The cornetto is an instrument that went out of use in the 19th century when it was taken over by violin. Its revival only began in the 1950s. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was the most popular soprano instrument explained Dickey.

Both cornetto players added a different sound to the performance than a regular violin. They kept up with the wide vocal range that the ladies could sing.

The gifted travellers put on a unique and compelling show, both from the perspective of the songs sung and instruments used. Cappella Artemisia has some amazing talent in both its singing and its instruments. The crowd showed its appreciation with a well-deserved standing ovation.