Dallas — When the invitation to attend Lumedia Musicworks’ inaugural concert arrived, it was immediately intriguing and mystifying at the same time. Entitled “Wonder Women,” one suspected that it would feature women performers and composers. However, the discovery that Lumedia specializes in music before 1750—the year Bach died—didn’t help. Even today, female composers struggle for recognition. In the Baroque and Medieval times, they were invisible and only a few names have come down to us, mainly to musicologists.
The exception is Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), who was represented on the program. She was a mystic nun who made astonishing advances in holistic medicine but was also a prolific composer, writer and poet. The New Age movement discovered her and her music was revived in performance and recordings starting about 1979.
If your image of an early music concert with historically accurate instruments is an evening that is dry, academic, excruciatingly accurate and slightly out of tune, Lumedia pleasantly surprised. This concert was impeccably performed, but it was always enjoyable and even fun at times.
Performing without a conductor, the all-female chorus stood in a semi-circle at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in the week before Christmas, and were physically involved with the rhythm and the pace of the music as if they shared a mental connection. Solo voices came from the ensemble. The excellent instrumental ensemble, which included some male musicians, played on historically accurate instruments such as the baroque violin, gamba, vielle, baroque cello, violone, harpsichord and a small portative organ. Soprano Julianna Emanski founded the group and serves as music director.
The Wonder Women composers represented were: Chiara Margrita Cozzolani, Isabella Leonarda, Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre, Tarquinio Merula, Giovanni Felice Sances, Hildegard and that most prolific composer of all, Anonymous. Other than Hildegard, all were unknown to me.
The music covered a wide array from chant to Baroque to early music that is as rhythmically complex as any 21st-century modernist concoction or progressive jazz improvisation.
Lumedia’s next concert should be just as fascinating, and unusual, as this first one. On April 28, the group offers an English Country Dance Party in collaboration with the North Texas Traditional Dance Society.
Musicians in the Wonder Women program were: Hannah Ceniseros, mezzo-soprano; Jacob Cortez, violin; Julianna Emanski, soprano; Gustavo Mazon Finessi, violone; Jocelyn Hansen, soprano; Donald Livingston, harpsichord, portative organ; Natalie Manning, contralto; Libby McGee, soprano; Christopher Philpott, cello, gamba; Lindsay Pope, mezzo-soprano; Stephanie Raby, violin, vielle, gamba; Lauren Stroh, soprano, portative organ; Kimberly Watson, soprano.