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Folger Consort's Latest

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A New Song: Celebrating the King James Bible, Cathedra, Folger Consort

(released on December 13, 2011)
The Folger Shakespeare Library marked the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible with an exhibit last fall, a suiting tribute to perhaps the most influential book in the English language. The Folger Consort also commemorated this landmark event with a concert of music setting King James texts. My review, based on a hearing of the first performance of this program, noted a few shortcomings, the sorts of infelicities that are generally ironed out in subsequent performances as the musicians relax and reach a greater comfort level. Happily for listeners, the group went on to make a recording of this music in the few days following the weekend of concerts, yielding a disc released last month on the Library's private label, Bard Records. The sound, captured in the gorgeous acoustic of the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium, is excellent, and the program has benefited from further thought and performance. Highlights includes two impressively virtuosic pieces played by Adam Pearl on the chest organ, a Fantasia by Orlando Gibbons and a Ground by John Blow, and the particularly fine F major sonata by Purcell. The vocal selections are all good, especially those by Purcell and the concise, perfectly focused Hosanna to the Son of David by Gibbons, with outstanding performances by tenor Aaron Sheehan in solo pieces and sections.

Readers are warmly encouraged to attend the second performance of the Folger Consort's excellent New Year Concert, this evening at Washington National Cathedral (January 7, 8 pm). The four women of Anonymous 4 sing chants of Hildegard von Bingen and a selection of 13th-century motets from the Montpellier Codex. I heard the first performance last night, but my review will not appear until Monday, so consider this your advance notice.

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