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Volume 24, Number 5 — May 2017

LeStrange Viols revives early string music and pushes boundaries

LeStrange Viol
LeStrange Viol

December 28, 2016

Upon the heels of a performance at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., LeStrange Viols brings its fresh perspective on early chamber music to Johnson City, Tennessee, to start the New Year with "sublime beauty" and yet another musical "labor of love."

LeStrange Viols — which takes its name from a manuscript collection assembled by the 17th-century English nobleman Nicholas Lestrange — brings together six American viol players committed to crafting musical experiences full of vigor, passion and technical prowess. Inspired by the finely wrought masterpieces of the viol consort repertoire, LeStrange combines the classic English consort tradition of the 17th century with a bold, imaginative approach to music from a broad array of times and places.

Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU presents LeStrange Viols in concert Sunday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, Johnson City, Tennessee.

While the word "viol" may sound unfamiliar, as opposed to well-known instruments such as violins and violas, viols are simply "cousins to the modern string family, [that] produce dainty sounds that blend together with the utmost euphony when played well," says Robert Battey of the Washington Post. And LeStrange Viols plays these period instruments in a way that is "clearly a labor of love for the musicians," he says.

LeStrange Viols, which was formed in 2014 to record the modern premier of William Cranford's consort music, features the treble, tenor and bass members of the viola da gamba (or viol) family. Loren Ludwig and John Mark Rozendaal perform on treble viol, Kivie Cahn-Lipman and James Waldo on tenor viol, Zoe Weiss on tenor and bass viols and Douglas Kelley on bass viol.

"We have strong personalities, but also a great group dynamic, which is why we wanted to work together," says Weiss, who is pursuing a doctorate in musicology at Cornell University. "We often assign someone a piece to focus on, but our major rule is to say, "Yes,' when someone has a crazy idea about phrasing or tempo, etc., ... we always try it.

"This is an attitude we cultivate, an openness to pushing the boundaries of what is possible on the viols."

The work of this ensemble of viols upright, bowed stringed musical instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods has been called, "music of sublime beauty, sublimely performed," by Fanfare Magazine.

For more information on LeStrange Viols, visit www.lestrangeviols.org.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 seniors 60+ and $5 students of all ages. To purchase tickets online or for more information on Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587.

Topics: Music