In the eyes (and ears) of the local musicians who make up the Newberry Consort, music history doesn’t begin and end with eminent composers. Mary Springfels, the viola da gambist who serves as the consort’s guiding light, likes to uncover the vox populi in the poetry and music of a particular era, and that’s what she does in its Halloween program, “Saints and Sinners.” In what amounts to an exploration of the worldview in 14th-century France and Italy, the consort’s program will include chansons that allude to classical mythology and astrology, by the likes of Machaut and Solage, and even a rondeau that depicts a hashish smoker’s giddy behavior. One seldom heard tune is full of alchemy images, with weird sound effects derived from compositional references to the numbers four (the elements) and seven (the days of creation). All these pieces require intricate finger work on the stringed instruments (violins, lute, and viola da gamba) and florid, dramatic gestures from the singer; fortunately Springfels and her colleagues, countertenor Drew Minter and violinist David Douglass, are up to it. In the second half of the program they’ll delve into music for the urban masses–these sung and recited chantari tell tales of knights in King Arthur’s court and other romantic figures. Since popular music of the time was an oral tradition, reconstructing these works consists mainly of educated guesses, with the consort using melodies or chordal patterns from the period that fit the rhyme scheme of the poetic text. Friday, 8 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton; Saturday, 8 PM, Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake, Oak Park; and Sunday, 3 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston; 312-255-3700. For Lutkin Hall tickets only, call 847-467-4000. Ted Shen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.