Musica Nova Antiqua breathes new life into old songs

NEW, OLD MUSIC - Kyle Bayquen lays it thick on his standing bass for Musica Nova Antiqua. Photo by Alan Luna

NEW, OLD MUSIC – Kyle Bayquen lays it thick on his upright bass for Musica Nova Antiqua.
Photo by Alan Luna

Like living fossils, the music of “Musica Nova Antiqua” came back from the dead to once again skip joyfully across the Earth. It is almost a miracle that the music exists at all.

“Musica Nova Antiqua” celebrated European music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The music featured was a blend of old and new. Modern instruments and replicas worked in tandem to recreate music composed centuries ago.

Even with replica instruments, the bards of “Musica Nova Antiqua” did well to honor the musicians who performed the same songs hundreds of years ago.

It is obvious, however, that liberties and compromises were necessary in the recreation of the ancient songs. Though not enough to be called bastardization, it is impossible to say that the music of “Musica Nova Antique” is a true and genuine recreation.

Even if the music was not quite the same as it might have been hundreds of years ago, it felt like it was. While sometimes imperfect, the performance evoked the sounds of the Old World.

There was an occasional sour note, though these were only as damning to the mood as a cough from the audience. Flaws in the music were not ruinous and could have been attributed to numerous causes.

One song, for instance, was cut short due to a broken string. The treble viola da gamba had strings made of gut and is prone to random breaks. It might have been divine intervention of the muses, for the performer was obviously much better at the double bass.

Selections may have not been Bach or Mozart, but given the complexity and skill some of the more complicated pieces required, it is obvious that the musical geniuses must have been familiar with pieces in “Musica Nova Antiqua.”

Audience members were unfamiliar with the multi-layered nature of some pieces and some were eager to clap prematurely in the momentary silence as music sheets were turned. Songs that involved the ensemble were the strongest and during a couple of pieces it was difficult not being distracted by performers awkwardly waiting for their turn to play.

In Taberna” was clearly the strongest song of “Musica Nova Antiqua.” It was sung first in Latin, then English. Even without the translation in the program, it was obviously a jaunty drinking song. It was fast-paced, loud and a foot tapper.

Written by anonymous monks of the 13th century, “In Taberna” created the atmosphere of an old sod-roofed pub full of drunken peasants singing along. That may not be the historic image of monks, but that was the beauty of “Musica Nova Antiqua.” It challenged our preconceptions and took us through the time machine of music and life.


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