Click here to return to Reviews

The Eastener (USA)

December 2003

Red Priest Bring Undeniable Excitement and Verve To the Art of Baroque Performance

by John Rockstad
Section Editor


Red Priest, a baroque quartet who have garnered much international attention as of late, did not disappoint in their thoroughly dynamic, energetic performance at the Wharton Center [Lansing, MI] recently.

The group, so named after the crimson-haired clergyman/ eminent baroque composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi, bring a contagious, kinetic energy to the performance of music that has long held the stigma of being too esoteric, dull, and stuffy. Without a doubt, Red Priest has redefined the art of baroque music performance.

From the moment the group leaps on the stage, it is clear that they are not your average chamber music quartet. They have a clear stylistic flair and manage to effuse a sense of great energy even before a single note is played. From the first piece played, the group was very animated, though their theatrics never came at the expense of the music. The music itself was very organic, and the group managed to make tangible the concepts that are only left to suggestion in the music itself, perfectly evoking the lush, pastoral grace of the opening of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Spring.




Indeed, it is really the virtuoso style of these four musicians that makes the entire performance meld into such a satisfying whole. Piers Adams has won international acclaim for his masterful work with the recorder. Able to manipulate the various models of recorder he plays to create such disparate moods that the chirping of birds or the frigid north wind evoke. Howard Beach has worked with Piers Adams in the past, and lends his masterful playing of the harpsichord to the Red Priest project, ably stretching the range of the instrument that has come to be one of the defining sounds of the baroque era. Julia Bishop lends her virtuoso-caliber playing the violin, crafting subtle yet powerful sounds from her instrument, while Angela East lends her brilliant, dynamic style to the cello.

It is their combined talent that allows the group to be so versatile. A piece such as Henry Purcell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Suite require a great deal of subtlety and restraint to effectively create its mysterious, fantasy-like atmosphere. Conversely, Vivaldi’s Autumn must create a festive mood without overstating the point. They are able to handle such disparate styles with equal skill, and are able to make themselves performers in every sense of the word while doing so.

I confess that although I have always had an appreciation for baroque/classical music, it’s also always seemed a tad dull for me. It’s seemed like good background music, music to listen to at times that one would rather not have to focus on the music. The dynamic styling of Red Priest, however, is anything but background music, and begs to be paid full attention to. Indeed, the true magic of Red Priest is that they create music that will likely appeal to anyone with an ear for music. In these times, that is no small feat.

Click here to return to Reviews