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Green Man Review

If it's not baroque then don't fix it.
February 2003

All eyes were on Red Priest while playing classical music

English quartet Red Priest mesmerized the audience in the Hofheimer Theater Feb. 5. The concert was filled with classical music.

A typical concert for a college student would include slammin' guitar beats with lots of yelling or funky hip hop beats where the crowd gets to "holla back." This was not the case at the Red Priest concert, the latest Familiar Faces event, held Feb. 5 in the Hofheimer Theater. The English group, which also played at Wesleyan two years ago, consists of Piers Adams on the recorders, Julie Bishop on violin, Angela East on cello and Howard Beach on harpsichord. The style of the quartet is reminiscent of the Baroque period, covering musical selections from the 16th and 17th centuries. Their instruments even reflect that time period. The cello used by East was made in the 1600s. Due to a short delay, the packed house was anxious to hear what the group had to offer. The lights dimmed as the group entered the stage, wearing all black with hooded tops, so their faces were not shown. Everything was silent. Suddenly, a burst of sound woke the crowd and left it on the edge of the seats for the rest of the show.

Like any act, Red Priest wanted to capture the attention of the audience. The group started out playing songs full of emotions, beginning with an energetic, happy tone followed by sorrow. These emotions were evident through the change in tempo. The performers made good use of the stage by constantly moving around when they had the chance. The opening act felt almost like a play but with no dialogue. It added to the mystery of who was under those dark robes and why they chose to play classical music.

At the end of the opening build up, the performers tore off their masks as the crowd cheered. They had achieved capturing the attention of the audience and kept it for the rest of the show. The program went on with music from different countries and composers. Starting off with England in the 16th and 17th centuries, Adams would give a brief introduction and history lesson to familiarize the crowd.

During the music of the English composers, the group chose lively and energetic songs. One part was titled the "English Fantasy Suite," where they played a trio of songs by Robert Johnson. Adams explained that these songs named, "The Flatt Masque," "The Satyr's Masque" and "The Witches' Dance" were often played at formal masquerade balls with guests dressed as mythological creatures. Each song had a different feel because of the slow or fast-paced tempo. "The Witches' Dance" also provided humor; at each break in the music, the group would growl, hiss and laugh devilishly at the crowd.

More humor was added for Henry Purcell's "Fairy Dance," which came after the three masques. All was silent for a split second after Adams grabbed a tiny recorder and Bishop got a miniature bow for the violin, then they stared at each other. All of a sudden, they looked at the audience, jumped up, and upon landing, kept their knees bent to resemble fairies. It was a very fast-paced, playful duet full of staccato notes. Adams and Bishop looked at audience members, as if what they were doing was a piece of cake.

Other composers that were featured were Johann Bach, Diego Oritz, Dario Castella (originator of sonatas), Jacob Van Eyck and Giuseppe Tartini as well as a compilation by Red Priest of other classical works. As the concert came to a close, the audience still could not pull their eyes away from the stage. The compilation by the group, which was the last thing played, provided a powerful ending. The number began with Adams on recorder, which had to be written in since there was no original recorder part. Emotions ran rampant throughout, sending the audience in a whirlwind. While maintaining a fast beat, the harpsichord allowed for the beat to drop, becoming slow and mellow. For the end, they chose a curious, playful beat that left the audience with huge grins. "It was an awesome show," said junior Lee Ellen Harris. "It is amazing how much music and emotion can pour out of those four people."

By Nicki Dudley

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