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Pittsburgh Post Gazette(USA)

January 2006

Red Priest makes swashbuckling raid

By Eric Haines

If the Rolling Stones played recorder, violin, cello and harpsichord and their genre was 17th-century music, they would be the band called Red Priest, which was presented by the Renaissance & Baroque Society Saturday at Synod Hall, Oakland. Recorder player Piers Adams, cellist Angela East, harpsichordist Howard Beach and guest violinist David Greenberg titled the concert "Pirates of the Baroque." It featured not only examples of plagiarism by Baroque composers, but also Red Priest's own contributions to the practice.

Appropriately dressed in red and black, including sashes, bandanas, leather pants and swashbuckler boots, the players launched the buccaneer theme with Telemann's Gypsy Sonata in A minor, which was rife with tunes he stole from Polish gypsies. The fourth Allegro movement featured what could be called a harmonics battle between Greenberg and East.

The group expanded the theme with Greenberg's arrangements of three early English sea chanties, including "Come Ashore Jolly Tar With Your Trousers On," for which Beach used the harpsichord as an oversized bodhran.

Dutch composer Jacob van Eyck's "The English Nightingale" is a flamboyant set of variations for solo soprano recorder that seems almost impossible to play, let alone memorize. Adams not only tossed it off easily but further flaunted his virtuosity by strolling through the auditorium while playing.

Red Priest's version of Vivaldi's Concerto in G Major, "The Sea Storm," was one of its better examples of piracy. The musicians augmented the three movements with pounding scales and arpeggios to depict raging swells and added some passages that smacked of Olivier Messiaen's music, then ended with Beach shouting a rousing "yo-ho."

All evening, Adams capered nimbly about the stage, as did Greenberg to a lesser extent, as if to counterbalance chair-bound playing by East and Beach. Overall, it was a concert of moderate substance suffused with maximum style.

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