Trust your friends.
An Austinite whose judgment I’ve trusted for three decades recently urged me to attend any of the upcoming concerts given by Texas Early Music Project.
I would not be disappointed.
He was right. Perfection.
I’d first heard the Austin group — founded by Daniel Johnson in 1987 to advocate for Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical music — not long after its inception. But with so much going on in town, I’d been remiss in keeping up.
"An Early Christmas" was the ideal chance to jump back in. Staged in the intimate First English Lutheran Church in the Aldridge Place/Hemphill Park neighborhood, the concert took full advantage of the venue’s impeccable acoustics and atmospherics.
Johnson placed period-inspired instrumentalists in the transept below the chancel. Soloists and the small choir appeared above them, as if a miniature heavenly host on high.
A great deal of art and craft go into the group’s printed programs, which contain enough background material to support a graduate seminar in music history, but are easy enough for the uninitiated to follow. One detail that amazed me: How many times each piece had been arranged or rearranged for performance, a process about which I have many questions.
The group presented 19 or 20 — depending on how you counted them — thematically linked short pieces dating from around 1200 to circa 1900. It would be impossible to choose favorites from among them, all flawlessly performed.
Still, a few stood out. Soloist Jenifer Thyssen and guest musician Viktoria Nizhnik — playing a Karelian chromatic kantele — presented a traditional Catalonian carol with unsullied lightness and elegance. Guest countertenor Ryland Angel blended beautifully with the rest of the choir, but when standing alone before the altar, his voice rose to sublime heights.
Johnson made passing mention of it, but it is something else to hear English, French, Latin, Catalan, Dutch, Italian and historical variations on the above languages sung without blemish in one concert.
Now it is your turn to trust me: See the Texas Early Music Project soon.