The members of Red Priest are sometimes criticized for what might be termed “antics”, such as dressing like, well, pirates; giving out with the occasional “Arr!” at an appropriate spot, or Adams using a recorder as a percussion instrument, or blowing sideways through another to simulate the sound of the sea. To our mind any “frivolity” (assuming frivolity to be a “bad” thing--) was more than offset by the player’s surpassing skill, beautiful sound, and the deep scholarship they showed. Cellist East related searching out the oldest extant copy of Bach’s “Prelude for Suite No. 1 for Cello” to find Anna Magdalena Bach’s markings for the bowing, which were not only different than the way the piece had been presented for decades, but also discernibly better. It was fascinating to hear two versions of “The Princess Royal Hornpipe” done, once in the Baroque style, and one in the traditional fiddling style of Cape Breton island, home of Greenberg.
The subtitle “Stolen masterworks and long-lost jewels of the Baroque era” was well borne out by the concert, which featured Bach, Telleman, Van Eyck, Tartini, Vivaldi, Corelli, and others, including tradional airs, such as “Come Ashore Jolly Tar With Your Trousers On.”
The audience at the Wisconsin Lutheran Auditorium filled the house and, by every evidence, shared our great pleasure at the performance. The group’s humorous exhortation to buy their CD’s so they (temporarily stranded in the US due to the volcanic cloud over Britain) wouldn’t have to hitchhike home with them, was scarcely needed, as the audience descended upon the sales table at the interval like the wolf on the fold.
Red Priest gave us a musically excellent, highly entertaining, and educational concert. What could be better? If they are in your area on a future tour and you care for Baroque music at all, get tickets early!