PASSAMEZZO CHARM TOTNES AUDIENCE
Actor/musician Jack Merivale almost stole the show at the Totnes Early Music Society concert on Friday 17th February at the United Free Church. As mad Tom O'Bedlam, all eyes were on him as he declaimed and sang, sat amongst the audience, and ultimately fell in a heap on the floor - signalling the interval of a concert which captivated its audience throughout the performance.
The five strong early music group Passamezzo had announced their intention to entertain from the start, with the musicians coming from three different points to the stage in full Elizabethan costume, where an array of instruments were awaiting them. After a lively medley of folk music tunes and dances, featuring recorder and a drum, they moved effortlessly into music played in country houses and at court, and in plays and masques. With various sizes of viols, lute, theorbo and renaissance violin in strong support, the clear soprano voice of Eleanor Cramer delivered songs from traditional country tunes to devotional music, including music used by Shakespeare for one of Ophelia's songs. By contrast, Jack Merivale amused the audience with the bawdy lyrics of the Thames boatmen. Not to be outdone, all five musicians started the second half of the programme by playing a delightful Spanish Passamezzo, a dance tune which started with the rhythmic clapping of hands before introducing a particularly lovely lilting melody - not surprisingly, the group try to ensure that a Passamezzo is performed in all their concerts. At the end, a rousing response ensured an encore rounded off a programme clearly enjoyed by all who heard it
TEMS concert organiser Jill Tomalin commented: " This was a programme which offered a window into the domestic scale of music making of that time, it was as if we were sitting in someone's home as a group of friends made music together. I hugely admired the band's musicianship, but what I will remember is people united in simply enjoying the music - and of musicians who set out to entertain and who certainly achieved that"
Passamezzo provided the fourth in a series of six concerts organised by the Totnes Early Music Society. Full details of their programme can be found at www.totnesearlymusic.org.uk.