Performing the music beloved by a gender-bending, 17th-century Swedish queen sounds like quite a challenge, but the acclaimed musical ensemble Armonia Celeste, performing Sunday, Feb. 3, in MTSU’s Hinton Music Hall, is ready to meet it.
The ensemble’s free public performance of “The Rebel Queen: Christina’s Swedish Court in Rome” at 7 p.m. inside the Wright Music Building will feature three singers and two musicians playing period plucked-string instruments.
They’ll reproduce the sacred and secular music created for Queen Christina, who shocked Europe in 1654 when she abdicated the Swedish throne, discarded her Lutheran faith to embrace Catholicism and headed to Rome, often dressing as a knight en route, and became a major musical patron.
Armonia Celeste’s MTSU concert will feature sacred music from Christina’s chapels as well as accessible secular pieces from her royal courts, including music written by such period luminaries as Giacomo Carissimi and Luigi Rossi.
“The plucked-string, improvised instrumental accompaniment supports the voices of three women entwining in close harmony — somewhat reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters, had they been performing 300 years earlier — in trios, duets and solos,” said Dr. George Riordan, director of the MTSU School of Music.
“Interspersed with instrumental selections, they will transport the listener back in time to an age of gilded splendor and political intrigue.”
Armonia Celeste specializes in a rarely heard repertoire from the Italian Renaissance and early Baroque period. The group is one of the hottest emerging ensembles in early music and was a finalist in last year’s Naxos/Early Music America contest, which promotes new groups in the field with a CD produced by Naxos and concerts at major performance venues.
The Feb. 3 MTSU performance is the second stop in the ensemble’s February “Rebel Queen” series of concerts. They are scheduled for concerts in Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas next month.
Armonia Celeste’s members include sopranos Rebecca Choate Beasley and Sarah Grifiths, mezzo-soprano Dianna Grabowski, harpist Paula Fagerberg and lutenist and conductor Lyle Nordstrom. Beasley will be replaced at the MTSU concert by soprano Estelí Gomez, who is touring with the ensemble for the “Rebel Queen” series.
In addition to the lute, Nordstorm plays theorbo and Baroque guitar. Fagerberg will be playing a rare copy of the circa-1630 Barberini Baroque triple harp at this concert.
For more details about Armonia Celeste — and Queen Christina — visit www.armoniaceleste.wordpress.com. For more MTSU School of Music concert information, call 615-898-2493 or visit www.mtsumusic.com and click on the "Concert Calendar" link.