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Two Great Free Concerts April 1, No Fooling

Viola da gamba stars in lunchtime concert at Goleta Library while Westmont rolls out its vocal ensembles at 8 p.m.

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Music lovers, especially those who enjoy discovering great — but unjustly neglected — composers, may rejoice in two concerts taking place Tuesday. These concerts share the additional virtues of being free and not-overlapping in either time or program.

The first is a "Lunchtime Concert" at the Goleta Public Library, 500 N. Fairview Ave., of viola da gamba music played by the brilliant Bay Area viola da gamba duo, Julie Jeffrey and Peter Hallifax. The 12:15 p.m. program will concentrate on the music of two celebrated composers of Louis XIVth’s court: Marin Marais (1656-1728) and Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745) — whose rivalry in life seemed to have been decided, post-mortem, overwhelmingly in Marais’ favor, until Jeffrey and Hallifax came along. Now the duo is working a rather successful revival of Forqueray’s fortunes, playing him to great applause at festivals and making award-winning recordings. They are currently on a tour of the West Coast.

A viola da gamba, by the way, is a viol to be played resting on the musician’s leg ("gamba"), as opposed to a viola da braccio that rests on the arm ("braccio"). The gamba is thus a precursor of the modern cello, while the braccio is the precursor of the modern violin.

The other free concert begins at 8 p.m. in Deane Chapel on the campus of Westmont College, 955 La Paz Road, and will feature four of the college’s vocal ensembles: the Men’s Chorale, the Women’s Chamber Ensemble, the Chamber Singers and New Sounds.

The Men’s Chorale, led by the redoubtable Grey Brothers, will sing "Folk songs from the British Isles and music of Early-American composer William Billings."

Billings (1746-1800), is probably the earliest American composer to have developed a distinctively American sound. His music is pooh-poohed by Euro-snobs to this day, but his particular, rather rough-and-ready style fits well in American throats and he is performed much more often here than the unfamiliarity of his name might suggest. He was born poor, he was self-educated, and he supported himself most of his life as a tanner. He apparently was not much to look at, being blind in one eye, with a short leg and a withered arm, and one contemporary described him as having "an uncommon negligence of person." But enough about his looks; the Chorale will demonstrate how he sounds, singing his David’s Lamentation.

The Women’s Chamber Ensemble, under the direction of Rebecca Hodson, will offer works by Jackson Berkey, Maurice Duruflé and Michael Neaum.

The Chamber Singers, with Brothers once again at the helm, will then offer works by the early English composers John Bennet (ca.1575-after 1614), William Byrd (ca.1540-1623) and Thomas Weelkes (ca.1575-1623), as well as "recent arrangements of African-American spirituals."

New Sounds, conducted by Steve Hodson, will perform "Latin American folk arrangements chosen for our upcoming tour to Costa Rica and Guatemala, along with vocal jazz selections by the New York Voices and Duke Ellington."

Click here for more information about the Westmont College music program or call 805.565.6040.

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