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News Release

November 11, 2003

Renowned Folger Consort to Present Musical Tales of Mary

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Presenting the music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as it was performed in the 12th and 13th centuries is a formidable task, and modern performance ensembles face a number of challenges in the endeavor. Even after the musicians have mastered instruments and vocal ranges that are specific only to that period's music, they must devise effective ways to engage the audience and translate the ancient -- but entertaining -- lyrical content.

The Folger Consort, the ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library that presents music primarily from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, will provide such a translation during "Illuminations," a multimedia performance of music, text and images from two famous medieval Spanish collections. The concert -- which is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible -- will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, in the Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Smith College.

"Illuminations" will feature selections from the "Cantigas de Santa Maria," a collection of more than 400 medieval songs about the Virgin Mary assembled at the court of Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile and Leon (1252-1284), a renowned patron of the arts, and from the "Las Huelgas Codex," a compilation of music from the early 14th century, arranged here for instrumental ensemble.

To assist the reception of these ancient pieces, the concert will include projections of the original lyrics and illustrations, along with modern translations of the 800-year-old Galician-Portuguese texts. The lyrics praise the Virgin Mary and recount her intercessions on behalf of sinners and those in need.

The Folger Consort, which is renowned for its loyal and authentic interpretations and presentations of ancient musical sources, is an ensemble of six musicians who present music from the 12th through the 20th centuries on period instruments such as lutes, the citole, harp, recorder and medieval fiddles, as well as in ancient vocal styles. The group is led by artistic directors and founding members Robert Eisenstein, director of the Five College Early Music Program, and Christopher Kendall, director of the School of Music at the University of Maryland.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, located in Washington, D.C., sponsors numerous events, performances and exhibitions related to British and European history from the 15th through 18th centuries. The library contains some 256,000 volumes and features a substantial collection of works by William Shakespeare.

"Illuminations" is presented in conjunction with "Madonny Europy/Madonnas of Europe," an exhibition in Helen Hills Hills Chapel of photographs of the Madonna by Janusz Rosikon, which will be on display 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through December 12. Admission is free, and the chapel is wheelchair accessible.

The events are part of a series at Smith that examines the influence of Mary in European culture. For more information about the concert or about the exhibition and related events, call (413) 585-2750, or visit


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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