James Young, artistic director of the Early Music Society of the Islands, has to turn down the blaring sounds of a woman’s singing before he can chat over the phone.
Turns out he’s listening to the ensemble that will be performing at the Society’s January concert; Locura and Tormenta, a program of Spanish and Italian music from the 17th century.
The story of January’s concert started four years ago, while Young was attending an early music festival in Bruges, Belgium. During the festival, Young and his family bicycled out of Bruges to a small town with an enormous church, where they saw a performance by the ensemble that will soon be playing in Victoria, their first time performing in Canada.
“I was just completely blown away by them, and in particular by the singer,” Young said. “She was just one of the most amazing singers I’d seen in a long time.”
The singer, Raquel Andueza, and her ensemble, La Galiana, are based out of Spain and have played across Europe. Backing Andueza’s awe-inspiring voice is a theorbo, a type of large lute, and a baroque guitar.
The Early Music Society is in its 31st season and is still committed to the principles on which it was formed: a celebration of early music, defined as music written before 1800, and performed in the style of the time that spawned it. They forgo modern equivalents in place of period instruments, such as harpsichords instead of pianos.
While sticking to early music may sound limiting, Young says it’s anything but.
“We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of years of music. Vastly more styles of music than you can imagine,” he said. “It’s very authentic, in the sense that it’s a direct outgrowth of a culture. It’s not music that was created…to be marketed. It was made to be sung, to be danced, to be played.”
The ensemble will be playing two unique styles of music: early baroque Italian music and the more folk-inspired music from Spain.
Despite its age, Young said the Spanish music still resembles what we would consider Spanish or Latin music now, with strong rhythms and strummed chords. The Italian selections have a greater focus on the words, with the music used to enhance the expression of the emotionally-charged lyrics.
“It’ll be a nice opportunity to explore two quite distinct repertoires, but of the same period,” Young said. “It’s like the ultimate unplugged music. It was never plugged in.”
Locura and Tormenta is on Jan. 14, 8 p.m. at Alix Goolden Hall. Tickets for the concert are available at the McPherson Theatre box office, Munro’s Books, Ivy’s Bookshop, at the door or online at rmts.bc.ca.