World-famous lute player to perform at Northwestern recital hall in classical concert


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Donning period costumes, The Newberry Consort graced the Galvin Recital Hall during a prior engagement in 2018.

Janea Wilson, Reporter

Galvin Recital Hall will soon transcend time and become a 16th century French court — minus the wigs and corsets. Alongside the troupe of performers, the audience will travel across centuries in the concert “Le Jardin de Mélodies.”

“Le Jardin de Mélodies” is a mixture of dance and elegant music reminiscent of what French aristocrats would have elegantly twirled and swayed to. The performers will grace Galvin Recital Hall April 7 at 3 p.m. The show will include the talent of the Newberry Consort as well as guest artists, including world famous lute player Paul O’Dette.

The lute is not to be confused with a guitar: it’s smaller and rigged with more strings. O’Dette said he was first drawn to it when he was studying classical guitar and found he enjoyed playing Renaissance pieces crafted for the aged string instrument the most.

“I found a recording of the lute and as soon as I heard it, I thought, ‘That’s what I’d love to play,’” O’Dette said. “I managed to find a lute and taught myself to play it and it’s been a wonderful ride.”

O’Dette is a well-known lute player who has been nominated for seven Grammys and won two, in 1996 and 2015.

However, this isn’t O’Dette’s first experience with the show and Northwestern. He said he was a part of an earlier version of “Le Jardin de Mélodies” in the 1990’s and is excited to perform it again for an audience. He said the combinations of music throughout the show create a rare and unique listening opportunity for the public.

“There are a lot of real earworms that you can’t get out of your head because they’re just so beautiful and contagious,” O’Dette said. “The dance music of this time is extremely energetic and fun. A combination of the beautiful lyrical vocal pieces and dance pieces makes a really varied and exciting program.”

Musician Allison Selby Cook (Weinberg ’11) echoed this sentiment and said “Le Jardin de Mélodies” is an exciting performance for a modern audience.

Cook said the Newberry Consort’s creative team, which wrote the original ‘90s production, does a great job at composing musical period pieces while also creating an engaging experience.
“They have projections and multimedia as components of the concerts,” Cook said. “It’s not dry and academic. It feels like you’re going to learn something and be surprised by how cool some of this stuff is and how modern it feels.”

Cook is playing a renaissance viola in the show. Unlike O’Dette, Cook is not familiar performing with a historical instrument as she is trained in the contemporary model. She said learning to play “the great great grandparent of a modern instrument” has been completely different than what she is used to.

She compared playing the renaissance viola to playing folk music, and said her body is more connected to the instrument than when she performs in a stationary orchestra.

Bass singer Joseph Hubbard (Bienen M.Mus ’13) similarly struggled with the time period of the music. The song lyrics are in a transitional phase—between old and modern classical French. He said it has been difficult to sing, but he’s up for the challenge with years of experience under his belt.

Hubbard received his master’s degree in voice and opera from Northwestern, and said he is looking forward to coming back for the show.

“Anytime you can go back to the school you went to, that’s real exciting,” Hubbard said. “It’ll be nice to be back at Northwestern in a professional sense.”

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