Cançonièr (taken from the Occitan word for “songbook”) is the medieval Ensemble-in-Residence affiliated with MusicSources, an educational and resource center for historically-informed performances of early music based in Berkeley. They were created in the summer of 2008 by multi-instrumentalist Tim Rayborn and recorder virtuoso Annette Bauer. Pricilla Smith has now succeeded Bauer. Her other instruments include dulcian and bagpipe, and she also performs as vocalist (as does Rayborn). Rayborn and Smith have been joined by vocalist Phoebe Jevtovic and Shira Kammen, who specializes in bowed strings and also sings.
Next month Cançonièr will be the featured performing ensemble for the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) concert series. The title of their program is Choreomania: Music for the Dancing Plagues of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The “dancing plagues” were mass outbreaks of highly energetic dancing, sometimes leading to death, that often afflicted dozens, if not hundreds. The motives behind these outbreaks are uncertain, but they may be related to the acts of painful flagellation by highly devout penitents or the tradition that one danced the tarantella to purge the poison sustained from the bite of a tarantula. For this program the core Cançonièr musicians will be joined by Tom Zajac, who both sings and performs on pipe, tabor, bagpipe, sackbut, recorder, dulce, melos, jaw harp, and castanets. The repertoire will range from eleventh-century Saxony to sixteenth-century Strasbourg.
The San Francisco performance of this rather unique approach to programming will take place on Sunday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark's Lutheran Church (1111 O'Farrell Street). Single tickets are $35 with a special $30 rate for seniors and $28 for SFEMS members. Students will be admitted for $12. Tickets may be purchased through the secure Ticket Order Form managed by Ticket Turtle or by calling the SFEMS Box Office at 510-528-1725. The Box Office is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The SFEMS Web site also has a Web page with details of the entire subscription series.