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Rose Ensemble chamber vocal group adds lots of guests to season lineup

The recent announcement of the Rose Ensemble’s 2009-2010 season, which begins with a free concert on Sept. 11, prompted me to dig out my copy of their Christmas CD – “And Glory Shown Around.”

Frankly, standard Christmas music makes me tired. So when I acquired the Rose Ensemble’s seasonal CD last year, it was a breath of fresh air. Or, rather, old air made fresh.

The Rose Ensemble, if you’re not familiar with it, is a St. Paul-based chamber vocal group that specializes in ancient music and lesser-known folk and ethnic music. Their Christmas album, as an example, includes early American carols, Southern harmony hymns, Shaker songs and English dance music — all of it performed with pristine precision and beautiful clarity.

Its season opens with a Sept. 11 free concert at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul that features selections from the international tours the ensemble has undertaken since its founding in 1996. Expect the unexpected — such as ancient Hawaiian music, religious singing from medieval Mediterranean regions and Renaissance music from the Holy Roman Empire.

The season also includes lots of guest artists. In October, for example, the ensemble will give two concerts to promote its ninth CD: “Il Poverello: The Life & Deeds of Saint Francis of Assisi.” Those concerts include an appearance by Milanese performer Isacco Colombo, a virtuoso on Italian bagpipes, shawm, fife and tabor.

In February, Voces8, a British vocal group, will join the Rose Ensemble to perform Palestrina’s “Missa Papae Marcelli.” And in March, the Rose Ensemble will host the Tallis Scholars, dubbed (by the New York Times) the “rock stars of Renaissance vocal music.” The Tallis Scholars will perform a concert of sacred choral music.

The season also includes two pairs of Christmas-oriented concerts: “Christmas in Elizabethan England” (expect music by Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and others), plus encore concerts of “And Glory Shown Around.”

You can find complete season details and listen to audio clips by going here.

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