The Jacob Sears Memorial Library in East Dennis hosted a “Renaissance Cabaret” on Sunday, December 16. Soprano Joan Kirchner and the Renaissance music group Oyez performed a range of delightful pieces originating from England, France, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. The performance took place in the increasingly popular “Jacob Sears Cabaret,” an intimate, candle-lit transformation of the library’s main reading room. The event featured the customary abundant food and festive music. In a nod to a favorite beverage of medieval and Renaissance times, the library invited its guests to “bring your own mead” (or other libation).
The Oyez ensemble was founded in 1997 by Ms. Kirchner, Jeff Kaufmann, and Linda Houle—all of whom make their living through performance and other enterprises here on Cape Cod—and Arthur Bauman, who no longer resides on the Cape. The library performance included three of Oyez’ founding members, plus Thom Dutton who recently joined the group as a core member. Joan Kirchner notes that, “Arthur Bauman, a U.S. diplomat who remained connected to his musical training by founding musical groups in several countries, found inspiration for this Cape Cod ensemble in the Old French word ‘oyez,’ which means ‘listen!’” Oyez’ ensemble members are all gifted musicians, and the Renaissance music program and cabaret format combined to spotlight the richness and diversity of their talents.
Oyez has the form of a “broken consort,” which means that the members all possess versatile music skills, and decide together on the mix of instruments and voices that will be best for the performance of a particular piece. With the musicians garbed, and the hall decorated, to suggest the period, the cabaret conveyed the festive nature, relatively unconstrained performance methods, flowing rhythms, and emotional character of Renaissance music.
Well known to Cape Cod music lovers, Ms. Kirchner, the primary vocalist for the group, is a stand-out in a region rich with musical talent. Whether she is delivering an insightful twist on a Renaissance work or a witty, inventive rendering of Cole Porter, Joan Kirchner engages and uplifts audiences with the beauty and clarity of her voice, her lively imagination, and her charismatic stage presence. Ms. Kirchner recently sang to a sold-out audience of 750 as the soprano soloist in the Chatham Chorale’s Beethoven Celebration concert on November 18 under the direction of T. Joseph Marchio. Ms.Kirchner, a resident of Brewster, studied at the Eastman School and holds two Bachelor's degrees from Houghton College, and a Master's degree with distinction in Music from Indiana University.
Linda Houle (viola da gamba) earned a Bachelor of Music degree from New England Conservatory in viola, and performs with the Cape Cod Symphony. She is enthralled with the sound of the gamba and has acquired three of them. Ms. Houle has also built reconstructions of a psaltery and a harpsichord. Her day job is staff assistant to the president and Board of Trustees of Cape Cod Community College.
Jeff Kaufmann (recorders) began playing recorder 30 years ago while working as a boat delivery captain, when he had limited space and had to leave his guitar on shore. He sings as well as plays, most recently performing with Falmouth-based Mastersingers by the Sea, which is directed by New Bedford Symphony conductor David MacKenzie. Mr. Kaufman owns and operates his own business, Cape Compass, and lives in Falmouth.
Thom Dutton (harp, recorders) also earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Houghton College in music education with a specialization in voice, and he later took up the harp. His 150-year-old house could not support a piano, so Mr. Dutton needed another instrument. He became interested in the lever harp, which has no pedals, and has performed at many folk harp festivals as well as on Cape. He publishes scores through his own company, Capeside Music. Mr. Dutton lives in Chatham and is manager at Toby Farm.