Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) oboist Caitlin Broms-Jacobs has always been a fan of early music.
“When I was in high school, my friends and I would skip down the street singing Renaissance madrigals in four parts,” she says.
So when the MCO commissioned a new arrangement, Broms-Jacobs was keen to explore some of the repertoire, though reinterpret it for modern wind instruments.
Building on the success of her previous works — arrangements of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Bach’s Goldberg Variations — Angelica Beltà (“Angelic Beauty”) features late-Medieval/early-Renaissance tunes and dances from a variety of composers.
The majority of the music comes from lute tablature though there are other sources, including writing by the renowned Palestrina, and unaccompanied songs from 15th-century Portugal and an early-Renaissance Italian composer.
“I’ve added a lot of colours and textures to the originals which are, for the most part, quite simple,” explains Broms-Jacobs.
The modern oboe, English horn (Tracy Wright) and bassoon (Allen Harrington), with their superior sonic possibilities, provide even more fodder for creativity.
“This is something quite unique, in the sense that it is neither a straight-up transcription of Renaissance music and it is not in any defined style,” says Broms-Jacobs. “Defining our articulations, our sound concepts… everything about it is kind of new and it’s really, really interesting to go through that together.”
Premiering as part of Jump Cuts: A montage of new music — the first concert in the MCO’s Spring Festival — the Renaissance suite doesn’t seem out of place, despite the centuries that separate the original tunes from the new works by Randolph Peters, Julian Grant, Gabriel Dharmoo, and Larry Strachan on the program.
“For me, one of my absolute favourite things about being a musician — whether that’s as an arranger or a performer — is that amazing element of discovery,” says Broms-Jacobs. “I was discovering music I didn’t know before and it’s still meaningful and effective 500 years later… I think that’s absolutely incredible.”
The new works on the program, too, share in that spirit of discovery — a spirit shared with all involved: composers, musicians, conductor, and those in attendance.
“The audience wouldn’t be there if they also weren’t also explorers just like us,” she says. “I think the vibe at these kind of things can be really electric. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Jumpcuts takes place on Tuesday, March 8 with a second performance on Wednesday at Westminster United Church, with streaming also available.