by Michael Caruso

Philadelphia’s Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, will join forces with Chicago’s King’s Noyse, the nation’s foremost Renaissance string ensemble, and soprano Ellen Hargis for a concert of 16th century Italian music 8 p.m. Friday, March 11, in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. The program is entitled “New Waves in Ferrara: Two Bands, Fresh Sounds.” A pre-concert discussion called “Playing Down Low” will be given by David Douglass of King’s Noyse.

“Violin bands were the new upstarts in 16th century northern Italy, and many of the pieces were considered avant-garde and led to the beginning of the baroque style,” Piffaro co-director Robert Wiemken has explained. The baroque fashion held sway from approximately 1600 (Claudio Monteverdi was its early master) until the middle decades of the 18th century and Haydn’s development of the classical style.

“King’s Noyse often plays from memory or improvises on standardized bass lines,” Wiemken added. “It’s very similar to the jamming of contemporary jazz or even country music groups playing over their bass lines, rhythms, and harmonic progressions, taking off from a standard tune. That was the style back in the 16th century.

The 2010-11 season is Piffaro’s 25th, and the ensemble is celebrating the cross-country and cosmopolitan connections it has built over the quarter century of its existence. “King’s Noyse and Ellen Hargis are some of the best,” pointed out Joan Kimball, Piffaro’s founder and co-director. “And David Douglass is an incredible speaker, especially on the subject of string-playing techniques of the era; he’s an expert. We’re hoping to attract a lot of young players, amateurs and professionals, joining us for his pre-concert discussion. He has so much to share.”

Tickets range from $40 for preferred seating, $35 for general admission, and $15 for students, plus a senior discount for $35 preferred and $25 general. Visit or call 215-235-8469.


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 East Chestnut Hill Ave. in Chestnut Hill, will present a voice recital featuring two of its staff singers 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19. Soprano Rebecca Siler and tenor Jeffrey Dinsmore, professional members of the parish’s choir, will sing music by Robert Schumann, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Mozart. They will also present the world premier of a new song cycle by Benjamin C.S. Boyle, who will accompany the singers in this performance. A freewill offering will be taken for the benefit of St. Paul’s Music Fund. Sunday services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are scheduled at 8, 9 and 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 215-2442-2055 or visit


The Academy of Vocal Arts will present “Jubilate!,” a concert of sacred music and oratorio masterpieces, March 13 and 15. Organizing and conducting soloists from AVA, the New Jersey MasterChorale and the AVA Opera Orchestra will be Philadelphia native Antony Lofton. Alongside working as a vocal coach and conductor at AVA, America’s only full-scholarship post-graduate school focusing exclusively on the training of professional singers, the Germantown resident is also the music director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Elkins Park.

Explaining the genesis of “Jubilate!” Lofton said that the annual concert gives AVA students the chance to learn and perform with full orchestra selections from the sacred and oratorio repertoire that they will be called upon to sing once they’ve graduated from the center city Philadelphia school, rounding out their careers in opera. “I’m always happy to hear from our graduates,” Lofton mentioned, “that they’ve just performed one of the pieces they sang in “Jubilate!” when they were here at AVA as a student.”

Lofton explained that he chooses the repertoire for “Jubilate!” just as he would choose the program for an opera gala. “I pick both familiar works as well as some that are less well known. Naturally I look to Rossini, Mozart, Bach and Handel. But I also strive to broaden their repertoire with some less familiar music. And I also pick songs for which I need to provide the orchestration.”

Choosing the singers to take part in “Jubilate!” isn’t problematic, Lofton assured, because AVA’s student body offers a balance between voice types and ranges. But there is an inherent problem with scheduling that he must always consider. The concert is always scheduled in the late winter or early spring, so it often falls between performances of fully-staged operas. AVA students in their third and fourth years of study frequently begin auditioning for roles in professional operatic productions. And quite often, they’re cast in performances all over the country and even the world, making it difficult or even impossible for Lofton to include them in “Jubilate!”

“Jubilate!” will be performed 7 p.m. Sunday, March 13, in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15 in the Haverford School’s Centennial Hall on the Main Line. Tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for seniors and $15 for students. Call 215-735-1685 or visit