The tercentenary of Henry Purcell's death has already yielded a bumper crop of concerts celebrating the achievement of one of England's most remarkable composers, and happily quite a few explore the obscure corners of his prodigious oeuvre. Such is the case with this collaboration between two crackerjack local groups, His Majestie's Clerkes and the Chicago Baroque Ensemble, which focuses on the verse anthems Purcell wrote between 1680 and his death in 1695 at age 36. A newfangled, decidedly Anglican genre, the verse anthem--scored for soloists, choir, and obbligato strings--borrowed techniques such as colorful solo arias from French and Italian operas. Unlike the full anthem, which requires only chorus and organ and is rooted in medieval polyphony, the verse anthem was meant to mix mirth with piety. One example from this program, "They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships," uses a biblical text to mark the rescue of guests on Charles II's brand-new yacht. The despair to which Purcell succumbed occasionally in the last years of his life can be heard in the famous "Dido's Lament" (from his operatic masterpiece Dido and Aeneas) and in another anthem set to a Metaphysical poem about man's humble lot on earth. Finally, the inclusion of an anthem from Pelham Humfrey, one of Purcell's mentors, provides a glimpse into the composer's musical ancestry. Saturday, 8 PM, Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake, Oak Park. Next Saturday, April 29, 8 PM, Mallinckrodt Chapel, Loyola University, 1041 Ridge, Wilmette. Next Sunday, April 30, 7:30 PM, Quigley Seminary Chapel, 103 E. Chestnut. 461-0723.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Steve Leonard.