Despite the unlikely birth of this group, when five strangers were thrown together (with one rehearsal) to provide a weekend of dinner music for a university "Madrigal Feast," they quickly decided that the music was beautiful, the friendship was genuine, and that they should try to keep playing together for as long as possible!
Eighteen years, hundreds of performances, and two CDs later, the Castle & Cross Consort has entertained its fans in many venues...from Medieval Faires to Ballet Galas, from fifteen years as a Renaissance Band at the Ren Fest in Kansas City to sumptuous Victorian Mansion Christmas Feasts, and even a delightful evening of banquet music for the national "Miss USA" Pageant!
Along with many unique musical "standards" from the Renaissance, the CD also offers these very special treats:
"Hey, ho! To the Greenwood," a delightful round featuring lower voiced recorders and James Mosher's strong vocal line.
"The Donkey Carol" is an original piece written for Castle & Cross by Steven Clark; it starts with a simple melody but grows and becomes evocative of the grand Christmas processionals of Medieval European Cathedrals. This song features the Medieval hurdy-gurdy.
"Come Ye Down, Merrie Mary," another original tune by S. Clark, is an instrumental ballad honoring a certain lusty Scottish barmaid, who was very popular with (and generous to) her 16th C. clientele.
"Flos Filius Eius" (Her Son is the flower) and "Coragon triste, sofrid" (the sad, suffering heart) are two wonderfully poetic Medieval tunes. The delicate musical lines in "Flos Filius..." combine and entwine around each other like gentle currents in a stream; it also features the haunting sound of a bowed psaltery.
Another original tune written for C&C is "The Stoney Path" a Celtic-inspired Air, with a mood of quiet dignified perseverance in the face of loss and sorrow.
"Virgo Sancta Katherina" is a beautiful tune using bass recorders, which add a wonderful dark richness to the sound.
"Pase el agoa, ma Julieta, dama" features the raucous timbre of Renaissance style crumhorns in a lively tune!
"Somebody/Brian Boru's March" (arranged by Steven Clark) combines an ancient Scottish melody with an ancient Irish melody for a dramatic and rousing end to the CD. It is Castle & Cross's most requested piece.
A Doctor of Metaphysics, an avid racquetball player, a nationally recognized quilt artist and a stained glass artist. The individuals in this unique group are all expert musicians, as well, and perform together as The Castle and Cross Consort.
”We got together in 1988 for a one-time performance, or so we thought. Our founder, Elizabeth Nichols, one of the original eight founders of the "American Orff-Schulwerk Association" which promotes the Orff school of music education., recruited us as the entertainment for a Renaissance feast, and we're still playing together.”
The word "consort" describes a family of instruments, in this case, the Recorder family, to which other instruments can be added, such as the shawm or hurdy-gurdy. "We are Topeka's Early Music ensemble, but we play all kinds of styles from Medieval to Modern." That is evidenced by their gigs: from masked balls to candlelight dinners to lake-shore concerts (in all kinds of weather). . . and even the Miss USA Pageant.
Meet The Castle and Cross Consort.
Steven Clark (recorders, krumhorn, percussion and hurdy-gurdy): "They call me the resident 'Court Composer,' but I spend most of my time in my basement studio creating stained glass works." During brief periods of respite, Steve goes to the piano and works on yet another piece for the Consort.
Gitta Gronewaller (recorders, krumhorn, bowed psaltry, and percussion): "I was born in Germany and came from a musical family. My father played the piano and cello." Gitta is an avid racquetball player who has degrees in pediatric nursing and modern languages, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. "I also enjoy literature (old and new), translations and teaching English as a second language."
Jane Kerns (recorders and krumhorn): "I began as an organist, started playing recorder in graduate school, and played with the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra in Palo Alto, California, before coming to Kansas." Jane is an Illustration Editor for the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas. She is also a national award-winning quilt artist.
James Mosher (recorders, krumhorn, Renaissance harps, vocals and percussion): "I work full-time at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, but I am also very busy in the music profession namely playing Oboe and English Horn with the Topeka Symphony and the Topeka Woodwind Quintet, as well as the Castle and Cross Consort." In his "free time" Jim co-owns a mail-order and storefront business called The Enchanted Willow Alchemy Shoppe. He has a Doctoral degree in Metaphysics.
Richard Mason (recorders, percussion) Dick was a jazz artist and music educator. It was not unusual for him to play Renaissance music in the afternoon and jazz at a club at night.