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!"
CD Highlights / Program Notes:
SPRING SPRING SPRING SPRING
“Coletta” is a jolly madrigal tune which sounds especially nice played on harp and recorders.
5, 6 & 7. These less well known Renaissance madrigal pieces are a delight! Even without the lyrics, their very strong musical lines clearly convey the emotions behind each title:
“I know a young maiden...” is a sprightly, charming warning to any potential suitors.
“Morir non puo’l mio core” is a very regal sounding lament over lost love.
“Gay little nymph” is teasing and playful in its pursuit of true love.
8. “Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone” is a rollicking madrigal, even when done solely as an instrumental.
SUMMER SUMMER SUMMER SUMMER
9. William Byrd’s “The Bright Sun” starts as a grand dignified march, but ends with a lively and almost “folksy” dance section.
10 -13. The “Four Miniature Dances from Childhood” for solo recorder and harp were written especially for Castle & Cross by Steven Clark. In contrast to the more “formal” Renaissance gems that have come before, these modern miniatures are playful, fun and bring to mind common scenes we have all experienced at sometime in our “younger” days:
“Why, Granmaw?” is a musical conversation between a patient grandmother and the toddler in her care, who has just discovered that magical word, “Why?”
“Hide and Seek” brings to mind an exuberant group of children playing in a park on a warm pleasant afternoon.
“Cloud Shadows” takes me back to a very specific afternoon in my own childhood. It was a mild summer day, and a friend and I were hiking in the country. We stopped for almost an hour on a hillside meadow, sitting in the softest grass I'd ever seen, and just watched giant white clouds drift slowly across the sky. It seemed like another ordinary day, but nearly fifty years later I still remember every pleasant detail.
“First Love” depicts all the stammering hesitation and insecurity of an adolescent smitten with his first “crush.”
14-19. Hans Poser’s “Rendsburger Dances” are also very modern pieces, but they are certainly grounded in the timeless music of folk-dance and songs. They are wonderfully fun to play and offer another change of pace with their quirky rhythms and modern harmonies. The publisher was pleased to let us know that Castle & Cross was the very first group ever to record these delightfully playful dances!
FALL FALL FALL FALL
20. “Arundel Castle” is another original piece by Steven Clark. It is meant to celebrate all the Medieval and Renaissance Festivals/Faires from around the world, and especially the annual Harvest Festival at Arundel Castle, one of the most lovely of all English historic sites.
22. “Vray Dieu d’amours” highlights the rich warm sound of three tenor recorders.
23. One of our favorite pieces is James Mosher’s hauntingly beautiful, original tune, “Fairy Danse” for harp and recorders. The delightful melody is as delicate and sweet as if from an antique (and perhaps magical!) music box. A treasured gift from the realm of “Faerie!”
24. “Serenade in C” by Mark Hanson, for guitar and recorders, is an absolute gem of a piece! It is as heartwarming and comfortable as a stroll through a suburban park on a fine autumn day. We were very glad to be able to include it on this CD! Our good friend and superb guitarist, Christopher Small, adds the perfect touch to the beautifully written guitar line.
WINTER WINTER WINTER WINTER
26, 27, 28, 30. “I wonder as I Wander,” “Sussex Carol/I saw three ships,” “What is that lovely fragrance?” and “Sans Day Carol/The holly and the ivy” are all great arrangements by Eric Haas, of these timeless Christmas carols.
32a. Our arrangement of “Silent Night,” perhaps the best loved of all the world’s Christmas carols, was written for C&C by Steven Clark. It includes harp, recorders, and glockenspiel for a very gentle, reverent, and dreamlike sound.
32b. For those with patience, an unexpected and unlisted surprise gift! Compliments of Santa and a sleigh full of slightly “tipsy” elves!
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.