Piffaro’s annual holiday concert takes listeners back in time to the 16th century Kingdom of Naples. Renowned as the “conservatory of Europe,” the city boasted an abundance of talented composers and players to supply music to accompany Nativity plays, crèche scenes, and feasts. 

Piffaro’s program will mirror the variety of music enjoyed by these Renaissance revelers: Spanish and Italian, contemplative and rowdy, divine and earthy.

Piffaro's musicians, all experts in period wind instruments, will also introduce local audiences to a distinctive sound that evokes “Christmas” to Neapolitan ears like no other – Zampogna (Italian Renaissance bagpipes) and ciaramella (folk shawm). Legend holds that the bagpipe was the instrument played by shepherds abiding in the fields on Christmas Eve, and it’s still a tradition in Italy for shepherds to play zampogna and parade through town around the Christmas season.

According to artistic co-director Robert Wiemken, “the concert will highlight Spanish music including motets by Guerrero (O magnum mysterium; Pastor, quien madre Virgen, etc), instrumental ricercars by Ortiz, rousing songs and villancicos for the season from the Cançionero Musical de Uppsala (e.g. Riu, riu, chiu; Dadme albriçias), and more. From the Italian side, selections will be drawn from the collections of solo cantatas and instrumental canzonas by the likes of Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, and others. Naples itself will supply an amalgam of the two in the works of Giovanni de Macque, Giovanni Maria Trabaci and infamous Carlo Gesualdo, all of whom were adept at the new chromatic compositional style that took Europe by storm in the later half of the 16th century, used very expressively to convey the ‘mystery’ of divine intervention in the Christmas story.”

Listen to Que benito nino chiquito.

If these names don’t ring a bell, never fear. Many of the tunes will sound surprisingly familiar. Quanno nascette ninno is a famous Neapolitan Christmas carol used by Handel in the Annunciaion to the Shepherds scene in the Messiah, and the villancico Riu, riu, chiu has been “covered” by performers as disparate as the Boston Camerata, the Kingston Trio, The Monkees and may be one of the most well known pieces of Renaissance music.

Watch The Monkees perform Riu riu chiu.

Mediterranean Holiday

December 19, 2014 at 8PM at Trinity Center for Urban Life, 22nd & Spruce Streets, Philadelphia

December 20, 2014 at 8PM at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia

December 21, 2014 at 3PM at Sts Andrew & Matthew Episcopal Church, 719 Shipley Street, Wilmington






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