I had never heard of Laughing Bird until its newest member, Leslie Johnson, contacted me to let me know about their concert. Publicity was almost non-existant, and they did not have a web site. The only reference to the event was a Facebook page and event. What they did have, however, was a strong network of friends and a few prior performances that convinced them to show up. Two other major selling points? Free admission and a table overflowing with delicious snacks and beverages. They also wisely chose the small salon over the large sanctuary. The audience so completely filled the space that another row of folding chairs was quickly put in place so all would have seats.
Laughing Bird is comprised of:
Leslie Johnson, soprano
Jenifer L. Smith, mezzo-soprano Steven Bradshaw, tenor Colin Dill, Bass
and for Friday's performance, instrumentals by:
Mark Rimple - Lutenist
Rachel Cama - Viola da Gamba
Both instrumentalists played a variety of period instruments.
So why was this concert so enjoyable? Well, first, and formost is always the quality of performance, and their delivery was top notch. Performance is only one attribute to a successful concert, however. The detailed and very informative program notes by Jenifer Smith were of such high quality that they could be used for a classroom presentation. The filled salon provided an intimate setting and the absence of a stage eliminated any gap between audience and performers. In fact, the performers did not limit themselves to the front. They sometimes split between the front and the back of the room and, at one point, even a side was used. Renaissance surround sound! The selection of secular medieval, renaissance and baroque music was not only entertaining and lively but the popular works were also surprisingly varied. The ensemble's signature work: Clement Janequin's "Le chant des oiseaux" was fiendishly difficult for the singers but fantastically fun for the audience. The bird sounds intermixed with the French text drew smiles and chuckles.
The audience at this concert was warm, welcoming, and attentive. They were also mostly friends, family and enthusiastic fans of ancient music. While it would be wonderful to be able to make a living with such an audience, Laughing Bird will undoubtably need to reach out beyond this circle and start charging admission if they wish to become a financially sustainable group. My suggestion is to "like" their Facebook page and go to their next concert before they spread their wings and soar to loftier heights.
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