White Sparrow and a packed house explored the depths of the night
A voice of rare beauty fills the chapel with its lyrical lament:
Thus, wedded to my woes,
and bedded in my tomb,
O let me dying live,
till death doth come, till death doth come.
It is mezzo-soprano Debi Wong performing with lute and theorbo player Solmund Nystabakk at BRQ Vantaa Festival 2013.
I think to myself that I’d never write like that. I’d simply never feel like that – it’s the 21st century, and I’m way too rational to be wedded to my woes. And yet I’m captivated by these lines and the exquisite performance of this duo called White Sparrow.
White Sparrow at the BRQ Vantaa Festival 2013. Photo: Katri Somerjoki
In a concert entitled Mister Dowland’s Midnight, we’ve been traveling from sunset to this point, the darkest hour of the night. In addition to music by John Dowland, the program has included pieces by his contemporaries such as Anthony Holborne and Philip Rosseter, whose No Grave for Woe we heard just a moment ago. I’ve enjoyed it all, including the flirtatious moments experienced at sunset, but I do feel the program has been getting better and better. Yes, the darker the better! A curious enchantment indeed.
Evidently, I’m not alone with these thoughts, because the concert, held in The Chapel of St. Lawrence, was absolutely packed.
White Sparrow. Photo: Katri Somerjoki
“I think this was our first packed concert!” the young mezzo-soprano rejoices. This is if you don’t count a house concert White Sparrow once did in Vancouver.
“A big thank you to our audience – they were so supportive of us!”
Two things worked together to bring Debi Wong to Finland. She got interested in Sibelius Academy’s Doctor of Music programme, which she sees as a unique opportunity for a musician to combine artistic and academic pursuits. Another major factor was that, after a long search for a lute player, she finally found Solmund Nystabakk, a Norwegian who now makes his home in Finland.
The artists haven’t toured much with tonight’s programme yet, but they believe that Mister Dowland’s Midnight offers something very interesting to the modern person:
“It’s an opportunity to explore a very different mindset. Elizabethans were so sincere. People wouldn’t say these things today without being slightly ironic,” Solmund Nystabakk says about Dowland and his contemporaries.
Debi Wong from White Sparrow at the BRQ Vantaa Festival 2013. Photo: Katri Somerjoki
The first audience members to be interviewed hailed from Switzerland. They had searched for interesting concerts to attend on their holiday, and had found the BRQ Vantaa Festival online. The musical family had enjoyed the concert very much.
Monica Corrodi and Sandra Mazzoni at the BRQ Vantaa Festival with their husbands, brothers Peter and Andreas Corrodi (not pictured). Photo: Katri Somerjoki
Andreas Corrodi was especially taken with Debi Wong’s genuine interpretation and the good balance between the vocal and instrumental parts. Sandra Mazzoni, herself an amateur lutenist, confessed having liked the larger lute better than the small one.
“The melancholy was sweet, not heavy, and Debi Wong has such an expressive voice filled with emotion,”Monica Corrodi thought.
Lutenist Mikko Ikäheimo had come to listen to what for him was mostly familiar repertoire. He said he had very much enjoyed both the performance as well asDavid Hackston’s skillful translations of the lyrics.
Lauri Kokkonen. Photo: Katri Somerjoki
Lauri Kokkonen, too, said he takes a special interest in Dowland’s music and the Elizabethan era, which he became better acquainted with at the time of writing his master’s thesis.
“In this music you can find many themes that carried on to later centuries, even though the culture of that time was so different from today,” he reflected.
All in all, it was a very special and memorable night at BRQ Vantaa. Luckily, friends of the Elizabethan era can also get acquainted with this exciting new duo online, as White Sparrow has a fair number of samples of their work available on YouTube.
Text: Suvikki Honkkila
Photos: Katri Somerjoki