Baltimore Consort celebrates 10th year


It has been a year of milestones and transitions for member of the Baltimore Consort. For one, they are celebrating 10 years as an ensemble, an unusually long life span for a group that focuses on British, French and Italian music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The group has also released its first compact disc, "On the Banks of Helicon: Early Music of Scotland," on the Dorian label.

And, after seven years as ensemble-in-residence at the Walters Art Gallery, the Consort has become the Peabody Conservatory's resident ensemble.

Tomorrow, in its final concert of the season, the Consort will present "The French Muse," an evening of French music, as well as French-influenced music from Italy, England and Scotland. The six-piece ensemble also will celebrates its birthday at a post-concert party, complete with door prizes.

For the musicians who are the Consort, their anniversary is evidence of sound instincts. Although all members have other supporting occupations as teachers and performers, the ensemble is not a hobby; but a career. "We did make a commitment to the music and to the group," says member Mark Cudek, who will play the lute, cittern, Renaissance guitar and bass viol tomorrow night.

The concert will show off the Consort's versatility on a broad range of plucked instruments and flutes.

The concert, as well as the new album, showcase ensemble members' ability to write their own, intricate arrangements. Of the group's practice of improvising in counterpoint, Cudek says, "We pretend we're a jazz group at rehearsals."

Nevertheless, the license taken by the Consort in its Scottish music disc is a departure from the work of similar ensembles that have traditionally stuck close to old, original arrangements found in 17th century publications. "We've definitely taken some chances," says Cudek, also the group's business manager. It's been worth it, he adds.

The Baltimore Consort performs 8:15 p.m. tomorrow in the Friedberg Concert Hall at the Peabody Conservatory. Admission: for the general public; $8 for seniors and students. Call 889-5123.

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