It isn’t just through watching the plays of the Bard that you can get a taste of culture here at the Fringe; the Edinburgh Renaissance Band are bards of a different sort. Collaborating with the Polyhymnia Dancers, this seventeen piece ensemble boasts a repertoire of songs from the thirteenth century to the early eighteenth. There are a range of genres from laments and love songs to songs from the court and even drinking songs, with tunes from Scotland, Italy, France and even the court of Henry VIII. Most members of the band play multiple instruments, and three of them sing as well, displaying a diverse range of musical and vocal talent.
It’s not just an old concert; it’s a sixteenth century concert.
The free programme provided at the start of the performance proves brilliantly detailed, giving the names of the songs, their composers, approximate dates and more, as well as some lyrics. This is accentuated throughout the performance by the band’s musical director Murray Campbell; not only do we get to hear music from hundreds of years ago, but we gain a better understanding of it as well. It’s presented in lively ways, such as the humorous demonstration of the buzzing sound of the crumhorns and adds to, rather than hinders, the band’s presentation of their music.
The way in which the Edinburgh Renaissance Band performs is spectacular – beginning with a rousing battle fanfare to announce their presence as they enter the church, they perform comic songs of the court, laments and stately dance tunes all with great energy and passion. Not only did the band play well but they dress the part too, as do the dancers, in full period costume; it felt as though one had travelled back in time to watch the minstrels play at court.
A great number of the songs the band play are Scottish; as Campbell states, “it’s an international festival, so it ought to contain some Scottish music from hundreds of years ago!” This being said, particular highlights from the performance include the Italian song La Romana, in which the band splits into two choirs with the instruments battling or echoing each other, and the Regina Coeli; once played at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Campbell explains, it is only fitting that the band perform it at St Mark’s, Castle Terrace. The final song of the evening combined vocals, dance and instruments in a culmination of the band’s talents, and with this they were urged back to the stage, having left the church, to take a bow for a second time. There are only two more days of performances for the Edinburgh Renaissance Band - don’t miss this display of beautiful music and dance. It’s not just an old concert; it’s a sixteenth century concert.