The Rose Ensemble: Il Poverello

September 29, 2009
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St. Paul, Minn. — The Rose Ensemble has just released their ninth recording. It celebrates the life of the twelfth-century luminary St. Francis of Assisi.

Francis was born Giovanni Francesco Bernardone and gave up a life of privilege for the materially impoverished life of a monk. He later founded an order of friars known as the Franciscans.

The patron saint of animals, St. Francis is also the patron of Italy. But his influence was felt well beyond the borders of Assisi and Italy. At Notre Dame in Paris, a group of educated (and perhaps inebriated) monks wrote poetic lines about his life that have a lusty musical setting.

In fact, the recording starts off with a rustic, up-beat feel. The Rose Ensemble Artistic Director Jordan Sramek says he wanted to take the listener back in time to the secular life of Francis before taking his vow of poverty.

Medieval composers penned some of the most transcendent chant for the Feast of St. Francis - colored and improvised by The Rose Ensemble. Hundreds of years later in the Renaissance, complicated polyphony tells the story of the last moments of Francis' life rife with word-painting.

It is thought that a Franciscan wrote the most famous lines of medieval text, the Stabat Mater, words that have been set by composers as far-ranging as Pergolesi, Schubert, Verdi and Dvorak. The Rose Ensemble sings the words simply with harp underscoring the deep, personal grief of the mother of Jesus at the cross.

The Rose Ensemble collaborates with a young early-instrument practitioner they met at a festival in Italy. Full of life, Isacco Colombo says "he fell in love" with The Rose Ensemble after they arranged a little jam session.

Isacco plays bagpipes, shawn, tabor and fife (the latter two at the same time) on the disc and in concert with the Rose Ensemble this weekend.

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