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Josie and The Emeralds

Home > Sydney > Classical Music | Concerts | Music
by Maddy Butler (subscribe)
A Sydney based writer, director, actor. Loves going out and exploring what Sydney has to offer.
Published November 22nd 2012
Get carried away by beautiful string instruments and song
When I accepted the WeekendNotes invite to see 'Josie and The Emeralds' as part of the Glebe Music Festival I had no idea what sort of music I was going to see. A gypsy folk guitar-player in a long green dress with supporting band? You'd think that the setting, St Scholastica's Chapel, would have tipped me off, but no.

Josie and The Emeralds comprises Josie Ryan, a soprano singer, and The Emerald City Viols. For those as ignorant as myself, a viol is any of a family of stringed instruments, common in the 16th and 17th centuries, having a fretted fingerboard, generally six strings, and a flat.

Although based in Sydney, the group sounds as though they belong in Renaissance times. They perform a mix of hard-to-find Renaissance pieces with contemporary music thrown in here and there.

'Gibbons and the New', at St Scholastica's, featured all 6 viols together (apparently a rare thing). They performed Orlando Gibbons's six-part viol set of six Fantasias. The work of Gibbons, a 17th century English composer, is rarely heard in contemporary circles and I must agree with Director Brooke Green's lament that this is the case. His music is clever and complex, rolling from one emotion to another: sadness, then nostalgia, then joy.

I was most partial to his Fantasia No.3, Fantasia No.4 and Pavan and Galliard (in 6 parts). The music was captivating, resonating with a time long gone. The harmonies, for me at least, evoked images of churches, castles and large, empty dining halls. The musicians played with such precision, an impressive feat considering that Pavan and Galliard jumps between duple and triple time!

The programme also included pieces by Brooke Green, which were further proof of her talent and technical prowess. I particularly enjoyed Spirits and Dreams, which combined Renaissance and Baroque elements: a masterful piece that fills the soul with emotion.

The viols are complemented wonderfully by Josie Ryan's voice. Ryan has sung for more than 15 years, a large portion of which was in Europe. Brooke Green founded Josie Ryan and The Emeralds in 2011 and the group has since played regularly throughout Sydney and Canberra.

Details on the group and their concerts can be found on their website. Click here to hear some of the other pieces performed by Josie and The Emeralds.
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*Maddy Butler was invited as a guest
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Why? For an uplifting Renaissance experience
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