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Program Notes


A Piper's Noel

Ciaramella celebrates shepherds and the Christmas music they inspired. With voices and wind instruments they'll pipe and sing songs of praise. Robust Renaissance carols of England, France and the Low Countries, plus the Italian hymn that Handel captured in his Messiah.

Adam Gilbert, Rotem Gilbert, Doug Milliken; recorder, shawm, bagpipes
Greg Ingles, Erik Schmalz; slide trumpet, sackbut, recorder
Bianca Hall, Karina Kallas, soprano
N. Lincoln Hanks; tenor


A Piper's Noel

Nova stella apparita
Canzone d’i Zampognari

La Stangetta
Chant: “Quem vidistis, pastores?”
Vidimus enim stellam eius in Oriente
Non desina
Chant: “Angelus ad pastores
Verbum caro factum est

Anonymous (14th century Italian)
Traditional Sicilian (16th century)

Gaspar van Weerbeke (c. 1445-c.1516)
Anonymous (15th century)
Anonymous (15th century)
Anonymous (15th century)

Cum natus esset Jesus

Vamos al portal
Angeles del zielo

Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1533)

Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
Anonymous (early 16th century)

Crions noel
Comme femme desconfortée

Mit desen nywen iare/ Rostiboli gioioso

Alexander Agricola (c.1446-1506)

Anonymous (15th century)


Nova vobis gaudia

La Spagna
La Spagna

Noe, noe

Nicolas Grenon (c. 1375-1456)

Josquin Desprez (c. 1450-1521)

Antoine Brumel (c.1460-1512-13)

England and America
Nova, nova

Greensleeves on a Ground
The Babe of Bethlehem (The Southern Harmony)

Anonymous English

Anonymous English
William Walker (1809-1875)

Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich/ Dies est laetitiae
Dies est laetitiae

Adam von Fulda (c.1445-1505)

Program Notes

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night….”

With these words from Luke begin one of the richest scenes from the Christmas story: the Annunciation to the Shepherds, with rustic imagery evoking pastoral symbolism in music throughout the ages. The shepherds—the people of the world longing for the divine—announce the coming of the great shepherd of mankind. In paintings, they hold their ubiquitous bagpipes away from their mouth, a sign that they renounce carnal things for the coming of the divine. These lowly musical symbols of our frail human nature echo in music history, from simple Renaissance folk carols to great works of the baroque era.

The blend of humble symbolism and the regal status of the shawm and trumpets in Renaissance music wind ensembles kept an intimate place in the Christmas story. In this program, Ciaramella traces the ties between music of intense joy and the high sounds of shawms and brass, along with a classic fifteenth-century vocal ensemble. Our repertory spans from the birth of the Virgin and the annunciation to Epiphany and feasts bidding winter farewell.

To this day, Italian bagpipers (zampognari) descend from the hills in the weeks before Christmas, accompanied by the ciaramella, an Italian folk shawm. Corelli captured the sound of these pipes in the Piva of his Christmas Concerto. In his Messiah, Handel immortalized one of their hymns, the Canzone d’i Zampognari, in the aria “And he shall feed his flock” in a clear allusion to the trope of Christ as shepherd. More striking is his exaltation of the same humble melody in the unison climax of the Halleluiah Chorus with the words “The kingdom of the world, is become the kingdom of our Lord.” The same bagpipe hymn is best known today in its nineteenth-century version, Tu scende dalle stelle (known in English as From Starry Skies Descending), and inspired Hector Berlioz’s Harolde en Italie. The same folk duo of pipe and shawm survives in France and Brittany today. Ciaramella’s version of these hymns adopts the duo of bagpipe and shawm playing in parallel thirds and simple harmonies.

Beyond the symbolism of the pipers, the annunciation scene played a profound role in musical performance and composition. The words sung by the Angels, “Glory to God on the Highest, Peace on earth and good will to all men,” resound in the most sublime music of the Mass. Indeed, this moment marks the conceptual origins of antiphonal singing in the Catholic Church, and is heard daily in the Gloria of the Mass. In Nova stella apparita, from the 14th-century Florence laudario, the light of the star symbolizes the return of light and the promise of salvation. Such songs served an important role in making the Christmas story present through re-enactment. The singer adopts the role of those who follow the start toward Bethlehem. Although the manuscript preserves no rhythmic notation, the text and ornamental motives provide tantalizing hints about how the song sounded more than six hundred years ago.

Renaissance composers would have scratched their heads at our modern idea of intellectual property and would have had serious problems with our copyright laws. The art of composition (“putting together”) implied using existing material. Altering an existing song was not only a sign of homage, it served as means for symbolism, and composers constantly relied on similitude between love songs and a religious subject. Gilles Binchois’ Comme femme desconfortée, about the most sorrowful woman in the world became a favorite basis for motets in honor of the Virgin Mary. Adopting as cantus firmus such a song might seem incongruous at first. However, theologians and artists embraced the concept that sharing the inevitable sorrows of Mary would help the faithful find salvation.

Alexander Agricola several settings based on the Tenor from Binchois’ song, including a duo that is probably close to contemporary improvisational practice, and a four-voice version with three voices made of short, intensely florid motives. Agricola ended his long career working for the Hapsburg Emperor Philip the Fair in Spain. Sadly, both he and his patron died of Typhoid fever in 1506.

The antiphonal sound of the angels still resounds in a favorite carol “Angels we have heard on high,” in which the mountains echo their joyous refrain, “Gloria…” The English version of this carol follows the original traditional French words and music closely, with some minor variations. In the Spanish carol Angeles de zielo, the angels not only sing and dance, they “romp in the sky,” in lively rhythms wedding Spanish text setting and a fascination with New World music. Its syncopated style contrasts markedly from Cristóbal de Morales’ motet Cum natus esset Jesus. This five-part motet typifies the highest polyphonic style, and conceals a canon between Soprano and Tenor voices. As a particularly popular ensemble in Spanish churches, shawms may well have played just such music.

Another common theme of the Renaissance carol is the lulling of the baby Jesus in the manger as an allegory for the humble bringer of peace to humanity. The tradition of the praesepio, or crèche remains familiar today at Christmas time, but nowhere more than in Southern Italy, where it has inspired comic and tragic stories and plays. Perhaps the most international and sublime of all the manger carols is Verbum caro factum est, singing of the child in the manger as the word made flesh. Our arrangement blends four different settings. Three, from the Italian manuscript Panciatichi 27, seem to represent a fairly rough-hewn local contrapuntal that would not have passed muster with the great composers from the North. The most florid Italian setting survives in a manuscript in Cape Town, South Africa.

The most famous textual association with Christmas lies in the words “Nova” and “Noe.” The theme of rejuvenation appears in the earliest surviving laudi spirituali (“songs of spiritual praise”). Alexander Agricola’s Crions noel must be a Christmas work, though only the opening words survive. Antoine Brumel’s Noe, noe contains a passage whose notes musicologists long believed should be altered to spiral down a half step, in what was referred to as “the secret chromatic art of the Netherlands.” Although a tempting notion, it can no longer be supported as the main performance practice in this work, a fact noted with relief by performers on shawms, which don’t sound their best in keys with more than a few flats or sharps.

The carol enjoyed great popularity in the British Isles throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Like many fifteenth-century carols, Nova, nova depicts Annunciation scene, punctuated with sacred puns and shouts of joy. Often Christmas words were added as contrafacta of popular melodies. The secular English song Greensleeves is based on the Romanesca, an Italian chord progression popular for dance and variations. Today this same song is sung at Christmas with the words What Child is This? Finally, in our own American tradition shape-note hymns, folk ballads like Captain Kidd became haunting hymns like Wondrous Love. Although I know of no other version of The Babe of Bethlehem, it is easy to imagine that someone played it sometime, somewhere, as a rousing jig.

For the Germans and Flemish, Christmas signaled the beginning of the end of the cold dark winter nights. The occasion was marked by extended celebration with such hymns as Dies est letitiae, often sung in the vernacular Der tag, der ist so freudenreich. The Flemish carol Mit desen nywen iare celebrates the circumcision of Christ, which falls on January 1st, as a sign of the covenant between God and man. The Flemish also feasted on Rostibolli (“Roast and boiled”) and sang drinking songs with the typical refrain “for unto us a child is born.” No Burgundian welcome would be complete without a healthy excess of food and drink to bid winter farewell.

Adam Knight Gilbert




Praised for performing intricate fifteenth-century counterpoint "with the ease of jazz musicians improvising on a theme," Ciaramella brings to life medieval and early Renaissance music from historical events and manuscripts. Its members are united by the conviction that every composition conceals a rich story waiting to be unlocked through historical research and speculative performance. Founded on a core of winds—shawm, sackbut, recorder, organ, and voice—Ciaramella takes its name from the Italian shawm and from a fifteenth-century song about a beautiful girl whose clothes are full of holes. When she opens her mouth, she knocks men flat.

Directed by Adam and Rotem Gilbert, from the Early Music Program at USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, the ensemble performs at major festivals throughout the United States, Italy, and Germany. Performances have included the Cleveland Museum of Art, Bloomington Early Music Festival, Oberlin's Baroque Performance Institute, the Lute Society of America, the American Musicological Society in Seattle, and on early music series in Cleveland, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Arizona, Early Music in Columbus, Seattle’s Early Music Guild, the Connecticut Early Music Festival, Amherst Early Music Festival, and the Early Music Society of the Islands in Victoria, BC. They gave their New York debut at Music Before 1800 and debuted at the Tage Alter Musik Festival in Regensburg, Germany in 2007. Ciaramella has designed programs for the Da Camera Society music series “Chamber Music in Historic Sites” in Los Angeles, and for The Getty Museum in Los Angeles in coordination with specific exhibits.

Ciaramella released its debut CD Sacred and Secular Music from Renaissance Germany for Naxos (2006) and Treasures of Burgundy for Yarlung Records (2009). Their Yarlung recording Variations on a Moveable Ground will be released in Spring 2012. Ciaramella is now proudly based in Los Angeles.

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Adam Knight Gilbert, recorder and double reeds, one of the premiere international players of the Renaissance shawm and a founding member of Ciaramella, is currently assistant professor and director of the Early Music Program at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles. The first graduate of the Early Music program at the Mannes College of Music in New York City, he performed as a member of New York’s Ensemble for Early Music, the Waverly Consort and Piffaro. He has appeared with ensembles such as Calliope, ARTEK, New York Cornet and Sackbut Ensemble, The Whole Noyse, The Court Dance Company of New York, the Folger Consort, Concert Royal, The Bach Ensemble, Chatham Baroque, Newberry Consort, Canto (Colombia), La Caccia Alta (Belgium) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others. Adam studied recorder at Rotterdams Conservatorium and was a recipient of the Fulbright and Belgian American Education Foundation Grants in Leuven, Belgium while researching his dissertation “Elaboration in Heinrich Isaac’s Three-Voice Mass Sections and Untexted Compositions.” He completed his Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University in 2003, where he studied under Ross Duffin. Adam taught for two years as at Stanford University. He researches fifteenth-century songs and Masses, improvisation in music from 1400–1700, and musical symbolism. He received the 2008 Noah Greenberg Award for his work on 15th-century improvisation. Adam can be heard on Dorian, Naxos, Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv, Passacaille, Musica Americana, Lyrichord and Yarlung labels.

Rotem Gilbert, recorder and double reeds, is a native of Haifa, Israel and a founding member of Ciaramella. She is an assistant professor at the USC Thornton School of Music where she teaches Baroque and Renaissance performance practice courses and is an instructor of early music winds. As a member of Piffaro (1996-2007), she toured the United States, Europe and South America. Rotem has appeared with many American and European early music ensembles including Chatham Baroque, King's Noyse, Newberry Consort and Capilla Flamenca, and has been featured as a soloist for the Pittsburgh Opera (Corronatione di Poppea), the LA Opera (Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, Handel’s Tamerlano, and the Play of Daniel), and Musica Angelica (Brandenburg #4). She recently made her debut at Disney hall with the LA Phil (Living Toys by Thomas Adès and The Flowering Tree with John Adams). After studies on recorder at Mannes College of Music in New York, she earned her solo diploma from the Scuola Civica di Musica of Milan where she studied with Pedro Memelsdorff. She earned her doctorate in Early Music performance practice at Case Western Reserve University. She has been a regular faculty member of early music workshops in San Diego, Seattle, Madison, Amherst, and Israel's Ayala and is currently the co-director of SFEMS Recorder Workshop. Rotem can be heard on the Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv, Passacaille, Musica Americana, Dorian, Naxos and Yarlung labels.

Soprano Bianca Hall began playing piano at the age of four, but only began studying voice after completing a Bachelor of Science degree at UCLA. She has since received both Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in vocal performance from CSU Fullerton and is currently in the doctoral program in Early Music Vocal Performance at the University of Southern California. She has performed the roles of Drusilla (Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea), Cherubino (Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro) and Dido and the Sorceress (Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas). Ms Hall's recordings include “Ancient Christmas Melodies” (Virlouise Records, 2006), “J.S. Bach: The Six Motets BWV 225-230” (Bach Collegium San Diego, 2010), and “D’ye Hear the News,” music to accompany 1688: The First Modern Revolution (Yale University Press, 2011). She is a soloist and chorister with De Angelis Vocal Ensemble and Bach Collegium San Diego, a founding member of Natur Early Music Ensemble, the director of the Collegium Musicum ensemble at CSU Fullerton, a soloist at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Newport Beach, and a freelance vocalist.

A professional singer and composer, N. Lincoln Hanks studied early music performance practice with Thomas Binkley and Paul Hillier at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute. He was a cofounder of The Concord Ensemble, an a cappella group that won the Grand Prize in the first Early Music America/Dorian Records Competition. He now directs Alchymey, a vocal ensemble based in Los Angeles. Lincoln is an Associate Professor of Music at Pepperdine University where he teaches composition and directs the Collegium Musicum.

Karina Kallas, soprano, is a Los Angeles based classical singer and currently a doctoral candidate at the Thornton School of Music at USC. She has trained at the British American Dramatic Academy in London, La Musica Lirica in Italy, and received her Masters degree from California Institute of the Arts. Karina has performed at the Boston Early Music Festival, Los Angeles Microtonal Festival, Berkeley Early Music Festival, the Armand Hammer Museum, Disney Hall, and RedCat among others. In addition to her performance engagements, Karina is the founder and executive director of the Angeles Arts Collective, an LA based organization that offers elite lessons in the arts.

Greg Ingles, slide trumpet and sackbut, is in demand as a free-lance sackbut player performing with such period instrument ensembles as Tafelmusik, the New York Collegium, Concerto Palatino, New York's Ensemble for Early Music, Ensemble Rebel, Trinity Consort, the Orchestra of the Renaissance and American Bach Soloists. He is the director of the Dark Horse Consort, an ensemble devoted to rarely performed brass music of the 17th-Century. As a member of Piffaro, which performs throughout the U.S. and Europe, Greg has recorded for Dorian Recordings, and can also be heard on the Naxos label. Greg received his Bachelor of Music degree in trombone performance from Oberlin Conservatory and has recently completed his doctorate (DMA) at he State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Doug Milliken, recorder and double reeds, received his B.A. and Master of Music History degrees from Youngstown State University. In addition to performing on recorders, shawms, bagpipes, and dulcians, Doug researches early double-reed design. He has performed with Piffaro and is a founding member of Ensemble Tètonbeau. He recently concluded ten years with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra playing bassoon and contrabassoon. In addition to teaching bassoon at Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania during 2001 and 2002, he taught recorder at the Madison Early Music Festival in 2003 and 2004. He was a Doctoral student in Historical Musicology at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he directed several Early Music ensembles. Doug can be heard on the Naxos and Yarlung labels.

Erik Schmalz, slide trumpet & sackbut, received degrees in trombone performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Two years after graduation, he was introduced to period instruments and early music. Since then, Erik has had the opportunity to perform on early trombone and slide trumpet with a wide range of the top ensembles in North America including Spiritus Collective, Ciaramella, The New York Collegium, Tafelmusik, Clarion Music Society, Piffaro, Early Music New York, Toronto Consort, Aston Magna, San Francisco Bach Choir, Blue Heron, Boston Shawm and Sackbut Ensemble and Mercury Baroque. In addition, he has recorded with The New York Collegium, Early Music New York, Aston Magna, Trinity Baroque Orchestra and Ciaramella. Erik is currently a freelance performer and private teacher residing in Collinsville, Connecticut.

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