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That kind of Bedlam, or maybe not…. The original form of the word was Bethlem, for St. Mary Bethlehem Royal Hospital, which began life as a priory to raise money for the Crusades. By the fifteenth century the institution was housing insane patients. The behavior of the mad gave us the use of the word bedlam to describe chaos and behavior out of control. But there was nothing, literally nothing, out of control during BEDLAM's performance at the Music House.
Laudon Scheutt plays the lute, and masterfully, too.
Kayleen Sánchez sings, and beautifully, too.
BEDLAM is their early music duo, and brilliant, too.
Strike, you myrtle-crowned boys, Ivied maiden, strike together: Magic lutes are these, whose noise Our fingers gather, Threaded thrice with golden strings From Cupid's bow . . . --Thomas Lovell Beddoes
To set the scene: Scheutt and Sánchez were settled on a slight stage, one step above the main floor of the Music House music room. He was dressed quietly; she, more brightly, and with a great deal of glamour, enhanced when she apologized for the resonant nature of the stage and removed her high heels, thus barefoot for the entire concert.
In verbal presentation, she explained that no translations were printed in the program owing to their unsuitability. Then with lots of eye contact with Scheutt and smirks and smiles and leers at the audience, she proceeded to sing three passionate, racy French songs about love, Jehan Chardavoine's "Ma grand' fille approche toy," "Vivray-je tousjours en tristesse," and "Benist soit l'oeil noir de ma dame." She and Scheutt were rocking these hot songs, making them as flirtatious as they were when written, acting out with fervor Lovell's cry "you myrtle-crowned boys, Ivied maiden, strike together." Scheutt's precise playing and Sánchez's careful eye contract made every entry, every phrase, perfect.
To lower the temperature a little, but not the musical beauty, the next set was the "Death of Queen Jane" (anonymous), "Ma mignonne, je me plain" (Chardavoine), "Never weather-beaten sail" (Thomas Campion), and "Lavender's Blue" (anonymous). "Queen Jane" and "Lavender" are melodically simple, as befits anonymous people's music. "Never weather-beaten sail" took me directly back to my undergraduate years, the age of Alfred Deller, Richard Dyer-Bennett, and Julian Bream, when I first heard this timeless music. It had lost nothing over the years, and Sánchez's brisk tempo made it not quite so dirge-like as Deller's rendition. It's a matter of taste, of course, but I think Sánchez has a much better understanding of "Lavender Blue" than Burl Ives did. It's always pleasant to hear something that had become trite in the hands of the moviemakers (think So Dear To My Heart), return to its rightful place. Sánchez's voice is equally at home with folk songs and art songs.
Either Schuett or Sánchez had verbal commentary before each set. Both are advanced academics with a study of both sixteenth- and seventeen-century, but their comments were always enlightening without being dull or patronizing. Sánchez has done careful research in the correct pronunciations of the various periods of her music; there were some surprising twists in pronunciation.
The next set was untitled lute pieces by Scheutt. His fingering is precise and his rhythms impeccable, but at the same time there is a living spirit to all his playing. In these pieces he was singing in his heart.
Following a poignant rendition of "O Mirk, Mirk" (anonymous), there were the usual canapés and wine tasting at intermission.
The program returned to Campion, with "Fire that must flame" and "Seek the Lord." Campion was not as racy a dog as Chardavoine, but his music is just as beautiful, especially in the hands of Scheutt and Sánchez, whose collaboration was carefully polished without seeming rehearsed.
More Chardavoine next, "Un jour madame Perrette," "Que doux ennuy," and "Voulez ouyr chanson," enlivened by more of Sánchez's delicious flirting. By the end of the evening one almost believed one was in love!
The concert concluded with more Campion: "Lift up to heaven, sad wretch" and then "Two maids went a-milking" and "Baloo Baleeri" (both anonymous).
The audience gave BEDLAM a well-deserved standing ovation.