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Musicians resurrect sounds of Christmas past

The Oregon Renaissance Band’s upcoming Christmas concert is hundreds of years in the making.

Take “The Netherworldly Outdoor Concert,” first published in 1695 by musician Heinrich Meyer.

ORB’s Philip Neuman, who co-directs the group with his wife, Gayle, notes Meyer allegedly heard the tune on a Norwegian farm, although nobody saw anyone actually performing it.

“The music appeared to come out of nowhere,” Neuman says. “The farmer told him this happened every Christmas Eve.”

Beside the fact that not knowing who created the music eliminates any potential copyright disputes, “Netherworldly” is also worth playing because it’s a “supernatural sounding melody that sounds kind of like a dance tune,” Neuman says.

He adds that the mysterious piece is one of 24 old songs the Renaissance Band will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at St. Aidan Episcopal Church, 17405 N.E. Glisan St.by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The Oregon Renaissance Band plays music that has been written over the past several hundred years.

Titled “Tidings of Great Joy,” the concert will feature music from England, Ireland, Transylvania, France and Germany as well as tunes from ORB’s latest CD, “Now make we joye.”

A dozen musicians will perform selections by Viadana, Goudimel, O’Carolan, Stadlmayr and many others.

The program also features a Transylvanian “Magnificat” by Joannes Caioni.

Tickets are $15 general admission, and $12 for students and seniors.

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Big band

ORB members include David Bryan on sackbutt (trombone); Sharon Cheney on great bass rackett (a reed instrument) and bell; Daphne Clifton on recorder and rackett; Ben Fitch on voice, recorder and tabor (drum); Lori Fitch on recorder; Polly Gibson on recorder and viola da gamba; Andrew Harris on sackbutt; Cindy Markham on vocals and recorder; Gayle Neuman on vocals, early violin, recorder, krummhorn (a reed instrument), sackbutt and rackett; Philip Neuman on vocals, sackbutt, recorder, cornamuse (reed pipe), tartold (double reed instrument) and bagpipe; Kathryn Richer on recorder, krummhorn, bagpipe, spinettino (a form of harpsichord) and pellet bells; and Hideki Yamaya on lute and early guitar.

Many of the tunes ORB will perform already have been heard by more people than music fans might first realize.

For example, the 16th century melody “Branle de L’Officiale” is better known to modern audiences as “Ding Dong Merrily On High.”

“It hasn’t changed at all, it’s note for note the same,” Neuman says of “Ding Dong.”

“It’s very catchy; it’s dancelike, it’s joyous.”

The band also will go all the way back to the 12th century for one of its pieces, “Orientus Partibus,” which you may have already heard as the Christmas carol “The Friendly Beasts.”

Other tunes to be heard include “Good King Wenceslas,” he adds.

Neuman says folks should not be shy about coming out to hear “old music,” because it’s often as catchy and accessible as what’s on the contemporary pop charts.

“People are surprised that it doesn’t sound so old that you can’t identify with it,” he says.



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