Photos

In Pairs
In Pairs
Toyes Holiday
Toyes Holiday
Toyes Holiday
Toyes Holiday
Contra fortuna
Contra fortuna
Contra fortuna
Contra fortuna
Rehearsal pose
Rehearsal pose
Contra fortuna
Contra fortuna
Toyes in Gates of Heaven
Toyes in Gates of Heaven
Tosse the Pot
Tosse the Pot
Tosse the Pot
Tosse the Pot
Kircher's Rome
Kircher's Rome
KC and Arielle
KC and Arielle
Kircher's Rome
Kircher's Rome
What a theorbo you have!
What a theorbo you have!
Tutti in Kircher's Rome
Tutti in Kircher's Rome

Audio

To read news articles on Eliza’s Toyes, please visit our regular site.

Press

Eliza’s Toyes sings songs of early Germany

Eliza’s Toyes has one essential message: Madrigals are fun.

“Think of them like a fancy poetry reading,” said Jerry Hui, who helped found the Toyes in 2005. “The music is there mostly to serve the text. We try to tell the story.”

Eliza’s Toyes, an ensemble specializing in vocal music from the 16th and 17th centuries, hopes to reinvigorate ancient works with lively performances in local churches and concert halls.

On Saturday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m., the Toyes present “The Three Schs,” music by three German composers whose names begin with “Sch”: Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein and Samuel Scheidt.

The works will include sacred and secular texts. Performed by a trio of winds, viol (or viola de gamba) and harpsichord, all the pieces will be translated in the program.

“You want to try to get as close as possible to the historical sound,” said Hui, who recently completed a doctorate in music composition and choral conducting at UW-Madison.

“We are spending so much time understanding the context of the music... what was the society like? I want to provide different ways to let the audience in on what was happening... what was it like when this music was performed? Why is it so special?”

Eliza’s Toyes has set programs with a variety of geographical and time-related themes, including Rome in 1650, the city of Seville and, earlier this year, northern Germany.

Future programs could include a “Casino Royale” theme, hinging on the opening of the first public casino in Venice in 1638 (with “dirty carnavale songs”). Hui would love to do a medieval program someday, though he says the tightly interlocking vocal style is difficult to master.

“There are always pieces I run into that I’d like to do,” Hui said.

The group’s name comes from a piece it sang in 2005 as a vocal quintet during the Madison Early Music Festival, William Byrd’s madrigal “This sweet and merry month of May.” The end honors Queen Elizabeth I: “And greet Eliza with a rhyme/O beauteous Queen of Second Troy/Take well in worth a simple toy.”

“A lot of people have never heard of the term ‘early music,’” Hui said. “They know what classical music is... but the repertoire that we do, even by famous composers like Palestrina, we find things that people don’t hear.

“The reception is amazing,” he added. “People are surprised at what they’re hearing and they usually love it. They’re so different, but they can relate to it. It’s fun.”

Read more: http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/eliza-s-toyes-sings-songs-of-early-germany/article_a67666e4-995c-11e1-88ef-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1uLRAMnot

Eliza’s Toyes to Perform Rarely Heard Music by German Baroque Composers

Madison, Wis.--Eliza’s Toyes and guests will be performing rarely heard music composed by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt on May 12, 2012 at 7:30pm. The concert, titled “The three Sch’s: Music By Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt”, will be in Gates of Heaven, 302 E Gorham St. Admission is $10, and includes a pre-concert lecture at 7:00pm.

Schütz, among the three featured composers, received the most household recognition because his career spanned across several countries. However, they all were regarded highly. Singled out by the 17th-century German composer/theorist Wolfgang Caspar Printz as the best German composers in his book Historische Beschreibung (1690), they were important in cultivating a distinctly German musical style, and their work would influence generations of composers to come--from J.S. Bach in later Baroque period, to Brahms in the Romantic period, and even to Hugo Distler of the 20th century.

Much of these composers’ music, driven strongly by modal counterpoint but also showing influence of Baroque harmonic progression, are not heard as frequently as they should. Perhaps this is because many other Baroque composers--such as Bach and Sweelinck--worked around similar time period wrote in a style that is more distinguishable from what is considered the Renaissance period. Also, the vocal range demanded by these composers from the choir often differs from the standard setup of a four-part choir, especially in requiring more low altos or high tenors.

Our program will showcase some of their best works, both sacred and secular. Highlights include Scheidt's most somber setting of "Miserere mei Deus" for soprano and 5 low voices, and his uplifting setting of Psalm 148 in German "Lobet, ihr Himmel den Herren"; Schein's motet "Ach Herr, ach meiner schone", and a very funny song from his 1626 collection "Studentenschmaus"; and selections of Schütz's rarely heard Italian madrigals, particularly "Vasto Mar" for 8 voices. Besides musicians from our regular ensemble, special guests Eric Miller (viol) and Lawrence Conservatory faculty Kathrine Handford (organ) will be joining in the music making.

At 7:00pm in the same venue, there will be a pre-concert lecture titled “Singing the Reformation”, by Erin Lambert, A.W. Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Fellow in History and a Ph.D. candidate in early modern European history at UW-Madison.

For more information about the program and Eliza's Toyes, please visit http://toyes.info

Books, science, art, religion and early music meet in a FREE concert Thursday afternoon at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Library

The Ear has received late word of about a very intriguing, unusual and FREE concert.

The Mellon Workshop on Science & Print Culture presents “Kircher’s Rome: Music in the 17th-century Collegio Romano” as performed by the Madison-based early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below).

The early music vocal ensemble is led by the very talented Jerry Hui (below), who is also a composer and new music advocate while finishing his graduate studies at the UW School of Music.

It will take place this Thursday, December 1, at 4:30 p.m. in the Special Collections Room, on the 9th floor (F section) of the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Library (below).

That’s where the current exhibit, “Jesuits and the Construction of Knowledge, 1540-1773,” highlights, among other topics, Jesuit interest in music and includes a copy of Kircher’s “Musurgia” (1650, below). The library is located at 728 State Street on Library Mall across from the Memorial Union. (I suggest parking in the nearby Lake Street ramp.)

This program reflects vocal and instrumental music one might have heard in the Society of Jesus’ college in 17th-century Rome. Professor of mathematics at the Collegio Romano and polymath, Athanasius Kircher mentioned these composers in his “Musurgia Universalis” (1650), a monumental encyclopedia of musical history, theory and practice.

The program includes: “Ecce sic benedicetur” by Christóbal Morales (1500-1553); “Dunque con stile” by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (1580-1651); “In lectulo meo per noctes” from Kircher’s Musurgia Universalis (1650); and “Historia di Jephte” by Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674).

The performers include: Katherine Peck, soprano; Chelsie Propst, soprano; Sandy Erickson, alto/recorder; Steve Johnson, tenor; Ben Li, baritone; Jerry Hui, bass/recorder; Doug Towne, theorbo; Theresa Koenig, dulcian/bassoon; and Andrea Kleesattel, cello.

The faculty guest performer will be UW baritone Paul Rowe (below, in photo by Katrin Talbot).

For more information about Eliza’s Toyes, see: http://www.toyes.info/

For location and directions about the Memorial Library, see: http://specialcollections.library.wisc.edu/location.html.

This program is part of the A.W. Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities, sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at UW-Madison with support from the A.W. Mellon Foundation. It is co-sponsored by the UW School of Music.

Early music group Eliza’s Toyes greets spring on a small but exciting scale with madrigals

Between the spectacular competition of the MSO’s Mahler Second Symphony (“Resurrection”), and the belated but welcome arrival of spring weather, it was perhaps not surprising that few members of the musical community attended a program of English madrigals on the first Saturday in May at the historic Gates of Heaven synagogue (below) in James Madison Park — even a program, ironically, itself intended to celebrate spring (“Now is the Month of Maying”).

Against the massiveness of Mahler’s “Resurrection” spectacular, madrigals might seem a comedown. Yet they were a delightful and moving contrast, even antidote, to the gigantism afoot downtown.

Such craftsmanship, such wit, such elegant beauty, such fun! That was what the plucky little early-music consort, Eliza’s Toyes, offered in a tightly packed program at the old Gates of Heaven.

The menu offered a total of 20 selections of vocal and instrumental pieces taken from the vast literature of English (and Italian) music of the era of Queen Elizabeth I.

The group (below) consisted of six singers (two of whom also played recorders), plus two further instrumentalists, on lute and dulcian (early bassoon).

The program was varied, and the performances were thoroughly skilled. The singers, each with a fine voice, blended beautifully together, and clearly relished what they were doing.

The sparkplug and director of the group, Jerry Hui (below, front row left), is an amazing young musician, specializing in avant-garde composition, but with a love as well for the music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

He himself can sing in almost any vocal range (I expect to hear him as Strauss’s “Zerbinetta” shortly!), but he also brings true scholarly research and artistic sensitivity to what the Toyes do.

Now finishing his UW training, Hui faces new job prospects either here or elsewhere, but he vows to keep the group alive and active.

What the Toyes represent is another example of the tremendous vitality and diversity of Madison’s musical life. Such life does not revolve only around the big-ticket organizations. It includes the wonderful enterprise of small “fringe” groups, as well. Other than the Toyes, who else is making available the fabulous vocal consort music, both secular and sacred, of the 16th and 17th centuries on a regular basis?

Conventional promotion is hard to come by, so music-lovers need to keep a weather eye out for announcements of such valuable events as this one. It was not for any lack of quality that this concert was so sparsely attended.

Eliza’s Toyes ventures into early Spanish music with professionalism and artistry

On Sunday afternoon, most of Madison was fussing over some big sports game — football, I think. But I, and some thirty or so other Madisonians, were enjoying an example of what makes our city’s cultural life so lively.

At the historic Gates of Heaven synagogue (below) on East Gorham Street, in James Madison Park, we heard a delightful concert given by the vocal consort Eliza’s Toyes. (Its name is an allusion to the tributes made musically to Queen Elizabeth I of England.)

Mustered for the occasion were eight singers — the majority of them UW students, and mostly in voice three of whom also played instruments (recorders and dulcian). They were joined, too, by Douglas Towne, an established freelance master of lute and Baroque guitar.

The concert was preceded by a short but valuable slide lecture by Prof. Steven Hutchinson of the UW’s Spanish & Portuguese Department, on the history and culture of Seville, the city with which the music to follow was closely identified.

The program proper, entitled “The Treasures of Seville”, contained a generous array of 22 selections by composers of the “Golden Age” (El Siglo d’oro) of Spanish music, from the late 15th century through the 16th. There was a balanced mix of sacred and secular pieces, in ensemble, solo and instrumental renditions.

The ambience naturally suggested either a small chapel or a salon, and the singers were handsomely matched and balanced — with one or two of them per part in the larger scorings. There was a high level of professionalism and artistry in evidence, thanks in no small measure to the group’s founder and organizer, Jerry Hui.

Hui is one of those human dynamos, distinguished as much for versatility as for energy. Currently a UW graduate student in composition, he is ferociously skillful in a wide range of music, from “early” to contemporary avant-garde. He can sing in almost any voice range, he plays a mean recorder, and he is an efficient ringmaster and coordinator for the group.

Eliza’s Toyes (below, Jerry Hui in bright red shirt at left of the front row) is very much an outgrowth of the Madison Early Music Festival. It was in the course of the 2007 festival that Hui began to draw young singers around him for what he called “ad hoc readings” of old vocal music, gatherings that soon lead to the idea of a formal performing group.

Their repertoire has concentrated on madrigals and vocal consort music, ranging in language traditions beyond English to French, Italian and also Latin material.

This latest concert was their first full venture into Spanish literature. It was a pity that snow that morning, and sports distractions, limited the audience turnout. A small group like this tends to be kept “under the radar,” with too little access to the promotion and publicity it deserves.

Be it noted, therefore, that the group’s next concert will be presented, also at the Gates of Heaven, on Sunday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m., concentrating on English madrigals but adding Italian ones, especially some brought to England.

Just what will be the future of Eliza’s Toyes after the departure of Hui, and others, as studies end, is uncertain for now. But there is hope that a successor can emerge to carry on his leadership. Their spirit is too vital to be extinguished, and they perform a precious service in presenting live performances of literature not otherwise regularly heard.

And, moreover, they are a reminder of how much the Madison Early Music Festival has sparked the expansion of growing access to, and continuing enjoyment of, the vast literature of music dating from before the “standard” repertoire.