“Here we sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.”
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Soprano Amy White Schaner and lutenist Dominic Schaner will present a short concert of 17th century English lute songs and solos at Many Rivers Books and Tea on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The one-hour concert, titled “To Sleep, To Dream: Music at the Time of Shakespeare,” will include music that would have been familiar to William Shakespeare or used by him as incidental music for his plays.
“We’ll open with one of my favorites,” said Amy, referring to a musical setting of text from Shakespeare’s Othello, composed by Shakespeare’s contemporary, Robert Johnson.
If you’ve never heard the subtle sounds of the lute, this is a good opportunity to experience the instrument in an intimate setting.
The lute, a plucked stringed instrument with a characteristic rounded back, was used through the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods to accompany storytelling and song. Instrument size, shape and function evolved over time, and a couple of different lutes would have been in use (old models fading out and new models coming into fashion) by the time of Shakespeare.
“This was a transitional period in music,” Dominic said, noting that music in Shakespeare’s time could have been played on the Renaissance eight-course lute (an instrument with eight sets of double strings) as well as the newer early-Baroque archlute, an instrument that came into vogue around 1600.
He will use an archlute for this performance, and maybe its long-necked relative, the theorbo. Schaner described the archlute as a guitar-bass combination: six strings on the fretboard and eight longer strings that extend beyond, for the purpose of sustaining bass tones, making this the perfect instrument to accompany the solo voice.
A weaver of music and historical context, Dominic plans to share background information with the audience to illustrate the musical time period and explain the songs. Between those songs, Amy, a Master of Arts in English Literature, will read from Shakespeare’s texts.
The Schaners, who live in Occidental with their two young children, have collaborated with prominent Bay Area and North Bay musicians, performing alongside members of Chanticleer, Sonoma Bach and Voices of Music.
The local radio audience may also recognize Dominic Schaner from his KOWS 92.5 FM radio show, “The Veiled Cloud of Unknowing,” where he explores the eccentricities of music composed before 1733 and after 1933.
Together, the Schaners have developed and performed eight different concert programs, each with a different era and country of origin.
“We’ve done Spanish programs, French programs, the Medieval through Baroque periods, according to whatever lute we want to use!” Amy laughed. “We’re really excited to present this all-English program for the first time.”
When and where: “To Sleep, To Dream: Music at the Time of Shakespeare,” on Thursday, September 19, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Many Rivers Books and Tea, 130 Main St. Sebastopol. Limited seating. Admission is $5.