Really Retro: Raising an AleCon: Renaissance Music Stars Three Quarter Ale Celebrate Their First Decade with a Convention and Performance Festival!

Posted on: Aug 10th, 2012 By:

Three Quarter Ale. L-R: Rivka Levin, Dolph Amick, Becky Cormier Finch.

What do you do when your popular Celtic/Renaissance rock band hits 10 years old? If you are Three Quarter Ale, you throw a convention and festival for musicians, performers and fans of history-inspired musical theater and performance art. The three-day AleCon is this weekend (Aug 10-12) at Fabrefaction Theatre Company in Midtown and features performances not just by Three Quarter Ale but a host of other Ren bands and performance artists presenting magic to bellydancing. Other activities include panels on a variety of theatre, music and even film topics from stage combat and Irish dance to prop-building and financing art projects, as well as Killer Karaoke and daily costume contests.

A while back, we made Three Quarter Ale vocalist/flutist/guitarist Ariana Pellayle, aka Becky Cormier Finch, Kool Kat of the Week for her ’80s revival band Denim Arcade, so this time we asked bandmate vocalist/harpist/percussionist Rosemary Quench, aka Rivka Levin, for the scoop on Alecon and the enduring appeal of Ren music.
ATLRetro: Ten years old is a big landmark for any band, but they don’t usually throw a convention and performance festival. How did you guys get the idea for AleCon and what inspired you to go all out?
Rivka Levin: It was my bandmate Dolph‘s [Amick, aka Wicked Pete Speakeasy] idea. We are all three actors and dancers as well as musicians, so paying tribute to all the various crafts in which we participate seemed like the thing to do! Plus, we’re kinda ambitious that way. We are so much more than just a band, and we are THRILLED to be able to do something huge to celebrate out 10th anniversary.
You’ve assembled a pretty impressive performance line-up. Was it challenging or more a matter of ask and they will come?
OHHHH yes, it was challenging. We first had to narrow down what panels might be interesting to the general population as well as professionals – AleCon is designed to appeal to any arts lover. Then we got on the horn and started talking to the many talented people we know. But being so talented, many of them were already booked! WONDERFUL for them, but it meant another round of “who would we like to hear speak or perform?” and more phone calls. On the other hand, we did have some folks who heard about what we were planning and approached us to ask if there was a way they could get in on it! So it was a bit of both, really.
AleCon also includes panels and workshops. Can you tell us a little bit about the range of programming and highlight a few cool learning opportunities?
Sure! One of the panels about which I’m most excited is the Musical Stylings panel. We’ve got three industry leaders – really AMAZING people – talking about how to take a melody and do something unique or different with it – like making a standard musical theater piece jazzy or making a jazz tune sound classical. They are so good at what they do, and I can’t wait to hear them share their knowledge!
We also have an Irish Dance workshop, a podcasting panel by some of Atlanta’s best, “Recording on a Budget” and even a Prop-making For Film panel featuring the man who does all the props for VAMPIRE DIARIES! And some of the most talented and varied performers lined up, too.
The full schedule can be seen at http://alecon.threequarterale.com.
I understand Three Quarter Ale has a secret origin story of sorts which will be revealed at AleCon. Can you divulge a bit of it or do we have to come to find out?
Oh, you’ll have to attend! Our characters are pretty malleable and timeless, so there are really many possibilities regarding their origin or story. But I have just finished an historical novel with one exciting version, which I’ll be debuting at AleCon on Sunday! Parts of it have been posted online, and it already has quite a following of readers who have been chomping at the bit for the last several chapters!

Three Quarter Ale as 2011 finalists in the Georgia Lottery All-Access Music contest.

You’re a trained opera singer and act at The New American Shakespeare Tavern, too. How do these skills inform your work with Three Quarter Ale?

As I said, all three of us are actors, and one of the most electrifying things about Three Quarter Ale is the stage show we put on. People really connect with these three characters, in part because they are so real. I think folks come to an event of ours as much to spend time with Rosemary, Ariana and Pete as they do to hear the music itself. That’s also why I’ve so enjoyed writing this novel! Watching these three lovable and imperfect people get into scrapes, lose their tempers, deal with being kidnapped by pirates, fall in love, argue with each other, comfort each other – it’s been SO much fun! And so very rewarding.
With regards to being an opera singer, Dolph (Wicked Pete) is very skilled at writing original music that makes the most of the skills Becky and I bring to the table. Much of what he writes for me, even if it’s got a heavy metal or ’60s rock chord structure, uses my classical voice. It makes for a very unique and interesting sound, and it’s something that our fans really appreciate about our music – that it’s truly OURS, and no other trio could do it quite the same way.

Three Quarter Ale plays coy. L-R: Becky, Dolph and Rivka.

Do you have a personal highlight/favorite moment in 10 years of Three Quarter Ale?

I think one we all share was our first CD release concert for our second CD, INTERTWINED. We always start each set or concert with our theme song, in which we shout a toast, “Drink Hail!” and the audience is cued to toast us back by shouting, “Wassail!”  We’d been doing the theme song for two or three years, and we knew our fans knew the cue…but still, when we shouted that first “Drink Hail!” and an entire theater full of people shouted back “Wassail!”, it was so loud and so enthusiastic that it literally rocked all three of us back on our heels! The sheer volume! The love that was pouring forth from folks who had driven all the way out just to celebrate with us! It was honestly elating, humbling, and beyond anything we expected. But who knows – maybe something at AleCon will top even that!!
After AleCon, what’s next for you and Three Quarter Ale?
Oh, heavens! Dolph’s working on a screenplay that gives an alternative version to the novel. We’ve got lots of new material not yet on a CD. We’ve even talked with some sequential artists about a Three Quarter Ale comic book or animated video. AAAAAND if you come to AleCon on Saturday night, you’ll see the surprise secret project we’ve been working on, too! Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
Note: All photographs are courtesy of Three Quarter Ale.

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Really Retro: Lauda Musicam Treats Couples to Love and Lust Medieval/Renaissance Style

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2012 By:

Joanne Mei plays the recorder and Darryl Payne the flute in Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

Chances are, if most people have any impression of romantic music in Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque times, it’s either courtesy of a scruffy bard at the Georgia Renaissance Festival or an image of a troubadour standing beneath Juliet’s balcony – the Really Retro version of a mariachi band. However, like the serious and silly love songs of jazz, blues and rock, romantic music was much more diverse and delightful than these stereotypes suggest. Contemporary Romeos and Juliets will have a chance to find out for themselves when local early music ensemble, Lauda Musicam of Atlanta present “Love and Lust: A Valentine’s Day Concert,” this Sat. Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. at Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur.

ATLRetro caught up with Joanne Mei, who plays the recorder in Lauda Musicam; about the 50-member instrumental ensemble of recorders, viols, harpsichord, sackbuts, shawms, harps, crumhorns, cornettos, and percussion, as well as the history and sound of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music; and why this Saturday’s concert will be a Really Retro romantic night to remember.

Any thoughts on the love song in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Were love songs different in an era of arranged marriages and stark class divides? Would a troubadour have sung one of these songs under my balcony window?

The Renaissance was a very romantic time if you weren’t dying of plague. The Catholic Church had a huge influence over the period which led composers to find unusual ways to express themselves. At the time, marriage for the upper classes had little to do with love. Courtly love as interpreted by poets and troubadours emerged as a way for people to express their passion. If you were a medieval noblewoman, you may have had a troubadour singing your virtues. If you were a washer woman, forget about it.

Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

Tell us why we won’t be bored and why seeing this old music performed live in 2012 is both fun and enjoyable and the perfect way to spend date night with your 21st century Valentine.

If you have never heard early music, as performed on reproductions of period instruments, you are in for a real treat. Take your true love back in time for a unique, romantic evening with Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

What does Lauda Musicam mean?  

It is a Latin phrase that means “In praise of music.”  Sometimes folks misspell it “Lauda Musicum,” which means “In praise of the musician.”  We certainly intend the former!

For most folks, I’d guess that the three musical periods run together in our minds, but are there distinct difference between each like jazz, blues and rock n roll? Or were there different styles coexisting like today?  

There were absolutely distinct styles and they were just as diverse as today. Unlike today, though, music wasn’t frequently heard in concerts. Rather, music served primarily a social function.  Early musicians often refer to Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque as the three major style periods, but they overlap greatly, and each period is represented very differently from region to region.

Many instruments we consider standard today didn’t exist in those days, like the piano and the guitar. Are these older instruments harder to play or why did they drop out of fashion?

Early instruments are fairly easy to play, but it takes practice to play well. These instruments were eventually replaced by technology – keys and valves made playing louder, higher and faster more of a possibility.

Liz Thomas plays the harp in Lauda Musicam.

Is there any story about how you become interested in/develop a love for medieval, Renaissance and baroque music, and joined Lauda Musicam?  

After earning my PhD and getting a job, I found I had some time on my hands.  One of my coworkers asked if I might like to try the recorder. Recorders are those plastic instruments you see in toy stores that so many grade school kids learn to play as their first instrument. I tried a soprano recorder in 1994 and got hooked!

Can you talk a little bit about the concert on Sat. Feb. 11? What will the group be performing?

LMA will be performing Love Music of the Renaissance at the Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur at 8 p.m.  Performing with LMA will be Uncommon Practice, an a cappella group that sings vocal music before the 18th and 19th centuries. Countertenor Adrin Akins will provide his unique voice to selections while John Maschinot will perform traditional Celtic folk tunes on the bag pipes.

Has Lauda Musicam done any recordings? Or is one planned?

Our performances are usually recorded. The Lauda Musicam of Atlanta website  is under construction but should have recordings available for download soon. Be our friend on Facebook!

What’s next for Lauda Musicam?

Our next two concerts will be geared to families and children. LMA will perform standard early music fare. Music by some of the most well-known composers will make this concert fun for the newbie and the enthusiast alike!  Members will lead a “petting zoo” after the concert for people to see and try instruments and to ask questions.

Join us either on Sunday, May 6  at 3 p.m., at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, [in] Covington. Or Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m. at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 1790 Lavista Road.

Robin Prechter, Joanne Mei and Patsy Woods of Lauda Musicam.

Are all Lauda Musicam’s concerts free?  

You can listen to all the hits from the 5th to the 18th centuries for free, but donations are accepted and appreciated.

What’s your day job when you’re not playing with Lauda Musicam, and do you play with any other musical groups?  

By day I manage a laboratory at CDC in Atlanta. I play recorders, Renaissance flute and the occasional percussion instrument. I also play penny whistles and sometimes perform Celtic rock music in pubs.

How do can someone become a member of Lauda Musicam of Atlanta?

Membership is open to amateur and pre-professional musicians with good music reading skills. Please contact [Lauda Musicam Director] Jody Miller at http://www.fippleflute.com/ or recorder96@aol.com.

 

Editor’s Note: Jody Miller also contributed some editing and checks for historical accuracy to this article. All photos courtesy of and copyright Lauda Musicam of Atlanta.

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