Trio Mediaeval; credit: Asa M

Medieval Christmas music

The Waverly Consort will perform “The Christmas Story” Dec. 7 and 8 in Milwaukee.

Retelling the story of the Nativity is an important part of celebrating Christmas. It was even more so centuries ago, when fewer people were literate and turned to the Catholic Church's liturgies and music for instruction and (dare we say it) entertainment as well as spiritual sustenance.

Since 1980, The Waverly Consort of New York has performed "The Christmas Story, " its arrangement of medieval songs and texts that describe the birth of Jesus. The consort's eight singers and five musicians — playing reproductions of medieval instruments — will visit Milwaukee for two performances this weekend of its signature show, under the Early Music Now banner.

"The Waverly Consort's dramatization assembles principally works from the repertory of medieval Latin 'liturgical' plays, composed from the tenth through the thirteenth centuries for use in abbey churches, monasteries, and cathedrals, " writes scholar Kenneth C. Ritchie in the detailed, scholarly booklet the consort gives listeners who attend a "Christmas Story" performance.

The 75-minute performance features three main segments: the annunciation to the shepherds, the manger scene and the adoration of the Magi, "two active sections framing a quiet, contemplative one, " wrote the late musicologist Mary Rasmussen in her contribution to the "Christmas Story" booklet.


What: Waverly Consort performs "The Christmas Story"

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