REVIEW: Prisoners & Penitents

This past weekend, Ms. Montalbano performed at the Eastern State Penitentiary with Piffaro, the Renaissance Band. The program consisted of mostly English ballads addressing themes of murder, thievery, unjust imprisonment, and penitence. The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded her vocal and dramatic flexibility:

Renaissance Riot on Cellblock 9 by David Patrick Stearns, May 19, 2014:

Gleefully perverse humor was prevalent in a series of ballads, mostly British (John Dowland, Peter Philips, Thomas Weelkes) and from the 16th and 17th centuries, with the usual group of Piffaro instrumentalists (shawms, recorders, bagpipes on a bedrock of lute and harp) augmented by a woman of many voices, Maren Montalbano…Often heard with the Crossing choir, Montalbano adapted an unfancy vocal style for most of the music, with little vibrato or clever phrase reading. One song had a cockney accent. More full-bodied tone was saved for self-righteous moralizing. Many-stanza ballads maintained their narrative sense. And Montalbano’s duets with the articulate but more vernacular voice of regular Piffaro member Grant Herreid felt just right.

Photo by Bill DiBlasio
Photo by Bill DiBlasio

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