Such sweet music that makes the good all the better.
Thomas Morley in 1597 could have been describing Saturday's consort concert at the University of Maryland where the six expert Musicians of Swanne Alley played both sweet and good. Their program was titled "From the streets and theaters of London," and the listener was given the opportunity for a bit of time travel to Elizabethan England. These were indeed the sounds of that period -- sweet, rhythmic and frolicsome.
This music is superbly human and personal in scale and concept. The rhythms are infectious, the melodies appealing, and decorations give space for fancy. The group approached the music on its own terms, asking that the listeners come along for the fun of it.
The Swanne Alley players are not curators in a music history museum. They are lively, convincing performers who play the music they love most. The instruments include no keyboard. It is a true mixed consort of viols, lutes, recorders, the Renaissance violin, cittern and pandora. Comments from the Swanne Alley directors, Lyle Nordstrom and Paul O'Dette, were informally instructive.
The only "wrong" note was that the concert was too much a concert, with its arc of chairs and music stands. That was the 20th century at work. If the musicians could also re-create the informal atmosphere of Elizabeth's time, Swanne Alley would be a fine place to visit often.