The three-member Folger Consort grew to a healthy octet Saturday night for its "Showers of Harmonie" program, a return to 16th- and 17th-century England via composers John Dowland and Thomas Morley. Instrumental versatility allowed the group to function one minute as a chest of viols, the next as a mixed consort of lute, viols, recorder, cittern and 12-string guitar (replacing the period bandore, which didn't make the trip in from Chicago with guest artist Mary Springfels).
Seven pieces from Dowland's "Lachrimae" collection for five viols and lute and three from Morley's "First Booke of Consort Lessons" dominated the bill, arranged in seven stanzas of three works each. To complement an assortment of brisk Dowland dances, the players turned to a viol-dominated dirge with his "Sir Henry Umpton's Funerall." String specialists Robert Eisenstein and Tina Chancey switched to recorders, forming a mini piper corps alongside Scott Reiss for Morley's "Sola Soletta."
Tenor Mark Bleeke showed considerable emotional range in seven numbers. Dowland's "Flow, My Tears" drew a tender, soft-voiced delivery, while "The Cries of London" by Thomas Weelkes brought out Bleeke's best Cockney accent, as he imitated the cries of street vendors barking their wares, tradesmen for hire and a man searching for his anatomical wreck of a mare.
Tickets still remain for this concert, which will be repeated tonight at the Folger Shakespeare Library.