The Ensemble La Guerre is not a French military band as its name might make you think, but a baroque chamber ensemble of four Washington women, playing on original instruments and named after a French baroque composer, Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre.
Tuesday night, opening the second year of their residency at Mount Vernon College, violinists Melissa Graybeal and Susan Cantrick, cellist Deborah Milan and harpsichordist Lois Narvey welcomed a guest artist, bassoonist James O. Bolyard, in a program that showed baroque music emerging from styles of the late Renaissance and reaching a high point of development in the music of Vivaldi and Corelli.
Bolyard's bassoon looked like a giant oboe or recorder. Its deep, mellow tone and his fluent technique brought a pleasant variety to the evening's programs, whether he was playing a long, elaborate solo -- as in Dario Castello's Sonata Nona -- or the humble role of basso continuo, enriching the keyboard's bass sound while a violin or cello took the spotlight.
La Guerre is a tightly knit, technically adept ensemble, with members who work together unselfishly in the true spirit of chamber music. The evening had a pleasant air of companionship, in which the guest artist was included, that made you think these players' primary goal was enjoyment -- their own as well as the audience's. Besides this spirit, the concert was memorable for reviving good music by such relatively unknown composers as Robert Valentini, Tarquinio Merula and Biagio Marini -- all well worth hearing in these fine performances.