You won't hear "Jingle Bells" in the Folger Consort's holiday program this year, but you will hear medieval cup bells -- one of only two sets the Folger knows of in the United States.
The bells arrived several weeks ago from London's Whitechapel Foundry, where the original Liberty Bell was melded. They make their debut Dec. 14 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Dec. 15-23 at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
The Consort will perform music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as well as English carols, Mexican cantatas and Tuscan stomping dances. A bell motif will be sprinkled throughout its production, "Sing Heigh, Ho! Unto the Green Holly."
"There's been a whole renaissance of bell-ringing in this century, from churches whose choirs do bell-ringing to old towers in New England," says Folger Consort member and founder Robert Eisenstein. The Consort's collection, modeled after sketches from 12th- and 13th-century history books, consists of 25 bells -- basketball- to golf ball-size -- hanging from an overhead frame. Eisenstein says the Consort purchased the bells to "add dimension to performances of old kinds of music. They have a unique sound, incredibly rich tone."
The resident members of the Consort will be joined by five guest artists: soprano Julianne Baird, countertenor Michael Collver, baritone William Sharp, tenor Frederick Urrey and organist Peggy Marie Haas.