Carolyn Surrick writes of this new release: “When I called Ronn McFarlane in January to ask if he wanted to play a house concert in April, he checked his calendar and said, “Sure, sounds great!” Members of Ensemble Galilei... are spread across the country, and we don’t usually get together until right before a performance. But Ronn and I live about twenty miles away from each other, so we started rehearsing. February turned to March in this year of COVID-19. There would be no house concerts. But we kept meeting on Saturday mornings... It was a few weeks into March when I turned to him and said, “Hey, let’s make a recording in June.” It was a crazy idea. We didn’t have much shared repertoire... That meant a huge investment of time and energy. I did not receive a resounding affirmative response. But days passed and the reality of the pandemic settled in. Nothing else was going to be happening this spring. No concerts. No tours. Cancellation after cancellation, with no end in sight. “Yes,” he said, “let’s do this.” I called Lindsey Nelson, Ensemble Galilei’s wonderful executive producer, and Collin Rae, the master of strategic marketing at Sono Luminus. I texted our producer, Dan Merceruio. Totally on board. We added rehearsals. Wrote harmony parts. Wrote new music. Arranged our favorite tunes for lute and viola da gamba… All in the shadow of the pandemic. Would we have done this a year ago? Not a chance. We were too busy… The recording exists because of this moment in time...”
This instrumental pairing, lute and viola da gamba, occurs only occasionally in Baroque and Renaissance literature. They augment Dowland’s Adew for Master Oliver Cromwell with newly composed works by McFarlane and with arrangements by both players. These are delightfully varied, taking up such works as The Allman Brothers’ Little Martha (originally an acoustic guitar solo by Duane Allman, so not as odd as it sounds), Amazing Grace, and Gounod’s Ave Maria. Some of the selections veer toward the Celtic folk side, including an intriguing version of Blackwater Slide modeled on one by Scottish musician Bert Jansch. Sono Luminus’ sound is, well, luminous, a pleasure throughout. Falling into a class of pandemic-time recordings where musicians rediscovered the enjoyment of home music-making, this is an unusually satisfying example of the genre.
– AllMusicGuide.com (James Manheim)
What is wonderful and becomes most fascinating are the new compositions and the threading of two or three songs into one. Carolyn Surrick’s viola da gamba has a rarity in its ability to provide shadings of emotions that add great chemistry. Equally, Ronn McFarlane’s investments are worthy and in their own right.
– ConcertoNet.com (Christie Grimstad)