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Moira Smiley & VOCO

Moira Smiley and VOCO at the 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival... plus a new release of Telemann wind concertos.

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four colorful young women

Photo: Don Lewis

VOCO (l to r: Jess Basta, Moira Smiley, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns).

The highlight of the 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival was a performance by Moira Smiley and her group VOCO.  Entitled “Circle, Square, Diamond, & Flag,” the concert featured old and experimental folk hymns going back to the 18th Century.  Moira Smiley, a versatile and dynamic singer, leads the L.A. based vocal group VOCO, who has been praised for its unique interpretation of early American and Eastern European song.

The ensemble’s program was largely drawn from a number of original American sources, including the Sacred Harp and Northern, Christian, Kentucky, and Choral Songbooks.  An unusual feature of these songbooks is the use of shape note hymns, which was a way of printing music using special shapes to help the reader easily identify notes of the musical scale.  The title of the festival’s program, “Circle, Square, Diamond, & Flag,” gives an idea of the kinds of shapes that were common.

Members Moira Smiley, Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns are all well-respected vocalists in their own right.  Their collaboration as VOCO came to a climax in 2007 when they were voted the no. 1 a capella band in the US.  Other acclaim includes being described as “a truly phenomenal act” by Folkworks Magazine.  Not limited to unaccompanied songs and hymns, the group often incorporates the cello, accordion, and banjo.

One unique feature of the ensemble’s performance was their use of body percussion, which produced various attractive rhythms by tapping different parts of the body.  Usually, this was done without any music, until we arrived at the encore.  The audience was delighted at the effect that the body percussion had when juxtaposed with Moira’s arrangement of Huddie Ledbetter’s “Bring me little water, Silvy.”

Our new release of the week features the third installment of Telemann’s wind concertos by the German ensembles La Stagione Frankfurt and Camerata Cologne.  Directed by Michael Schneider, the CPO label recording includes concertos for baroque piccolo, flute, oboe, and trumpet.

Here’s a video of VOCO performing “Bring me little water, Silvy”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkHGhGpaW5k

Music Heard On This Episode

Traditional: Dying California
Moira Smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Dying California
Moira Smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Villulia
Moira Smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Garden Hymn
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Russia
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Return My Soul
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Silverlake
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Utopia
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Exhortation
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Ballstown
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — n/“Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Babylonian Captivity
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Our Time/Shout
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Stand in that River
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Parting Friends
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Africa
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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Traditional: Encore—Bring me little water, Silvy
moira smiley & VOCO (Jessica Basta, Jessica Catron, and Christine Enns, vocals) — “Circle, Square, Diamond & Flag,” old and experimental folk-hymns: 2008 Bloomington Early Music Festival
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G.P. Telemann: Concerto in C minor for Oboe, Strings, and Basso Continuo
La Stagione Frankfurt and Camerata Cologne/Michael Schneider — Wind Concertos Vol. 3 (CPO , 2008)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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