The Good Pennyworths will perform the ensemble’s newest program, “Love is but ... a Jest: Songs for Fools & Lovers,” Friday, June 29, at Capital University.
The Renaissance quartet – voices accompanied by lute and Gothic harp – will perform works by many of the classic composers of the period: Dowland, Purcell, Sondheim, Simon ... OK, so Stephen Sondheim and Paul Simon are hardly standard early music repertoire, but the Good Pennyworths are hardly your standard early music ensemble.
Founded in New York City in 2007 by Capital University graduate Garald Farnham, the intent was to perform songs with lute accompaniment, rather than be a specifically “period” ensemble, tenor and Gothic harpist
Christopher Preston Thompson told The Beat.
“Garald talks about this at the concerts, that he was not drawn to the lute as an entry into early music, but to accompany whatever he might be singing,” Thompson explained.
This is Thompson’s third summer tour with the Pennyworths, a collective of sorts of professional musicians who may – and often do – have other gigs.
For Thompson, he was an active singer who was looking for an opportunity to perform early music.
“There are not a whole lot of groups that take this kind of risk,” he said.
Additionally, he is “excited” to have become the group’s harpist, an instrument he has taken up only since joining the Pennyworths.
“I play piano, and played the trombone when I was in school, so I had some instrumental experience,” Thompson said. “Medieval and Renaissance music is a very vocal repertory, so to have the harp along with the lute for this kind of music makes a lot of sense.”
The Pennyworths’ current program looks at love songs and songs about love from the perspective of writers from the 11th to the 21st centuries.
“Garald starts out with a theme, and we collect as many songs as we can and see what works,” Thompson said.
The not-strictly-Renaissance-music approach suits the personality of the members, who present a program that Thompson said can be both interesting academically but entertaining artistically.
“We have a lot of fun,” he said, adding, “It’s far from stuffy.
“There is one piece in an antique French language that talks about having a headache and the cure being to not drink water, but wine and just get drunk.
One song is about a human transformed into a fly who finds himself landing on his wife’s breast. Eventually he is crushed under her foot.”
There are, of course, more serious pieces, Thompson said, which makes for a breadth of material both textually and musically.
The Good Pennyworths will play Capital University’s Huntington Recital Hall on Friday, June 29, in a concert sponsored by Early Music in Columbus. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested at the door. Visit earlymusicincolumbus.org.