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Conversations with creators and organizers of the arts scene in West Michigan, hosted by Cara Lieurance

“The Guiding Star: Pilgrimage Songs from Medieval Iberia” marks the return of Early Music Michigan

Alfonso X composes his songs of the Virgin in the illustration for the first Cantiga de Santa Maria.
National Heritage. Royal Library of the Monastery of El Escorial, Cantigas de Santa María, 029R.
Alfonso X composes his songs of the Virgin in the illustration for the first Cantiga de Santa Maria.

The revival of Early Music Michigan, a Kalamazoo-based choral and instrumental ensemble founded in 1996, means opportunities to hear local performances of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music again. Newly reorganized under the direction of Luke Conklin, its first concert at 7 pm on Saturday, Jun 1 brings a program of medieval pilgrimage songs to St. Augustine Cathedral and features guest artist Allison Monroe. She is a singer, vielle player and artistic director of the Cleveland-based medieval music group Trobár.

Conklin joins Cara Lieurance to talk about the medieval pilgrimage songs collected in Spain and Portugal that the group will feature on Saturday. He says medieval musicians would freely adapt these songs for different combinations of voices and instruments. That gives today’s performers the freedom to make significant choices in interpretation and arrangement — choices not available when preparing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, for example.

The concert is free to the public, and freewill donations are welcome. More information is at the Early Music Michigan website.

Cara Lieurance is the local host of NPR's All Things Considered on 1021 WMUK and covers local arts & culture on Let's Hear It on 89.9 Classical WMUK weekday mornings at 10 - 11 am.