Solstice Singers Perform Medieval Music For The Holidays

Dec 24, 2018

Members of the Solstice Singers rehearse for a Seaside Solstice concert in Woods Hole.
Credit Brian Morris/WCAI

The Cape Cod musical group, the Solstice Singers, has been performing for over a quarter century. They sing mainly medieval and Renaissance songs, complemented by drama, dance, poetry and period costumes.

The Cape Cod musical group, the Solstice Singers, has been performing for over a quarter century. They sing mainly medieval and Renaissance songs, complemented by drama, dance, poetry and period costumes.

The Solstice Singers was founded in 1992 by the late Pat Brown. Its current director is Lori Loftfield DeBower, who spent years as Minister of Music at a church in Falmouth, and was Dean of Arts and Humanities at Cape Cod Community College.  

“I am by scholarly training a French medieval women’s scholar,” said DeBower. “Our family sang in the car long before seat belts. My parents crossed the country with ten children in a VW bus, and we were controlled by singing…camp songs and American songs, you know, anything from 'My Grandfather’s Clock' to 'My Darling Clementine'".

The members of the Solstice Singers come from many walks of life. They share a love of ancient music, and a desire to keep it alive for audiences on Cape Cod and beyond.

The Solstice Singers consist of a mix of adults and children, and are often accompanied by the ensemble Passcaglia.
Credit Brian Morris/WCAI

“This takes us back to a time when all light was candlelight or lamp-light. And if you were going to have music, you made it yourself or you listened to it being made. We don’t know exactly what it sounded like in the Middle Ages when it was performed,” said DeBower.

The group and its performances are modeled to some degree on other regional ensembles performing similar types of music.

“Boston has an early music festival, and Cambridge has its revels every year. And that’s something of an inspiration for this group. I mean, it’s the same kind of music they do, it’s a different kind of show because we build it here based on who we have performing,” said DeBower.

The group consists of 13 to 18 adult singers, and anywhere from 3 to 11 children. Their performances span many different time periods.

Lori Loftfield DeBower is the group's current Director.
Credit Brian Morris/WCAI

“There’s current music, like the Carol of the Bells, and there’s music that’s 15th and 16th century,” DeBower said. “Nobody wants it to be too religious, but basically all of the music from that time sounds religious whether it’s religious or not, because it’s madrigals and motets, and madrigal is profane and motet is sacred, so it’s the same music with just different texts.”

The musical ensemble Passcaglia often accompanies the Solstice Singers, performing on period instruments like viola de gamba, crumhorn and lute.   

DeBower says medieval and Renaissance music has a unique and universal appeal, which resonates with particular clarity during the holiday season.

“We have no idea of historical performance, and yet this ties us to people who’ve been singing and performing this music for centuries,” said DeBower. “And music is extraordinarily powerful and it appeals to our emotions and travels through time and space.”