I just got back from the Exsultemus concert at First Lutheran Church in Boston. And it was great! (Who's surprised about this, really? Not me.)
They did a concert of almost all Victoria, and it was beautiful. The pieces used various vocal combinations, from 4 to 8 parts, and ten singers. All of these singers are solid professionals, and it really showed - everything was beautifully tuned, and the vowels were beautifully matched, and the overtones were beautifully ringing. It was a real treat!
There were a couple of choices that I don't think I would have made, but then they didn't have any negative effects, so I feel I can't really complain about them. They had a conductor, which for 10 singers and Renaissance music I wasn't sure was really necessary, but then I felt he conducted quite beautifully and everyone was together, so that worked out. And because there were 4 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors, and 2 basses, the four-part pieces were split with 4 sopranos on the top and 2 voices on every other part, which I thought would have had major balance problems, but which really only had minor ones (the soprano sound was certainly dominant, but I had no problem hearing all the parts interacting, and it honestly didn't bother me much.)
The one thing that made me wistful is that I started thinking about what it might have sounded like if they'd sung this program fifty times. They clearly did the best possible performance under the circumstances - ten professionals rehearsing together for I'm guessing about a month or two - but that's not really enough time to thoroughly live with and digest a full program of Renaissance music. I felt that considering the capabilities of everyone on stage, yet more sublime possibilities existed. What if they got to go on tour? And had a chance to memorize the whole program, and really work it into their blood? And got incredibly used to each others voices?
And then I thought, why dream small, let's bring back the whole Baroque/Classical system of patronage! Except instead of rich nobility, I feel corporations should step up to the plate. Seriously, what if John Hancock or Bank of America hired Exsultemus? Put them on salary? Didn't meddle with them artistically, but had them be sponsored, so they'd provide publicity? Like athletes. And paid for them to tour? They could have "John Hancock" on their music stands, and a John Hancock banner up outside the church, and then John Hancock would fund them to tour the world and rehearse together every day, and have time to research and assemble old scores that nobody's done for centuries and be fully funded to be musicians full-time, and John Hancock would get some great publicity.
Exsultemus deserves it. John Hancock, get on it, before Bank of America beats you to it!