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Peregrina International

img  Tobias

The often heard claim that today's listeners are not open to truly deep and spiritual music is simply nonsense. Quite on the contrary: To the same degree as public radio shows are flooded by the winners of TV-contests, a confident and undogmatic scene is building around soul-searching sounds and groups with the will for pureness. A whole new generation of vocal ensembles is growing up, travelling the country and filling the air with plainsong. We already reported on the Norwegian Trio Mediaeval, who, with a record deal with excuisite outfit ECM in its pocket, may well be leading the pack. And Savadi, a three-piece from Germany is also among the upper eschelon. With the arrival of their new CD "Mel et lac", the Ensemble Peregrina now joins the ranks of these outstanding collegues.

Surprisingly, this is the first album by the ensemble, which has been operating since 1997. Just like with Savadi, who are still waiting for their long-recorded debut to be released, things have taken a lot of time. But the result of this nine-year long quest has been well worth the wait. It all starts when Agnieszka Budzinska, Anita Dettwiler and Kelly Landerkin meet at the University of Basel and form a truly international ensemble. For Polish-born Agnieszka, this is the culmination of a long and winding road she has been pursuing and of a career which took a lot of turns - starting out as a pianist with a strong interest in singing, she slowly but very surely turned into a vocalist, taking master classes with Emma Kirkby and Evelyn Tubb, both almost legendary names themselves (a little note aside: Kirkby originally had no intention of becoming a singer either). Swiss Anita was equally torn between two poles: Her love for music and her passion for design and illustration. Only Kelly's path is more of a straight line - even though acchieving her Bachelor of Music in exotic Hawaii makes for a nice biographical note as well.

For all of their different point of departure, the trio somehow met at very closely related phases of their life when they attended courses in Basel. Landerkin had come their first, in 1995, as a Fullbright student, and she quickly made connections which would earn her a reputation and landed her a first recording contract with the Raumklang label. But it was only until Budzinska and Dettwiller arrived two years later, that she found her congenial partners. Concerts followed suit and a lot of different programes were put together, most of them concentrating on early Medieval compositions and on a trio formation (even though there was the occasional quartet performance and a harp was regularly allowed in as well). Maybe what kept the Ensemble Peregrina from taking off earlier was the fact that each member was also active in other formations, mosly as a live vocalist as well as a recording artist. And because all of these recordings turned out to be critical succeses, the Peregrina project somehow never got around to enter the studio: Kelly's Hildegard von Bingen and Birgitta von Schweden-album receives highest marks and Agnieszka draws attention with her contributions to discs by "Ars Nova" and the ensemble Syntagma.

But 2006 should be the year that marks the breakthrough of their first child. "Mel et lac" is, similar to the Trio Mediaeval's latest offering, dedicated to the adoration of the Virgin Mary. The ensemble explains the concept behind the title as follows: "The immaculate conception of Mary is symbolized by her anointment with honey by the Holy Spirit. Her role as the mother of the Saviour is not only as that of a vessel, but as giver and sustainer of life (milk)." Organist and scientific assistant Jeremy Llewellyn has written a fascinating and detailed introduction to the repertoire on the album, which you can read on the ensemble's homepage. But it would entirely suffice to just listen to the music, which sees the Peregrina's in finest form: Floating and slender vocal lines gently entangle each other, only to be released in harmony. Warmer and brighter than most of their collegues, this is a welcome alternative to the often etherial, but slightly cold approach of other formations. A slew of guests rounds up things on a diverse and delicate release.

This CD (and the accompanying and ongoing concert engagements) should appeal to all those, who are not content with what is happening in mainstream-wonderland. It should also appeal to all those looking for more intimacy, but a little less austerness in music. And to those searching for to truly deep and spiritual music. The future may well be glancing back - these are brightly shining Medieval pieces for a new millenium.

Homepage: Ensemble Peregrina
Homepage: Agnieszka Budzinska
Homepage: Kelly Landerkin
Homepage: Raumklang Records

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