Packed Musica

“We’re just counting spaces to see how much room is left,” recorder player Judith Linsenberg shouted over the growing attendance line standing outside the Berkeley City Club venue where her ensemble, Musica Pacifica, was to play. Seating was so tight, in fact, that I, in an ill-advised decision that harkened to my days in arts administration, chose to review the concert from a standing position to allow my neighbors the opportunity of enjoying their concert experience sur la place. As physiology slowly outweighed circumstance—shaking arms, broken concentration, downtrodden spirit—I was forced to break concert-going’s cardinal rule and left. To those affected by my actions and to the performers especially: mea culpa, mea culpa.

Despite the close quarters, Musica Pacifica’s performance was a delightful and well-formed romp through the Irish, Scottish, and English dance and folk music collection that makes up their upcoming album, Dancing in the Isles (set for release October 2010). This was another mid-afternoon concert whose programming instilled temporary amnesia from things like heat, proximity, and for others, physiology; favoring the finer, sedate, and sometimes witty spectacle of 17th and 18th music. Dripping viols and powerful rhythmic precision guided the group on less a dance through the Isles and more a Viennese—though geographically and chronologically improbable—nevertheless, a romantic traipse through the subtleties and sonorities of music revisited. Some may have found Musica Pacifica’s penchant for broadminded recreation alarming, but the group’s proud adornment of change, as if fighting a Suffragette movement, credits them deserved respect. (Linsenberg on the absence of contrapuntal lines: “We’ve moved on since then.”) With the flock of dance followers herded tightly into City Club on Saturday, Musica Pacifica’s soul train proves one to board.