Medieval revels (with Renaissance food)

Hey, kids, it’s the River City Renaissance Band!

Hey, kids, it’s the River City Renaissance Band!

In the scope of our experience, the recorder seems inexorably linked to childhood memories of music. Many of us can recall having at least one of these instruments around the house when we were children. The recorder was the primary instrument of our grade-school music-appreciation days. The cheap, white, plastic models could make the most screeching, ear-piercing noise—quite a joy to the average 6-year-old. For many of us, recorders represented our first exposure to creating instrumental sound.

Despite our childhood experiences with the instrument, it may come as a surprise to some that there are adults who play the recorder, too, and that for many, it is considered a viable instrument. There even is a local organization that is the recorder’s champion: the Sacramento Recorder Society, one of the most fascinating—and least known—music organizations in the area.

Last weekend, the organization held its annual Twelfth Night Feast and Revels at the Prince of Peace Church in Sacramento. It was a sight to behold: various members of SRS and their friends and spouses, most dressed in full medieval costumes, eating an authentic, four-course, Renaissance-era dinner to the sounds of medieval music performed live by a variety of ensembles. To be sure, it was a weird evening, but also one that was just different enough to maintain my interest.

The evening featured performances by a variety of musical ensembles, dancers and a storyteller. Most, if not all, of the performers were amateurs, so there were moments when pieces fell apart and were abruptly stopped and restarted. But rather than detract from the evening, these moments somehow added to the experience. When groups (such as the four-piece ensemble Camellia Camerata, a group including two Renaissance-era viols and a hammered dulcimer) managed to capture their musical moment, the entire room would hush to a silent appreciation of the performance. Hearing the 16-piece Sacramento Recorder Society Orchestra perform two pieces was a particular treat; how often does one get the opportunity to hear such music performed?

The SRS is an educational organization as well as a performance organization, so those who are interested in exploring medieval music are advised to check out or call (916) 451-7614 for more information and the performance calendar.

From the extremely weird but nonetheless entertaining Web server run by Archbishop Dave Smith (of Star Trek-themed punk band No Kill I) comes a new Internet-based ’zine dedicated to underground Sacramento music. Titled “Sacto_Undie,” the Web site features show reviews, local music news and live listings. Check out http://undietacos.nokilli. com and see what’s happening.

Quickly approaching is the second annual Sacramento Bass Looping Festival, to be held on January 30 at Constable Jack’s, at 515 Main Street in Newcastle. The festival will feature performances by Michael Manring; Steve Lawson; and Sacramento’s own Orbis, a side project of 77s members Michael Roe, Mark Harmon and Bruce Spencer, along with guest bassist Nick Willow. At the very least, the lineup should make the evening more interesting than ordinary. Get more information at