From London to Potomac: King’s Consort

From London to Potomac: King’s Consort

One e-mail from the rector's office at St. Francis Episcopal Church brought a world-known baroque ensemble from London to Potomac.

The King's Consort, a European baroque instrument orchestra which first performed at St. Francis in 1999, will return to the Potomac church on Friday, March 1, at 8 p.m. Approximately 400 tickets will be available.

"They are certainly one of the most outstanding baroque ensembles in Europe," said Potomac resident Mary Hulen, a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church. "We thought it was very special that they came to the church. I'm sure they can get a large audience."

The King's Consort, which was founded in 1980, has recorded 75 CDs, toured five continents and has appeared in almost every European country.

In 1999, The Reverend William M. "Billy" Shand III, rector of St. Francis, noticed that The King's Consort didn't schedule a stop in Washington on their North American tour.

"He's a big fan," said Gary Davison, organist and choirmaster at St. Francis. "He wrote and said, 'We're a church outside the beltway and you're welcome to come here."

After replying to the e-mail, The King's Consort soon performed at the 400-seat Potomac church. Robert King, the group's director who also plays the organ and harpsichord, contacted Shand to initiate their return for this year's tour.

"It's a big deal for us to host a famous group from overseas, it's a great privilege," said Davison.

In 1999, Potomac was the first stop on its tour; this year, Potomac will be the second to last stop on its North American tour.

"What makes this concert extremely special is to see a world class act and have them playing in an intimate setting," said Davison. "Here, you're so close to the performers, it's so fun to be able to watch."

The orchestra is especially regarded for its recordings of music by Handel and Purcell. The group has produced 25 world-premiere recordings of Purcell's complete Odes and Welcome Songs, Secular Solo Songs and the Sacred Music. Its catalogue also includes Bach Cantatas and the Mass in B Minor, Handel Arias, Mozart's Epistle Sonatas, Telemann's Wassermusik, and concertos by Telemann, Albinoni and Vivaldi.

The 11 musicians play on baroque instruments from the baroque time period or instruments built according to the time period.

Most of the musicians will stay with Potomac residents and St. Francis' members including Hulen and Leigh Alexander.

"It's an opportunity for us mortals to rub shoulders with the great," said Alexander, a Potomac resident who will host three of the musicians. Alexander is a bass in the choir at St. Francis and will be performing Verdi's Requiem with the Master Chorale of Washington under Donald McCullough on March 16 downtown.

"It's just an opportunity to find out how these people live their lives … how many hours they practice each day, how they go about practicing," said Alexander. "I'm looking forward to them going to my piano, getting out the cello or flute and tuning — just to be part of their lives for a little bit of time."

Many feel the same way about their performance on Saturday.

"They'll only be here a few hours, the main thing is hearing them play which is a special treat," said Hulen.

Especially considering that the ensemble was only a computer stroke away from never knowing about Potomac or St. Francis.

"The rector is a man of great vision, he knows quite a lot about his music," said Davison.