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Release: March 12, 1999

Ensemble for Early Music performs medieval musical drama March 30 at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Ensemble for Early Music will present a dramatic staging of "Sponsus: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 30 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

Frederick Renz, director of the ensemble, will lead a pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m. in the Hancher Greenroom with Connie Berman of the UI history department. The discussion will be free to interested performance ticketholders.

The UI School of Music and Lutheran Campus Ministry have organized an accompanying symposium 12:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27 at Old Brick. For information, contact George Nickelsburg in the UI School of Religion at 319-335-2175.

Along with the 45-minute play, the Ensemble for Early Music will perform other music from the 11th and 12th centuries.

"Sponsus," an 11th-century play from the Abbey of Saint-Martial in Limoges, France, dramatizes a New Testament parable of the Second Coming and Judgment Day. Matthew 25:1-13 tells of the Wise Virgins, who make certain that they have oil for their lamps and are thus able to meet the Bridegroom at midnight, and the Foolish Virgins whose imprudence renders them unworthy.

The fully staged production, performed in Latin and French, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A full translation of the text will be mailed to advance ticketbuyers and will also be reprinted in the playbill.

The verses in Matthew read: "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto 10 virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; But the wise took oil in their vessels with wicks aflame."

The wise virgins were able to meet the Bridegroom and attend the marriage, but the foolish virgins were shut out. "Watch therefore," the passage concludes, "for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

In the dramatic expansion of the medieval drama, the foolish virgins are not only refused entry to the nuptial feast, but are assailed by demons, who lead them to hell with the words, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."

The Ensemble for Early Music, under the direction of Frederick Renz, is known internationally for its bravura performances of medieval and Renaissance music. At its home base in New York City, the ensemble presents annual sold-out performances in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a frequent visitor to major music festivals, including Spoleto, Ravinia, Edinburgh and Caramoor.

The Ensemble for Early Music records for the Fone, Musical Heritage Society, Musicmasters and Nonesuch labels and has performed extensively for National Public Radio and American Public Radio.

A Louisville Courier Journal review stated, "Early music is popular. Many of the performing ensembles are quite good, but none approaches the exacting standards or bravura performance techniques of the Ensemble for Early Music." The New York Times has described the ensemble's performances as "stunning . . . ravishing and beautifully performed."

Cambridge Place Apartments is the corporate sponsor of the Ensemble for Early Music performance through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for "Sponsus" are $25, $22 and $19. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

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