Wednesday, June 12, 2002 - SECTION B - Page 1

Owain Phyfe brings a flair to Olde English Faire

Renaissance scholar and troubador visits fairs across nation
by Douglas E. Love
Times Newspapers

When the Olde English Faire marches into town this weekend, with it will be Nightwatch Recording artist Owain Phyfe.

A true, living, breathing, expression of the Renaissance spirit. His music brims with antiquated charm, yet contemporary in its contemplation.

Phyfe is a scholar of the Renaissance, fluent in at least seven different languages (it could be more) - including the tricky Portuguese. He is a self-taught musician, as talented as any classically trained, although he himself would humbly deny such a statement. He is a modern day troubadour, a provencal, a la Francios Villon.

"There's no other way to say it, he is extraordinary," exclaims Jim Trumminelli, director of Jubilee State College Historic Site. "His music is so wonderful," Trumminelli jests, "you could fall in love with a bail of straw."

Ten years as a full time traveling minstrel has kept Phyfe on the go. When the Peoria Times-Observer finally reached him at his home in Berkley, Michigan, he had literally just walked in the door from a trip that included performances with his group The New World Renaissance Band. The venues, Scarborough Faire and the Georgia Renaissance Festival in Atlanta.

"My wife and I love to visit different faires," Phyfe said. "There are over 100 Renaissance or Medieval Faires across the country and each has its own personality."

Accompanied by Sasha Raykov (and Raykov's bass viola de gamba), Phyfe also recently played at the Bloomington, IN Early Music Festival, where he and Raykov conducted a workshop.

This weekend, Phyfe will bring along sidekick percussionist, Rio Blue, and a violinist.

"It's really an interesting story," says Trumminelli on how Phyfe first arrived at Jubilee. "He called, saying that we had a really fine event and wanted to know if he could ome down and play." The event was completely booked. When told so, Phyfe asked if he could come down and play for free.

Under a tree, Phyfe played his chitarra battente (an instrument resembling a guitar), told stories and sang beautiful songs. By the end of the weekend, audiences loved him, and Jubilee happily agreed to sign him on as a regular performer.

In 1997 he told Nightwatch Recording's newsletter, Eventide, "Through our music, we have attempted to re-kindle the spirit ofthe Renaissance, ... in a manner befitting the next Renaissance." And today he is still as passionate about all things classical, elegant and eloquent as he was then.

"Any contact with the ancient songs," he recently remarked, "can add something to your life that this world can overlook ... Peoria can do its part to let the second Renaissance begin."

At the event, CDs will be available from Nightwatch Recording which will include Phyfe's solo recordings and projects done with The New World Renaissance Band.

The Olde English Faire is an alcohol-free family event. There will be plenty of food and drinks available on the grounds. Merchants will be selling Renaissance wares such as armor, calligraphy, herbs, baskets, talismans, costumes, jewelry, etc. There will be a petting zoo and pony rides available.

A parking fee of $5 per car and $10 per bus will be charged to defray costs associated with the Faire.

The Olde English Faire is sponsored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Historic Sites Division.

Jubilee College State Historic Site is located 15 miles northwest of Peoria near Kickapoo. From Interstate 74, take the Kickapoo Exit north to State Route 150, then turn west and follow the signs.

The New World Renaissance Band
by Bill Sims
Special to En&V

"Making their first appearance at the 15th edition of the Italian Renaissance Festival at Vizcaya will be several members of the 'New World Renaissance Band.' Half a millennium after its first appearance, the Renaissance is making a musical comeback! Vocalist Owain Phyfe, along with Sasha Raykov and Bob Bielefeld will be appearing on the North Court Stage during the festival this weekend. They make a 'classical crossover for the 21st Century,' which is their motto.

They already have six albums that have been hailed as 'Masterful Recordings.' Their offerings are authentic with just enough of a modern touch to evoke all the joy and sorrow which the composers intended. It is beautiful music, beautifully presented. ou are sure to have your toes tapping!

At the festival, history and art come alive through the creative and exhaustively researched efforts of craftsmen and artists, as Renaissance art and music in particular, bridge the distance between the 1500's and the 21st Century. Owain Phyfe, the group's vocalist, describes the emotional relevance of the New World Renaissance Band as 'musical chivalry.'

The Italian Renaissance Festival has always prided in presenting excellent musicians from the United States and Europe, many who have gone unnoticed by local music critics. Patty Brown, who is the entertainment booker for the festival, said, 'We are extremely proud to present our wonderful program of Renaissance performers this year as we celebrate our fifteenth year in the fifteenth Century.' Come and enjoy this cultural, educational and family event!"

May 26, 1996, Detroit, MI
WKBD-TV (Channel 50) News
Owain Phyfe & The New World Renaissance Band

"I can assure you, on those nights when sad and tragic stories leave me drained and demoralized,
Owain Phyfe's music is one of the finest cures imaginable."
        Cynthia Canty
         Channel 50 News Anchor

MARCH 1996
Meet Music's Renaissance Center

"You always knew your old man was living in the 16th Century. Well, music of the 1500s has long been a staple of Owain Phyfe's repertoire, which you can sample every Thursday at O'Mara's at Twelve Mile and Coolidge in Berkley.

And Phyfe's no fool; he founded Nightwatch recording in 1991 to release "classical crossover" CDs by himself and other simpatico artist. The 46-year-old former engineer and Berkley resident calls the response "gratifying," adding that "no one ever hugged me for being an engineer."

Though he has dabbled in other musical styles and periods, this one suits him best.

'If you can understand the spirit of the music of the last Renaissance,' he says, 'you can get ready for the next one.'

Now the world's giving Nightwatch a listen. The label's groups receive local and national airplay, and distributors in Taiwan, France and Germany appear interested. The Latest Renaissance disc, Sweet Was the Song: Lute Songs Revisited by Phyfe and L'Ensemble Josquin, led sales for Harmony House's classical division the first week in January; Nightwatch's Once Upon A Time: Music of Innocence and Enchantment by Cantiga was close behind at No. 3. And Gramophone magazine made Lute Songs Revisited a 'Radio Chart CD of the Month for March.

Want to dip into the music of the spheres? Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster Music, Borders Books and Music, and Dearborn Music stores carry these discs plus two more by Phyfe and the New World Renaissance Band."

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