the renaissance players

The Renaissance Players is directed by Winsome Evans, Associate Professor in the Music Department at the University of Sydney. The group was founded in 1966/7, and has a nucleus of nine to ten musicians (singers and instrumentalists), which is varied according to the needs of particular performances. In addition, the group contains a poetry reader, and one or two miming clowns.

The Renaissance Players has established itself as the most accomplished and widely known early music group in Australia. Their sense of musical style, colorful costuming, technical ability and vital presentation add up to consistently exciting performances.

The group’s name, the Renaissance Players, was particularly chosen to demonstrate its main function of resuscitating and giving new life to music of both the past and the present. The intention has been not to limit the repertoire to the so-called Renaissance period, but to expand as far backwards and forwards as possible. Under this banner the group felicitously performs a wide range of music dating from as early as the 9th century through to contemporary folk/rock and classical styles, using replicas of, and/or ethnically, authentic instruments where possible and attempting to reproduce performance styles appropriate to whatever music is played.

The library of the Renaissance Players contains over 2,500 pieces, which have all been collected, arranged and/or composed by Winsome Evans (sometimes operating under a creative pseudonym, Snave Pluckpayres).

As well as their regular performances in the Great Hall and MacLaurin Hall at Sydney University, the John Clancy Auditorium at the University of New South Wales, the Everes Theatre in Seymour Centre, and the Sydney Opera House, the group has travelled extensively throughout Australia for A.B.C., Musica Viva and various festival organizations. In 1974, they undertook an extensive tour of South East Asia from India down to New Guinea for Musica Viva Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs as part of the Whitlam cultural exchange program.

In addition to their various concert performances, the Renaissance Players have, since 1973, presented the Runnymede Pop Festival in March; a Christmas Pudding Concert in December; and also, since 1976, an annual mid-year event in memory of Frederick May.

The Renaissance Players have also provided feature music for TV, film, A.B.C. radio plays and special documentaries. As well, they have instigated six unique theatrical productions of mediaeval liturgical drama and 16th century commedia in musica. In all cases the music was researched, arranged and directed by Winsome Evans.

The group’s public recitals reflect the labor of copious research into various methods of decorating and extending basic musical structures, and into patterns of instrumentation. All of these elements were left entirely to the performers’ discretion and versatility during the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance period, as indeed they still are in much of present day popular and traditional music.

Research into performance practices has led to concerts in combination with eastern European groups, such the Turkish Anatolian Minstrels and the Arabic Eastern Music Band. Performers from living folk traditions have from time to time been members of the group and have contributed their particular expertise and knowledge of Celtic, Balkan, Persian, middle Eastern Jewish music to building up a body of performance techniques which are useful in attempting to reconstruct mediaeval European folk music. In addition the Players have also been involved in experimental concerts in which common and/or contrasting concepts of style and structure are revealed. This has included concerts with avant-garde ensembles, as well as concerts with Don Burrows and George Golla.

Generally the Renaissance Players present programs which develop themes of satire, comedy, pathos and whimsy, by combing songs and instrumental pieces with poetry, mime, and/or dance. In 1997, the Renaissance Players were nominated for the classical section of the ARIA awards.