The Boston Camerata is a pretty big deal in early music circles. It’s a Boston-based ensemble with an international reputation. In fact, the Camerata is America’s “foremost early music ensemble,” according to Le Monde, the Parisian daily. Its album “A Mediterranean Christmas,” which explores holiday musical traditions from Spain, Italy and the Middle East from 1200 to 1900, was an international bestseller when it came out in 2005. Three years later, “A Boston Camerata Christmas: Worlds of Early Christmas Music,” a three-CD set looking at similar themes in American, French and Spanish holiday celebrations, also burned up the charts. But the Camerata is way more than just rarified, early music performance. “Simple Gifts,” its collection of Shaker spirituals and chants, topped the Billboard classical charts in 1995. And when the group performed at the Classique au Vert festival in Paris last year, they didn’t play madrigals or the like. They played a program of American music: hymns, patriotic songs and dances. Two performances of that show had a combined audience of 2,300, one of the biggest audiences in Camerata history. “That’s enormous,” says Boston Camerata director emeritus Joel Cohen, an Amesbury resident. “I mean, that’s rock concert stuff.” So when Cohen and his wife, French-born singer and musicologist Anne Azéma, who became the ensemble’s director in 2008, get past the jet lag — the group toured Europe five times in 2011 — and put on a local show, something they’ve been doing for the past few years, you might expect the air to come hissing out of their tires a little, psychologically if not in performance; that the rush level after so many big shows in big venues might go down when they play in smaller venues like First Parish Church in Newbury, where the Camerata will reprise “The Brotherhood of the Star: A Hispanic Christmas 1300 to 1700” this weekend, in the group’s only North Shore appearance of the year. And that’s fine.
Read more here.