“I Doe not studie Eloquence, or profess Musicke, although I doe love Sence, and affect Harmony: my Profession being, as my Education hath beene, Armes, the onely effeminate part of me, hath beene Musicke; which in mee hath beene alwayes Generous, because never Mercenarie. To prayse Musicke, were to say, the Sunne is bright. To extoll my selfe, would name my labors vaine glorious. Onely this, my studies are far from servile imitations, I robbe no others inventions, I take no Italian Note to an English dittie, or filch fragments of Songs to stuffe out my volumes. There are mine own Phansies expressed by my proper Genius, which if thou dost dislike, let me see thine…”
– Captaine Tobias Hume, Composer of the the Spirit of Gambo, from the Musicall Humours (1605) –
The Spirit of Gambo is a Chicago-area viol consort featuring Ken Perlow, Phillip W. Serna & Russell Wagner. The Spirit of Gambo performs music encompassing the entirety of the rich viol consort repertoire. Programs are built around providing historical context as well as variety in the repertoire to produce a stirring musical experience.
Spirit of Gambo’s Mission:
The Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols was formed in 2005 by Phillip W. Serna, Ken Perlow and Russell Wagner to address a growing deficiency of viol consort performers in the Midwest region, especially in the Chicago area. All being professional performers, the Spirit of Gambo are passionate advocates of the performance of music for early instruments, especially music composed for the viola da gamba family. The Spirit of Gambo’s members have performed on period instruments with varied groups including Ars Antigua, Ars Musica Chicago, Bella Voce, the Boston Early Music Festival, the Catacoustic Consort, Chicago Early Music Consort, Chicago Opera Theater, the Classical Arts Orchestra, Comic Intermezzo, Early Music Chicago, Ensemble Musical Offering, the Forces of Virtue Ensemble and Choir, the Janus Ensemble, the Newberry Consort, the Second City Musick, and the Evelyn Dunbar Memorial Early Music Festival at Northwestern University.
The Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols are a versatile chamber group focusing on the rich consort repertoire composed for viols from early works such as those from Petrucci’s Odhecaton (1501), to the rich consort traditions of England, to continental works, complex virtuosic works, to late transcriptions of keyboard works by Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as contemporary music for viols. All of the members of Spirit of Gambo have a vast experience with this lovely and varied literature, and it would give us much joy to bring this repertoire audiences.
Additionally, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols is dedicated to outreach in the community with the program ‘Viols in Our Schools’ organized by myself and sponsored as a pilot program by the Viola da Gamba Society of America. Outreach and bringing this music into the school setting is essential in growing future interest in the concert goers and performers in tomorrow and we believe it to be a noble investment of time and energy.
Spirit of Gambo Artists’ Biographies
Ken Perlow is the manager of the Newberry Consort and plays viola da gamba with Ars Musica Chicago. He has been a guest artist with the Catacoustic Consort, Second City Musick, Ensemble Musical Offering, and the Illinois Philharmonic, having studied viola da gamba performance at Roosevelt University with Mary Springfels. Ken is treasurer of the Viola da Gamba Society of America and served as the Interim Executive Director of Early Music America in 2001-02 after retiring as a computer engineer and business planner from Lucent Technologies’ Bell Laboratories. He is an avid student of Renaissance neo-Platonism.
Phillip W. Serna performs on double bass with numerous Midwest orchestras as well as on violas da gamba and other period instrument Early Music ensembles including Ars Antigua, the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, the Callipygian Players, the Chicago Early Music Consort, Duo fantaisie en Echo, Harmonie, Madison Bach Musicians, the Newberry Consort, the Oriana Singers, the Second City Musick, the Secret of the Muses, the Spirit of Gambo – a Chicago Consort of Viols, and many others. In performance, Phillip has appeared on Chicago’s 98.7FM WFMT, Wisconsin Public Radio and Milwaukee Public Radio. On viol, he continues to appear as a recitalist performing old works and premiering new works for viol, as a concert soloist performing concerti, as well as a soloist performing works including Bach’s Sonatas, St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concerto No.6 and Cantatas 76, 106 & 198. Phillip is the founder and music director of the Early Music outreach program Viols in Our Schools, Early Music America’s Outreach Award recipient of 2010. In addition to teaching privately around the Chicago area, Phillip is instructor of double bass and viola da gamba at Valparaiso University. Phillip holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Masters and Doctorate degrees from Northwestern University School of Music where he studied viola da gamba with Newberry Consort founder Mary Springfels. Phillip continues to study the viol at workshops and master classes with instructors including Erin Headley, Wieland Kuijken, Catherina Meints, Gail Ann Schroeder, Christel Thielmann and Brent Wissick.
Russell Wagner began his studies in early music performance at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. As a founding member of Musica Camerata, he toured throughout the Midwest and made appearances on The Prairie Home Companion Show and with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is a frequent performer in Chicago’s early music community including appearances with The Newberry Consort, Bella Voce, The Forces of Virtue, The Second City Musick, and the Catacoustic Consort. Wagner is a leading restorer of cellos in this country, working from his studio, Chicago Celloworks.
For more photos, download our headshots by Jonnie Maunder Photography: