When someone goes to a concert of so-called serious music, they generally have one of two kinds of concert experience.

The first is a chance to hear an artistic masterpiece: an immortal work of art created by a genius and performed by an equally brilliant maestro who can interpret the work exactly as the master intended. Think of the TSO playing the entire cycle of Mahler symphonies and you have a pretty good idea of what that's supposed to look and sound like.

The other type is the concert-hall-as-museum approach. Instead of great art handed down through the ages, you experience the music as something kind of alien: coming from another time and place, it doesn't relate to your own experience, and in some ways it has nothing it wants to say to you. It was music to which other people danced, prayed and sang to one another. Like an artifact in a museum, it was left behind by its original owners when they decided they didn't need it any more.

It was the latter approach that inspired “Paris Confidential,” a program consisting entirely of music from 16th century Paris, put on by the Toronto Consort last Friday, November 7, at Trinity St. Paul's and conceived by Toronto bassist and musical curator Alison Mackay. And thanks to one Renaissance writer, George Buchanan, the Consort, led by -- and with narration by -- David Fallis, showed us a history of a Paris we never knew existed.

Buchanan, as a foreigner with family back home to write to, had good reason to spend a lot of ink describing what life was like in Paris. Somewhat disappointingly, however, and despite what a concert titled Paris Confidential implies, he did not describe the sleazy underbelly and corruption lurking beneath the surface of a Renaissance cosmopolis. [See note below]

Instead, Buchanan was apparently a rabid Francophile who couldn't shut up about what a great time he was having. Given that he had recently fled from Scotland, it was pretty understandable (better climate, cuisine, nightlife, lack of religious persecution, etc).

Not only did the Consort go all-in on the Parisian theme with music from dances, masses and drinking and love songs, they also made every piece on the program correspond exactly to Buchanan's own descriptions of Parisian music of the time. It's clear a lot of work went into creating this program, and the result was an immersive experience in the history and culture of one of the most influential cities in the world, complete with its own soundtrack. Which made for not only a great concert, but some fascinating history. {See second note below}

[I'm thinking specifically of “Brief Lives,” a concert given by Toronto Masque Theatre and Soulpepper in 2013 and inspired by the 17th century English writer John Aubrey. Aubrey probably deserves credit for being the father of the modern tell-all biography and boy could he trash talk London high society. ]

{Speaking of history, what's the deal with Buchanan's backstory? Why was he imprisoned by a bishop? How did he come to be sheltered by Thomas Cromwell and shipped off to France? Was a Cardinal actually hunting him as a heretic? Is The Toronto Consort planning a prequel?}

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