The Boston Globe: “Romantic Music”

By MILVA DIDOMIZIO

Theatergoers may remember Sylvia Rhyne from her portrayal as the Baroness in a 2005 production of “The Sound of Music” by Waltham’s Reagle Players. Rhyne returns to the area this week to perform songs of a different kind. Asteria, featuring Rhyne and tenor/lutenist Eric Redlinger, present 15th-century French chanson tomorrow night at First Parish Church in Weston.

They formed Asteria in 2001. In 2004, the duo won Early Music America’s Unicorn Prize, which resulted in a performance at the prestigious Boston Early Music Festival. Before they met, both Rhyne and Redlinger had a passion for early music they satisfied by singing with the Renaissance Street Singers, a volunteer choir in New York City. They began meeting in Central Park to further pursue the genre. Redlinger brought his lute and some courtly love songs. Rhyne brought her soprano voice and interpretive gifts, and the match was made, both musically and personally. “These are very romantic songs and we did indeed fall in love, and we are married,” said Rhyne.

One of the things that makes Asteria unique is a focus on the words. “We came to the music wanting to interpret the text, and express all the emotion,” said Rhyne, adding that the varied backgrounds she and Redlinger come from contribute to their original approach. Redlinger is a computer programmer, new-media artist, and composer who’s also spent time in pop and rock bands. Rhyne is a professional dollmaker and seasoned musical-theater actress with credits on Broadway and beyond.

For Rhyne, that experience informs her performances. “I’m coming to it from an actress’s point of view,” she said. “I have always sung music thinking in terms of ‘Who am I, what am I feeling, what do the words say.’ ”

One of the qualities Rhyne appreciates about medieval music is its melodic complexity. “It’s written not as a melody line with chords underneath,” she said, “but as three separate melody lines that weave together, and the harmony comes out of that. It seems to really strike people.”

Rhyne and Redlinger take the texts so seriously that they’ve undertaken long trips to French castles to study them. “We spend a tremendous amount of time researching what the words mean, and we know every word,” she said, memorizing everything in order to deepen their connection with the audience.

Based on the success of their two recordings and the popularity of the pair’s You Tube contribution, it seems Rhyne and Redlinger are reaching a wide swath of people, which pleases them both. “We just think this music is exquisite,” said Rhyne. “We love every chance we get to share it.” …

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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