Fioretto – 20 years of Medieval and Renaissance music


A few months after I arrived in Finland in 1996, I received a call from the dancers Mirja-Liisa Herhi and Antti Talvio. They had recently been to a Renaissance course given by Veronique Daniels and she told them that a Friend of hers, me, had just recently moved to Finland. After that first meeting with Mippa and Antti, we decided to form an ensemble for historical dance and music and it was named Fioretto. Our first programs were of Renaissance music and dance and we did performances, happenings and workshops throughout Finland.

As time went on, the expense of doing Renaissance music, which usually meant 4 players/singers and 4 dancers, proved too expensive for most concert organizers. This, plus finding a venue that was appropriate for dancers and big enough to house a sufficiently large audience, caused us to change the repertoire to later medieval music where we could do a beautiful concert with two or three players and two dancers.

Exploring venues and audiences that would be interested in historical music and dance made it necessary to think out of the box. Churches, which are the halls in which most concerts are held, were not appropriate for dance nor was there necessarily high interest. This led us to having a number of concerts in museums. Sometimes there was a historical exhibit that we built a concert around, such as the life of Dürer, and sometimes there was an installation that set the scene or mood for our concert. Exploring some of these venues was made possible by Elina Aho-Kuusama who worked as our arts manager.

One strong aspect that we three founding members Mirja-Liisa, Antti and myself had in common, was a strong sense of each performance having a story line that was historically based. We felt that it was important for audiences to get a connection to the music and dance through a historical perspective. We all took great care to research each period or history surrounding a court or individuals.

After about ten years, Fioretto began working more as an ensemble of two or three players. Soon a collaboration with Lumous Ensemble, a vocal ensemble which was formed in 2007, began. This combination, though large, was easier to sell to churches because we explored a more sacred repertoire, producing programs such as the life of St. Brigitte and more recently ”Kadulta kirkkoon”, a concert of the evolution of popular songs into church hymns.

There have been challenges over the years that not only include finances and venues but also access to music. I believe I probably have one of the most comprehensive libraries of medieval and renaissance music in Finland though this is not enough or by any means comprehensive. I have always been very frustrated when going to the Sibelius Academy library and finding practically nothing that I was seeking. The most basic corpuses of medieval and renaissance music are not to be found in any libraries in this country. I have asked the library how this is possible. The answer that I have been given is that nowadays most early repertoire is being put online and it is not worth buying those expensive books. This is ridiculous in my opinion. What is online is a combination of poorly, unprofessionally edited or transcribed music that is full of mistakes and with no possibility to check the source. Besides that, the beauty of a library is to browse through a composer’s corpus or through collections embracing a period. How can musicians explore new repertoire or music periods if it is not accessible?

In conclusion, Fioretto celebrates its 20 years of existence and Lumous its 10th year. However, we also sadly commemorate the lives of Mirja-Liisa Herhi and Antti Talvio who succumbed to cancer in the last years. Fioretto, Lumous and my original connection to Mirja-Liisa and Antti, Veronique Daniels, will give a concert on October 6th, 2017 at Pyynikkisali at the Tampere Conservatory. The concert called I Madrigali Concertati, will include all aspects of our ensembles’ journey, instruments, singers and dance, and return to our beginnings in Renaissance music.

Debra Gomez-Tapio
is a harpist, singer, ensemble leader and choir conductor, an expert on medieval and renaissance music, based in Finland. 

I Madrigali Concertati
6.10.2017 klo 19
Pyynikkisali, F.E.Sillanpäänkatu 9, Tampere
Fioretto Ensemble & Vokaaliyhtye Lumous, Debra Gomez-Tapio, leader
Véronique Daniels, Ozan Karagöz (Basel), dancers
Organizers: Tampereen vanhan musiikin ystävät ry with Tampere Music Academy