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With their colorful 18th century-style costumes and rock-tinged arrangements of Baroque masterworks, Red Priest has achieved broad popularity across the globe, both drawing comparison with the Rolling Stones and admiration from classical music lovers. Its collective virtuosity is astonishing and its highly individual and often daring arrangements make J.S. Bach and Vivaldi a palatable serving to crossover audiences. Lighting effects and props lend an imaginative atmospheric dimension to performances, as do the often comical and lighthearted antics on-stage. Red Priest consists of four players, one each on harpsichord, violin, cello, and recorder, all of period-instrument vintage. Appearing in about 60 concerts a year, the group makes regular tours of the U.K., Europe, and North and Central America, and more remote parts of the world. The Baroque-dominated repertory extends even to little-known early composers, including Marco Uccellini, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Dario Castello, and many others. Red Priest's recordings are unusual, to say the least, with gaudy cover art and titles like Priest on the Run, Nightmare in Venice, and Pirates of the Baroque, and they are available from the ensemble's own Red Priest Recordings. Red Priest was formed in 1997 by the group's recorder player Piers Adams. The ensemble's name was taken from the nickname given to Antonio Vivaldi, who was a red-haired Catholic priest. Originally the ensemble consisted of 11 players, but by the time of its first recording, Priest on the Run, issued in 1998 on Dorian, it was pared down to four: Julian Rhodes (harpsichord), Julia Bishop (violin), Angela East (cello), and Piers Adams (recorder). Rhodes left in 2000 because of ill health and was replaced by Howard Beach. The ensemble's garish style and modern arrangements quickly caught on and by the early years of the new century, Red Priest was performing to sold-out crowds. It regularly performed on BBC radio and in 2005 appeared on the popular South Bank Show on the U.K.-based ITV. From 2006 violinist David Greenberg substituted for Julia Bishop on an enormously popular North American tours. Red Priest's recordings continued to appear high on the charts, and the 2009 album Pirates of the Baroque showed why, as the group seemed to push its playing style, from extremes in articulation and dynamics to soaring and swooping lines, a bold step further. Red Priest's 2011 concert schedule included tours of the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, and Taiwan.
1997 in England