ROGERS PARK — A local husband-and-wife team that led one of the country’s foremost early music ensembles has called it a career, having earned a lifetime achievement award for their work preserving and performing centuries-old art.
Rogers Park residents Ellen Hargis and David Douglass retired in the spring from their roles as co-artistic directors of The Newberry Consort, an ensemble that performs and records music from roughly the Medieval to Renaissance periods.
Their last performance as leaders of the consort took place in April, when the couple decided to retire after 40 years of showcasing early European music. This month, Hargis and Douglass were given a lifetime achievement award from the nonprofit Early Music America.
“It’s been an honor to hold this dream job, to create all these programs and to work with our stellar roster of musicians,” Hargis said. “We are ready for other challenges and are delighted to pass the baton to the next generation.”
Douglass, a violinist, began performing with the Newberry Consort in 1986, when the Newberry Library formed the group to spread awareness of early music. He became the consort’s artistic director in 2007, when the group became independent of the Newberry Library.
Hargis, a singer, joined her husband as co-artistic director in 2007.
Douglass and Hargis met in 1973 at Oakland University. The undergrads began performing with the school’s early music group, providing the basis for their careers as musicians and ensemble leaders.
The couple wed in 1979 and moved from Boston to Rogers Park in 2000.
With the Newberry Consort, the couple performs music mainly from the 13th to 18th centuries. In 2016, the couple helped stage a production of Elizabethan-era songs and jigs for the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. They have also taken on 16th century Mexican musical works and Civil War-era American compositions.
The consort has leaned on the Newberry Library’s collection of early music books and other documentation.
“They discovered music that no one else had ever seen and brought it to life, making it not only beautiful but accessible,” Liza Malamut, who succeeded Hargis and Douglass as artistic director, said in a statement. “I know that my colleagues and I owe much to their work and will for generations to come.”
Hargis and Douglass will remain as advisers to the Newberry Consort as it moves forward without their leadership for the first time in 15 years.
“We have been fortunate to be teachers and mentors of many talented and dedicated young artists who are already new leaders in the field,” the couple said in a statement.
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