Bruce Fithian borrowed the title for St. Mary Schola’s spring concert, “A Musical Banquet,” from Robert Dowland’s 1610 compilation of popular English, French, Spanish and Italian songs.

Fithian and his ensemble did not perform any of the music in Dowland’s collection; the closest he came was a handful of songs by the compiler’s more famous father, the lute-song composer John Dowland – but not the ones in the son’s collection. But you could argue that Fithian improved on the concept.

Where Dowland’s book is a collection of songs that could be performed in any order, or excerpted, Fithian arranged his selections in the form of a Renaissance or Baroque banquet, beginning with dance and making its way through court airs and ending with opera. Like Dowland, he ranged across Europe for his material. But he was not limited to works composed before 1610: The entire second half of the program was devoted to scenes from Gluck’s 1762 opera “Orfeo ed Euridice.”

For sheer variety, the concert Saturday evening at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary in Falmouth (there are repeats this week in Portland) offered little cause for complaint. In terms of period practice, a listener could quibble, for example, about the vocal weight of Fithian’s choir in Thomas Morley’s “About the Maypole” and “You That Wont to My Pipe’s Sound,” John Dowland’s “Shall I Sue,” and other pieces on the program’s first half. So far as musicologists can tell – and that changes periodically – music of this period would have been sung by a more compact ensemble, and with considerably less vibrato.

Yet there was considerable polish and passion in the choir’s performance. And period practice has changed so much over the decades that layers of nostalgia for past approaches – all conjectural – have accrued. Listening to the Morley, and the choral parts of the Dowland songs (which, in Fithian’s inventive arrangements, began as solo performances and morphed into madrigal versions), I was reminded of the Golden Age Singers, a British group that made some lovely recordings of this music in the 1950s.

The approach may sound dated now, if you’re looking for an approximation of a 17th century sound. But on its own terms it can be quite nice, and shows the music in an interesting light. It also raises an odd philosophical question. If a performance style is anachronistically modern, according to current ideas about how the music of an era was performed, but a few decades behind the latest notions of antique performance styles, then are the performances too newfangled, or too old-fashioned?

In any case, the choir sang beautifully, and there were several fine solo performances, most notably tenor Martin A. Lescault’s thoughtful rendering of Monteverdi’s “Volgendo il ciel per l’immortal sentiero,” and his duet with Rachel Keller on Dowland’s “Say, Love If Ever Thou Didst Find,” as well as mezzo-soprano Andrea Graichen’s performance of Antoine Boësset’s “Objet dont les charmes si doux” and bass John D. Adams’ rich-toned, dramatic account of Henry Purcell’s “Anacreon’s Defeat.”

Much of the choral music on the first half was sung a cappella, with the solo pieces accompanied by Timothy Burris on theorbo, Philip Carlsen on cello and, in the Purcell, Fithian on harpsichord. For a Ballo from Monteverdi’s “Madrigali Guerrieri ed Amorosi,” and for the Gluck opera excerpts, Fithian led the Schola’s chamber orchestra, a mixture of period and modern instruments. The ensemble has sounded better. At the start of the Monteverdi, especially, its string intonation was worryingly sour, although the musicians focused better in the faster sections of the Monteverdi, and in the Gluck.

In the Gluck, Fithian and company cut to the chase, including only the essentials of Orfeo’s rescue of Euridice from Hades. Christopher Garrepy, a countertenor with a solid, shapely sound, gave a wonderful account of Orfeo’s music, including a melting performance of the opera’s enduring hit, “Che faro senza Euridice.” He was joined by soprano Erin Chenard, who captured Euridice’s confusion nicely, and soprano Molly Harmon, who made a strong contribution as Amore, as well as a suitably plaintive performance of Dowland’s “Shall I Sue,” earlier in the evening.

Correction: This story was updated at 10:54 a.m. on June 13, 2017 to correct the spelling of Philip Carlsen’s name.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

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