Monday, February 20, 2017

Early Music Festival Week 4

The final week of the Cincinnati Early Music Festival is already upon us – February always flies by, doesn’t it? We have three events remaining, and they make for an exciting finale.

Sunday, Feb 26, 11am. Once again the Knox Choir at Knox Presbyterian in Hyde Park dips into the infinite works of Heinrich Schütz. Along with full instrumental ensemble, they will perform some of his Concertato Motets from 1648 and 1650. This performance is part of a Presbyterian church service, to which all are welcome.

Sunday, Feb 26, 7:30. Tonight is the exciting return of Vicars Choral, a vocal ensemble that has delighted audiences for the last two years with music of the Renaissance. This year represents a departure for them, in two ways. First, they are moving into the Baroque, with a concert of music by Heinrich Schütz, the great master of German music before JS Bach, music from his Musikalische Exequien from 1636. Second, the Vicars will be joining forces with Collegium Vocale. This is a new ensemble born of the CCM Early Music Lab. Students from undergraduate through the uppermost degrees are exploring the treasures of early vocal music. The combined groups should be worthy of their subject. This concert is free and in Hyde Park – don’t miss it.

Tuesday, Feb 28, 12noon. This final concert of the Festival is particularly exciting because it is, in some ways, another debut! Elizabeth Motter, well-known concert harpist, decided a few years ago to add Early Music to her skill set. She was the first ever recipient of the Catacoustic Early Music Development Grant, which kick-started her training in Baroque triple harp (which is remarkably different from the modern harp.) Since then she has performed numerous times with Catacoustic and other ensembles both in the US and abroad. She has become an invaluable addition to the local early music scene. And today is the first time she has presented her own recital. Join us at one last Music Live at Lunch at Christ Church downtown for 17th century Italian music, including soprano Danielle Adams and gambist WeiShuan Yu, and, of course, one of the only Baroque triple harp specialists in the US today, our own Elizabeth Motter.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Early Music Festival Week 3

We have five events this week, and it’s an interesting line-up

Friday Feb 17, 8:00, at St John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, KY, as part of their February music series “Music on the Avenue,” a duo of Baroque guitars. Rod Stucky, professor of guitar and lute at UC-CCM, and lutenist/guitarist/recording artist Chris Wilke will explore the music of this sometimes-overlooked instrument. Until the 18th century, the lute was considered the king of instruments, but during the final century of the Baroque era the guitar started making inroads in popularity among both performers and composers. Rod and Chris will take us on a tour of this crucial century for the guitar.  Free.

Saturday Feb 18, 10am. This morning is your chance to participate in the most elemental music of all. Come and Sing! means everyone, regardless of experience, is welcome to give early music a try. Cambridge-trained choral conductor Matthew Swanson will be ringmaster as we raise our voices in madrigals, motets, rounds, chants, and other music that our ancestors knew and loved. The atmosphere is warm and supportive, and last year’s group had a terrific time, as I can personally testify. Don’t be shy – come and have fun on a Saturday morning!  Free, of course, and in the sun-drenched chapel at Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park.

Saturday, Feb 18, 4:00. Returning from last year, when it played to a packed house at Christ Church Cathedral downtown, Bach CantataFest is exactly what the name suggests. Five cantatas by Bach, (numbers 86, 95, 106, 131, 196, for those of you keeping score) sung by five choirs from around the city, including the Cincinnati Boychoir, the Walnut Hills High School Chamber Choir, the Edgecliff Vocal Ensemble from Xavier U, the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, and the hosting ensemble Collegium Cincinnati. If you love Bach, or if you love the high Baroque, or if you just love choral singing, you won’t want to miss this. Tickets $10.

Sunday Feb 19, 3:00. Catacoustic Consort is the Early Music Festival’s
hosting organization. Their annual concert is always a highlight of the Festival, but never more than this year. To our delight, we will be presenting the most renowned Baroque cellist in the world, Jaap ter Linden. He will perform music of Telemann, Bach, Geminiani, and others. Cancel your other plans – you may never again get a chance to hear this music played at this level. Tickets $25, $10 student.

Tuesday Feb 21, 12noon. Today’s lunchtime concert at Christ Church Cathedral downtown will feature the Cincinnati Recorder Consort. Eight musicians, most professional or semi-professional, offer up the entire recorder family, including giant bass instruments that stand on the floor and tiny sopraninos unplayable by all but the slimmest fingers. They’ll be playing music from the Renaissance (the divine William Byrd!) and the Baroque (the awesome Orlando Gibbons!).  Free.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Early Music Festival 2017 Week 2

Week 2 of the Festival is typically busy, and this year is no exception, with SIX events. Three of these are debut performances of new ensembles.

Friday, Feb 10, at 7:30 is the inaugural performance of Schola Cincinnati, a new professional vocal ensemble dedicated to music of the Renaissance. Founder Jason Harris, a Grammy winner formerly of Oberlin, is a man with a mission: to give the city an ensemble that ranks with the best-known groups in the US. His hand-picked singers will debut with music composed around the poetry of the Song of Solomon. Lassus, Palestrina, Victoria, and others all mined this most secular book of the Bible for lyrics literal and allegorical, romantic and sacred. The beautiful acoustics of St Peter in Chains downtown will add to the experience. Come help break a champagne bottle across the bow of this ambitious project. Tickets $15, $5 students.

Saturday, Feb 11, at 3:00 will see another new group to the Festival. The Caladrian Ensemble, newly formed this year, features instrumental chamber music from the late Baroque era. This concert will present Jennifer Roig-Francoli on Baroque violin, with music by Bach, Haydn, Rust, and others, at Old St. Mary’s in Over-the-Rhine. Tickets $10, $7 seniors.

Sunday, Feb 12, 2:00. The Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park presents an occasional concert series called MUSE in its Great Hall. Today will feature Schola Cincinnati, in an abbreviated repeat performance of their debut on Fri Feb 10.

Sunday, Feb 12, 5:00. Every month the Cincinnati Bach Ensemble prepares entire cantatas and other works by Bach, his contemporaries, and his predecessors, to be sung during Evensong. Every month! This month it’s music by Bach and Handel, and includes as soloist CSO flautist Randy Bowman. Part of an Episcopal evensong service, to which all are welcome. In Terrace Park.

Sunday, Feb 12, 8:00. It’s that time of year:  Classical Revolution!  The second Sunday of every month classical music comes where people live, at the Northside Tavern in Northside. And every February the music gets old – really old. A potpourri of ensembles and musical eras will grace the backroom stage. Past years have included hurdy-gurdy and Viking songs, Elizabethan tavern songs, lutes, flutes, and surprises galore. Come and have an ale of a good time.

Tuesday, Feb 14, 12:10. One more brand new group will debut this action-packed week. Fleurs de Lys focuses on French music as performed by strings, winds, and voice. Today’s concert will include music of Couperin, Moulinié, and others. As usual, bring your lunch or purchase one at Christ Church downtown for $5.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Early Music Festival Week 1

This year’s Early Music Festival opens Saturday, Feb 4, with two concerts on the west side of town.

At 2:00, Harper’s Robin will perform their annual concert at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse Immaculate Conception Chapel in Delhi. If you’ve never been before, you owe it to yourself both to experience the beautiful space in this gorgeous, domed, Baroque chapel – it’s truly lovely – and to hear the music of a harp choir. The small lever harps this group plays create a different sound than their big modern concert cousins. The repertoire ranges widely through centuries and countries, yet the effect is intimate and cohesive. The audience learns not only about an unusual instrument but about what it’s capable of in the aggregate. A rare opportunity for a revealing afternoon. Free.

Cantigium's leader
At 7:30 that same evening, Cantigium returns to St. Boniface in Northside. Cantigium is a chamber choir made up of former music students from Xavier who have now been singing together purely for the love of the thing for several years. Time and the firm hand of its conductor Scot Buzza have created a purity of sound and tone unmatched in many professional organizations. The range of music they tackle goes back to the very oldest written music extant, and in an acoustical space like St. Boniface the music shimmers as it did when it was new. Insanely, this concert is free.

On Sunday, Feb 5, at 6pm, the Choral Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral downtown will feature three works by German Baroque masters. One is J S Bach, who needs no introduction.
The other is Heinrich Schütz, and you might want to take note, as Schütz will be featured in several concerts this month. Born in 1585, exactly 100 years before Bach, he is generally considered the most important German composer before Bach. He is credited with importing Italian stylistic innovations into German music, and his influence echoes as far as Brahms and Webern. If a contemplative hour of prayer seems your best recourse this evening – this performance is part of an Episcopal service, to which all are welcome – fall under the influence of these giants in their field.

Tuesday, Feb 7, is the first of a month of lunchtime early music concerts as part of Christ Church Cathedral’s Live at Lunch series. Starting at 12:10, the concerts are all free. Bring your lunch, or purchase the lunch provided for $5. This week, the Shakespeare Band, consisting of lutes, guitars, bass, and soprano, perform music of Venice, including Monteverdi and Landi.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cincinnati Early Music Festival 2017

Let’s talk about the Cincinnati music scene for a minute. We all know it’s extraordinary. But even as
Does he look a little tired?
recently as 15 years ago it felt a little mired in the tried-and-true. And by that I mean the standard Mozart-Stravinsky spectrum that has nourished the classical music industry for a century.

A revolution has happened in our city. Cincinnati Opera and the CSO both regularly perform brand new works, hot off their composers’ hard drives, often with the composers in attendance. 20th century works have become so commonplace they aren’t even cause for comment.

And it seems everyone is stretching back in the other direction, too. Recently the May Festival Chorus calved off a chamber group for the performance of a Bach Cantata with a reduced and specialized CSO. The city’s first Baroque opera La Calisto from a couple of years ago sold out every show. The second, L’incoronazione di Poppea, is on the schedule for 2018. Audiences have made it clear that the old spectrum, covering as it did only 150 years of music, wasn’t nearly wide enough. Not when we should have 1000 years to choose from.

Our institutions have begun to explore outside the old boundaries, and they have found the smaller ensembles there waiting for them. Catacoustic Consort has been diving deep into Baroque music for 16 years. Church choirs like those at St Peter in Chains, Christ Church, and St. Thomas have begun routinely incorporating Renaissance music into their services. The CCM Early Music Lab, which allows for specializations in organ, harpsichord, viola da gamba, lute, and voice, grows every year, as the students clamor for more opportunities. Professionals have relocated to Cincinnati, realizing that at last they have a chance at a career in early music right here. When Classical Revolution puts out the call for early music, so many ensembles sign up that the music goes late into the night.

This year’s 5th anniversary Early Music Festival intends to expose the breadth and innovation of the smaller ensembles. It is packed with 18 performances by groups you have come to love, like Cantigium and Vicars Choral, and by new groups you won’t want to miss, like Schola Cincinnati and the Caladrian Ensemble. We have experienced amateurs in the Shakespeare Band and the new Fleurs de Lys, and professionals like Chris Wilke and Rod Stucky on Baroque guitars and Elizabeth Motter on Baroque harp. We’ll have children singing at the Bach CantataFest, college students with the CCM Collegium Vocale, and the extremely revered, internationally renowned Baroque cellist Jaap ter Linden with Catacoustic.

Definitely does not look tired
We even have a return to the do-it-yourself Saturday morning Come and Sing, where anyone can come and try singing madrigals, motets, and chants. It’s crazy fun.

The Cincinnati Early Music Festival begins February 4 (Harper’s Robin!). Full details of all our events can be found at

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Report from the Sixth Catacoustic Grant Winner: Shelby Mass

The 2016 winner of Catacoustic's Early Music Grant was Shelby Mass.  Shelby is currently a senior at Miami University, majoring in violin performance and Italian. Her hope is to continue on to graduate school and specialize in Baroque performance. She has attended Baroque performance workshops both in the US and in Europe. Her biggest need when she applied for the grant?  A Baroque bow!  Here is her report:

The bow is a Nardi, made of pernambuco
The Catacoustic Consort Grant program has enabled me to engage in a project that combines what I know with so much that is totally new. At the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute [attended this summer] I was stunned by the beauty and depth of this music, and I found myself completely hooked!

My inspiration is the relationship between humans and their art. A desire to explore the effect that history, philosophy, and music have upon each other led me to seek out resources for taking my search to the next level, and I am very blessed to have been chosen for a scholarship which enabled me to purchase my first Baroque bow. This bow has enabled me to prepare for upcoming auditions to graduate historical performance and performance practice programs. Simply practicing with my Baroque bow has given me a dramatically different understanding of the repertoire which I am studying, and Baroque performance practices have become much easier for me to understand and implement.

I began my early music adventure this summer with the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and an undergraduate summer research project on the contrasts between Baroque and Classical compositional and performance practices, and with my new bow I am now able to engage in continued learning on this subject! I have been so very grateful and happy to be able to work with Catacoustic Consort’s support of this project, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned!

We're hoping Shelby will get a chance to perform in town during the Cincinnati Early Music Festival in February.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Colin St-Martin, Baroque Flute Player

Colin St-Martin (Huntsville, TX) will join Catacoustic for the third time for our December 3 concert of French Baroque Christmas music. He has enjoyed a career as an orchestral musician, soloist, and teacher. Mr. St-Martin performs and records with many period instrument orchestras and chamber ensembles in both the US and Europe including: Arcanum, Opera Lafayette, the Washington Bach Consort, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Amercian Bach Soloists, The Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Cathedra, Ars Lyrica, Mercury Baroque, Arcanum, Bach Vespers, among others. In addition to his performance activities, he has many recordings to his credit, including the works of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Rebel, Lully, Monsigny, Gluck, and Grétry, among others.

I recently spoke with Colin and asked him some questions, so Catacoustic's audience can know more about his musical life story. Colin's creative, elegant, and natural playing inspires me every time I hear him! 

Tell me about your musical journey. Did you start with flute? How did you learn about Baroque flute?

I've always been a music lover. I was very lucky as a kid because, in addition to my dad be an avid audiophile and my mom playing the piano, we had season tickets to the Kennedy Center, so I had the opportunity to attend concerts quite often. Baroque music has always been my favorite, which I first experienced through the organ music of JS Bach. Naturally, I suppose, I wanted to play the organ, but as a child piano had to be my first step. I played for a few years, but I didn't (and still don't) have any affinity for that instrument, so I let my music studies go for a while. Luckily, I suppose, my oldest brother was required to take a music appreciation class during his undergraduate studies, which meant he had to buy a recorder. I began to play it, and after a while my parents suggested that I take recorder lessons. I was extremely lucky to have found a great teacher who still comes to hear me play when I'm in DC! For my 14th birthday (I think?), my parents bought tickets for a recital by the renowned recorder player Franz Bruggen. I had no idea that he was also going to play the baroque flute on the same program which was quite the revelation for me, never having seen it performed before. The very next day I set about trying to find an instrument and a teacher, which I was very fortunate to be able to do. When it was time for university, I chose music over science, which I also loved. After an impromptu audition with Bart Kuijken, my musical idol, backstage at the Smithsonian Museum, he recommended that before coming to study in Europe that I get a firmer grasp of the basics (theory, history, etc.), which I did for one year at New England Conservatory. In 1982 I was accepted into Bart's class in Brussels, where I studied for three years and then returned to the States to study at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University School of Music, where I was both a graduate student and adjunct faculty.

What is a typical week in your life like? Do you teach, as well as perform?

These days I don't have a regular teaching position. I taught at Peabody 17 years, but I spend my time now doing research and getting ready for concerts, which takes up a huge amount of time.

What is your favorite type of repertoire to play?

Definitely French Baroque music, next to Bach. I love the French language, art, architecture, and science from the period before the French Revolution. As repressive as the Ancien Regime doubtless was, many artists and craftsman of France seemed to find the means to disseminate their work throughout the western world at the time making it perhaps the strongest cultural influence on thought and creativity at the time.

What do you think of early music in the US now? Audience perception? Playing level of musicians? How does this compare to Europe?

It is very hit or miss, as far as the level in the US. I think the sheer volume of musical genres that are available to presenters these days sometimes does not translate into a consistently high level of performance for an audience to enjoy. I've seen many concert calendars where there might be two early music groups represented in a season: one a highly respected ensemble with numerous recordings and the other a group of enthusiastic amateur performers. In my experience, I find that in Europe the average level of early music performance is higher, though I strongly believe that their best is no better than ours. In order for professional early music performance to thrive in the US, we need presenters and audiences that can appreciate it and who are willing to make the effort to support American groups, like Catacoustic!

Where do you see the future of early music in the US?

I have been thinking about this a lot. In attempting to build audiences, there is the very real temptation for early music groups to go the "greatest hits" route of music history, which can stretch the skill and knowledge of any performer to the breaking point. My interest in going into this field in the first place was to be able to get as much as possible from the repertoire and instruments that I love most and not "do the best I can" with as much repertoire and as many instruments that a music director can throw at me. A very good thing is that more and more universities and conservatories offer early music performance as a course of professional study which can only serve to improve things and help create ever more discerning audiences.

What should someone do, if they are interested in beginning or playing Baroque flute more seriously?

My advice is to listen to lots of recordings and get in touch with a player/singer that you have heard and really like. Get their advice on a recommended course of study. Early music is a tiny little world compared to the music industry in general, and most players/singers are happy to help out those just getting started. Even the most well known among us are not celebrities in the common sense of the word– it’s not like trying to get an interview with Meryl Streep!