The 12th season of the Catacoustic Consort is winding down, and it’s time for a look back on perhaps the most successful season so far. With the energetic leadership of a new Board—including an active, enthusiastic Advisory Board—we witnessed lots of firsts this year. We may one day look back on the 12th season as the tipping point—the year Cincinnati truly became a national center for early music, with Catacoustic leading the way.
The season had so many highlights. Back in October, Catacoustic performed in Middletown for Middfest, and then brought that show to Cincinnati for the Constella Festival as well. It was an exciting chance to welcome Elizabeth Motter to the stage on Baroque Triple Harp, in a beautiful concert of French Baroque music.
In December we enjoyed the spectacular Stabat Mater concert. Soprano Youngmi Kim set the rafters ringing with church music from 17th century Rome. For the first time, Catacoustic worked with a stage director, Omer Ben-Saedia, and the result was an incredible atmosphere and, to Artistic Director Annalisa Pappano, the musical highlight of the year.
In February Cincinnati welcomed Matthias Maute, recorder virtuoso extraordinaire, with record-setting attendance. If recorder were better known, Maute would be as acclaimed as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, or any other superstar of a modern instrument. His musicianship is among the best you will ever hear on any instrument, and he got an electric energy out of the audience that evening. Not coincidentally, the surprisingly large local recorder scene turned out in force, and they were energized as well. It’s clearly time for a re-birth of interest in this venerable instrument in our city.
Next up was another first—a collaboration with another local music ensemble. The March concert with concert:nova of music inspired by Shakespeare was a huge hit with the two large audiences that were actually cheering by the end. The Mercantile Library was a beautiful venue, and Jennifer Joplin of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company led us deep into a world outside our daily lives.
We wrapped up with the annual candlelight concert. This was an intense, complicated program of all John Dowland, and the audience was right with the performers the whole way. Annalisa felt like she was playing with the best consort of viols of her life. Another Shakespearean, Jeremy Dubin, helped put it all together. And a Project Grant from ArtsWave helped make it possible.
Some spectacular music was made, right here in Cincinnati, that people in other cities may never get a chance to hear. The rapidly growing audiences show how much this fact is appreciated. Cincinnati is no longer just for Beethoven and Brahms—it’s clearly for Bach and Buxtehude as well. Viol consorts perform at church services. Historic instruments like harpsichords and Baroque organs are in use across town. Early Music workshops have large enrollments. Amateurs gather in each other’s homes to sing and play. The city’s universities are proving grounds for Renaissance choral music, Baroque opera, medieval chant. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company recites at Catacoustic’s concerts, and Catacoustic plays for their productions in return. It’s happening all around us.
Which leads us to another first for the year: The Cincinnati Early Music Festival. This February saw a ground-breaking attempt to corral the remarkable numbers of early music performers into a platform where they could be showcased properly. The month was packed with events of all kinds, different venues, unusual instruments, music from a wide range of centuries. Next year’s Festival, spearheaded by Catacoustic, is already in the planning stages.
This was also the third year for Catacoustic’s scholarship program. The award this year went to Michael Zaret, who, after some years away, is returning to an old love: the recorder. We hope to hear great things from Michael going forward.
The real end of the season will be Memorial Day, May 27. We are having our annual Yard Sale, the proceeds of which go toward the scholarship fund. This year we will be on Upland, the most beautiful street in East Walnut Hills. Please donate any goods looking for a new gig, or come by and find new treasures.
Then head home and start counting down the days till the 13th season. It’s going to be great!