Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Business of The Catacoustic Consort, Part 1

Artistic Planning
How do I choose a program?
There are numerous factors that lead me to choose a program. The musicians of Catacoustic are basically me and people I choose for the particular project. This is both good and bad. Bad because there is a large expense that is associated with importing early music performers from around the world: travel, housing, and food. But, there is a lot of flexibility that goes along with that. I can program many types of music: Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical and vocal and instrumental. I enjoy bringing in incredibly talented musicians from whom I can learn and grow. For example, my partnership with Michael Leopold of Milano, Italy, has truly helped me grow and learn so much about Italian music, and this transfers to better concerts year-after-year for the Catacoustic audience!

I choose a program based on:
1)being inspired by a talented musician.
The program "The Virtuoso Basso" featured talented bass singer Dan Cole.
2)desire to feature a special instrument.
The "Awakening of the Harpsichord" was the inaugural concert for Catacoustic's new harpsichord. While we occasionally will have a harpsichord in a concert, it normally serves an accompanying function. This concert featured the harpsichord in a solo role, showcasing the many colors and characters of the instrument.
Several years ago, we had a program featuring the cornetto, and this season we will have a concert for the baroque oboe.
3)Genre that speaks to me.
I particularly love vocal music of early 17th-century Italy. Catacoustic's winning a national competition and release of the Italian laments CD only pushed me further into this exploration of this passionate music.
4)Particular piece of music.
Sometimes I listen to a piece and feel like I will absolutely DIE, if it is not programmed in a Catacoustic concert. An example of this is Charpentier's opera La Descente d'Orphee aux Enfers.
5)Historical period that pricks my interest.
17th-century nuns have been a delight to read about, and fortunately, their music is wonderful! Often the interest in the historical context of the music is a natural result of interest in the music, such as 18th-century French women who played the pardessus de viole.
I chose Couperin's Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lecons de Tenebres) was on our season last year. This was a result of our collaboration with Hebrew Union College, the Roman Catholic Community, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Oberlin College. They were interest in the text, historical context, and musicological background, about which they gave lectures prior to our concert.
We also collaborated with Cincinnati's Esquire Theatre to play a concert of music from Tous les Matins du Monde following a free screening of the film.
While there is always a need to balance many factors, including fiscal responsibility and an understanding of the area where we share our music and the desires of our audience, Catacoustic has had a wonderful amount of variety of programming that has been inspiring, and educational for all!

Extra Expenses for Early Music Instruments?

I have been having a difficult time coming up with topics to write about in my blog, so this morning I sent a request to my Facebook friends to give suggestions. One topic was "extra expenditures required by players of period instruments versus modern instruments - or - how much money I spend maintaining my instrument."
In general, the cost of purchasing a professional quality viola da gamba is less than a violin or cello. I can buy a fine bass viol for $7-10,000, whereas the pricetag would be double that for a violin or cello of comparable quality. Thank goodness, because as a gamba player I have multiple instruments: two trebles (Renaissance consort instrument and French baroque solo instrument), a pardessus, a lirone, and two basses (consort bass and French baroque seven string). The same thing applies to bows. Ours may cost a bit less, but we need more of them...
I use a nice rosin that can be used for all my viols (and for violins), so the cost is the same. As long as it doesn't break, it lasts forever.
Strings can break frequently, especially in the summer. That is a huge expense, especially for so many instruments. Strings are one of my biggest expenses... Ugh.
I had a problem this year that can affect anyone - bow mites. Two of my bows had been taken advantage of by these pesky creatures. From what I understand, bow mites are the larvae from moths (the same ones that can eat holes through sweaters). They sawed off the hair from my bow. No damage was done to the stick, so I put moth balls in my case and closet and had the bows rehaired. That costed the same as a violin or cello rehair job - around $60 each. Ugh. I have now learned that I must store my bows out in the open, where the bugs - at least THOSE bugs - cannot get to them.
Music is more expensive for the viol. There is much less demand for viol music than for piano or violin. And, you cannot go to the Sam Goody music store to purchase gamba music. I order my music or use the wonderful music library at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, which is a wonderful resource.
For the most part, a luthier who does quality work on violins, cellos, or basses can do repairs on viols. Nick Lloyd, a Cincinnati-based double bass maker does excellent work on my viols.
Frets can wear out frequently, but they are easy to fix and can be replaced with old broken strings.
Early music recordings can be more expensive, although now that recordings are more easily available over the internet, this is a levelling factor.
I don't have other regular maintenance costs. I have occasional openings in seams that are easy for a luthier to fix. I don't use different bridges for summer and winter, which would be a great deal of trouble and expense for all my instruments.