Monday, August 30, 2010

How Naxos and Early Music America Competition Impacted Catacoustic

I was recently asked by Maria Coldwell, the director of Early Music America, how our winning the EMA and Naxos recording competition impacted the Catacoustic Consort. In only our second season here in Cincinnati, it gave Catacoustic a boost and a seal of approval that what I was trying to do in bringing early music to Cincinnati was on the right track. Cincinnati is a wonderful place for the arts, but when I started Catacoustic ten years ago, Brahms was considered early music. The competition helped me garner respect here at home, as well as nationally and internationally. The most important thing for me at the time was the attention at home that winning a national competition and a cd recording on the prestigious and well-known Naxos label offered. So many groups start up and eventually dissolve - just like small businesses. This extra attention and notice helped push us further faster with the local audience. This win also gave me a personal boost. There are so many ups and downs with the business end of running a music group. It is worthwhile as long as the ups balance out or outweigh the downs. This surely helped tilt the scale!
It is the 25th anniversary year for Early Music America, and through their creativity in helping promote early music ensembles and musicians throughout the country, they have given a real boost to the Catacoustic Consort right here in Cincinnati.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recording Strategy Blog Website...

I just realized that I did not attach the address to read about the new "better" strategy for making recordings.
Here it is:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A New Strategy for Making Recordings

Writing my recent blog entry about the reason one makes recordings has really caused me to think. The past ten years have been constantly changing for the recording industry, and we musicians are trying to analyze the best way to go about it. I read a blog this afternoon that suggested that most musicians are approaching their recordings in the wrong way - that the question is not how to sell their recordings, but how to best market themselves with their recordings, even by giving them away. I would love to hear your thoughts about this!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Matthew White and Les Voix Baroques

I spent the past month in Canada performing with some of the best singers I have ever worked with... One of the programs was with Matthew White's ensemble, Les Voix Baroques. Some years ago I performed several operas with Matthew, and to this day, I have a hard time hearing Poppea with anyone else singing the role of Ottone.
Matthew studied English literature in college, and he grew up singing in a cathedral choir in Ottawa, five services each week. He studied privately with Jan Simons at McGill. Matthew is a countertenor, which is still an unusual voice type, but it is becoming more and more common to hear excellent countertenors. Matthew said that he learned how to survive, musically, in the cathedral choir environment. He was exposed to all kinds of music in the Anglican church. He also heard the countertenor Daniel Taylor, who was a few years older. Matthew wanted to sing with this kind-of voice, and it was natural for him to do so.
Countertenors are singing more in Cincinnati. John Holiday sang in the Catacoustic Bach concert last April. Steven Rickards sang in our first season, and Daniel Bubeck has sung several concerts. Paul Flight sang in this year's May Festival performance of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. William Sauerland, a gifted countertenor who sang in the well-known ensemble Chanticleer, moved back to his hometown of Cincinnati. Most recently, a countertenor won first prize in the second "Opera Idol" of the Cincinnati Opera.
Matthew is an amazing talent, and I was curious to know more about his ideas for aspiring young singers as well as his goals for his own musical future.
#1)His first suggestion for young singers wanting to sing early music is to go to Europe to get the languages down. Study Italian, German, and French. Knowing how the language functions will save a lot of time when deciphering scores. Also, so much is happening in Europe. It is good to be in that environment for the exposure to early music performance.
#2) Spend time working with both your regular voice teacher and coaches who know what will be expected of you in professional early music circles. Your vocal technique should not be at odds with your musical interpretation. It should be a tool for expressing yourself more easily. Subsequently, find a musical coach and voice teacher who speak a compatible language.
#3)One should learn to teach oneself. There is an enormous amount of free information out there- the most compelling artists are the ones who sound like they have digested the important facts and then made some personal decisions.
#4)Learning "early music style": Go to as many concerts as possible and buy as many CD and DVD recordings as you can afford.

Matthew founded Les Voix Baroques with Chloe Meyers and Amanda Keesmaat as a forum to explore the alto repertory. It has since expanded to be a group that focuses on one-to-a-part vocal music that features solo and ensemble singing, especially Renaissance and early Baroque polyphony. White has since taken ownership of the group. His goals are to make Les Voix Baroques the premiere vocal ensemble in North America featuring vocal soloists singing in ensemble. Much like Collegium Vocale Gent, he sees the ensemble as flexible in size but featuring a regular core of experienced early music soloists who know how to sing together.
Les Voix has made several CD recordings to great acclaim. White says that it is much easier to make CD's in Canada because there is a lot of federal and provincial funding. Their next recording is of Bach's St. John Passion, which is a collaboration with the Arion Ensemble. White's ultimate goals for Les Voix? Two goals that I absolutely respect and know will sustain them for years to come: to sing better and to have fun making beautiful music.
I strongly recommend recordings of Les Voix Baroques to anyone. I especially love their recording of Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri. CD's may be purchased at

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Grant Received for Harp and Theorbo Purchase!

I am pleased to announce that the Abraham, Katie, Eleanor, and Natalie Feld Memorial Fund as well as the Ruth Ballard Klausmeyer Fund (via The Greater Cincinnati Foundation) has provided a grant to the Catacoustic Consort to go toward the purchase of a Baroque triple strung harp and a theorbo!
This is thrilling news! Elizabeth Motter, a Cincinnati professional harp player, is learning the triple harp (named such for its three parallel rows of strings) and recently returned from the Amherst Early Music Festival, where she participated in the Historical Harp Society Workshop. She is planning to dedicate time and energy to learning Baroque music on this beautiful, difficult instrument. Elizabeth fell in love with the triple harp last year when Julia Seager-Scott came from Toronto with her instrument. This is just the thing that will have a huge impact on Cincinnati's early music scene!
The theorbo purchase will be to ensure that we can have theorbo players here for concerts. It is always a huge risk for Catacoustic's theorbo players (Daniel Swenberg, Michael Leopold, and others) to fly here with their instrument. There are huge fines for over-sized luggage, and one never knows it the instrument will make it here in one piece. The theorbo is an essential instrument for Catacoustic's repertory, and until a professional theorbo player moves here, we need to do what we can to see that it is possible to play with this instrument.
I have commissioned a harp from the English builder, Simon Capp (, and it will be ready for delivery this Fall!
These grants provide a portion of the funding necessary to purchase these instruments. We will have a fundraiser concert soon (date TBA). If you would like to contribute to the harp and theorbo fund by making a tax-deductible donation, please mail a check payable to the Catacoustic Consort at PO Box 198022, Cincinnati, OH 45219. You may also email any questions to
I am home for a day before I head off to Vancouver to spend some more time for concerts in Canada. My Montreal experience was wonderful! I played with Les Voix Baroques (led by Matthew White and Alex Weimann) and Le Nouvel Opera (Susie Le Blanc and Alex Weimann). It was wonderful to play with new people, to get new musical perspectives, and to make new friends. The rehearsal days were very long and intense, so I had no energy to come back and do any work, including writing for the blog. However, the music making was energizing at the same time. I am inspired by the high levels of singing and playing. It was also pretty incredible to see how much is happening in Montreal with early music. The province puts a lot of money into arts and culture. There are numerous baroque orchestras and EM chamber groups in Montreal. It is possible to make a living there in early music!
I had breakfast with a good friend of mine one day, Matt Jennejohn. He is making a living there as a cornetto maker, baroque oboist, and cornetto player. I knew him in the mid 90's when we both played music for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Those were fun days, and then he wasn't even playing Baroque oboe and had just begun playing cornetto (recorder player first). Very good to see him doing well!
The music for LVB was a beautiful program of madrigals - very hard! I played tenor viol and lirone, and there were two violins, cello, theorbo, and harpsichord. It was refreshing to hear a new take on violin playing with these great players! This country is dominated by the IU school of playing (which I love), and it was good to hear a new perspective. The theorbo player (Sylvain Bergeron) was great and loads of fun. The director, Alex Weimann, had an excellent sense of style, and was an excellent conductor! When I travel for concerts, it is normally with people whom I have played before or people who have studied at the same school. Very exciting to have this experience!