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