Monday, August 28, 2017

Catacoustic Activities this Summer

The activities of your favorite Catacoustic musicians do not stop in the summer between seasons. Summer 2017 has been an unusually eventful one for all of us, so permit me a moment of pride…

Catacoustic Consort Baroque harp player Elizabeth Motter went to Italy this summer to work with Mara Galassi, perhaps the finest Baroque harp player in the world. And, soprano Melissa Harvey spent the summer singing with Cincinnati Opera in roles for their productions of Frida and Song from the Uproar. She sounded great! Melissa, Elizabeth, and I also raised funds for our exciting upcoming CD project, in addition to lots of musical preparation! You will soon be able to watch the video we created (funding from Summerfair and the Ohio Arts Council) with videographer Melissa Godoy on YouTube.

 I was fortunate to have a number of inspirational experiences this summer. It began with a concert tour with the Italian ensemble, Cappella Artemisia. This ensemble is led by groundbreaking performance practice scholar-singer, Candace Smith, who has revolutionized how people perform nuns’ music. We began the tour in Providence, RI at a nunology conference (yes, that is a thing!), where I heard interesting presentations and ran into Craig Monson, who gave a lecture for us here in Cincinnati several years ago. The second stop on our tour was at the University of Oregon, where I stayed with Marc Vanscheeuwijk (a mentor to many Catacoustic musicians), who shared some of his exciting recent research, including a new CD-book set about the curvilinear history of the cello and a project where he and colleagues discovered historic viols that were painted gold to adorn an old organ in Germany. He had the instruments (interesting in their construction) recreated and made a CD with them. Our third stop was in Los Angeles, where we played at the beautiful campus of Mount St. Mary’s University, and their girls’ choir sang with us. We traveled to UCLA Irvine, where I met another brilliant nunologist scholar, Colleen Reardon. From there we flew to the Center at Donaldson, IN – a beautiful convent among the cornfields! It was great to play nuns’ music for nuns, and I loved hearing one of the audience members call out, “go, nuns!” Our final stop was in Lancaster, PA, where Candy’s husband Bruce Dickey (cornetto player who played with Catacoustic) joined us for a nice visit. It was such a pleasure to work with these talented ladies, who have an intimate understanding of the Italian language and its music.

The next happy event of the summer was learning that my dear friend Joanna Blendulf was hired to teach viola da gamba and Baroque cello at Indiana University! What a great choice that was for the school, and it is wonderful to have her and her husband (who has sung with Catacoustic several times) Aaron Cain living nearby! If we are lucky, we will have Joanna gracing our stage much more in the future.

My next stop was at the Boston Early Music Festival, where my mentor Tina Chancey directed a pardessus de viole symposium. This was my first time at BEMF, and I marveled at turning around every moment to run into colleagues – some whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years! On the other hand, I started the festival by coincidentally sitting next to Dr. Michael Unger, harpsichord professor at CCM! It was thrilling to meet pardessus players and scholars from all over the world who have led me along on my own journey with this instrument. The concerts and opera at BEMF were memorable and renewing, including an ornate French Baroque opera (with many Catacoustic musicians), Handel’s Resurrezione, and a concert with Bruce Dickey (and Joanna Blendulf).

Later in June I taught for the first time at the Mountain Collegium workshop in North Carolina, where I fell in love with that early music community. Recorder, viol, sackbut, cornetto, and harp players spent a week joyously playing and learning. The faculty (including Gail Schroeder, who will be rejoining us this season) were exceptional and all pitched in for a wonderful atmosphere! I was thrilled that my student Catacoustic Young Artist Wei-Shuan Yu joined me at the workshop.

July took me to the national conclave of the Viola da Gamba Society of America, and it was wonderful to see former Catacoustic scholarship winner Cole Guillien there (still playing beautifully), as well as, again, Wei-Shuan Yu. Wei-Shuan received a scholarship from Bourbon Baroque’s Nico Fortin Memorial fund to attend, and she made quite a splash with her elegant musicianship. I was very proud! Catacoustic was a featured ensemble in the concert that week, and our program was received extremely well!

Finally, a little vacation time! I went to Germany for several week in August to be with my husband’s family. We saw three operas while we were there: the first was at the Innsbruck Early Music Festival. We saw Monteverdi’s Ulisse, and I was pleased to reconnect with Alex Opsahl, playing cornetto in that production. You may remember her from the Catacoustic and Cincinnati Opera Calisto several years ago. The musical direction and the orchestra were fabulous! Then, I saw Il Trovatore outdoors in Erfurt. Finally, in the musical experience of a lifetime, my husband and I were able to experience Tristan at Bayreuth. I am still dreaming of that evening.

On my last day in Germany, I met with luthier Klaus Jacobson. He has been crafting Catacoustic’s new theorbo, for which we have been waiting three years, and I was able to take delivery of it at last. It is now in my music room, aka Catacoustic Headquarters, waiting for its inaugural performance February 10. (Check out our upcoming season here!)

It has been quite a summer. I feel grateful to be a musician and to be able to have a group like Catacoustic with an audience such as you. It has been bracing to travel around the country encountering Catacoustic’s musical DNA in so many places. I have ben reminded that our connection to the larger community goes both ways, to the benefit of us here at home, as well as those far away we may never know about. I am renewed and ready for our first concert of the season September 22!