Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Instruments and Instrumentalists of La Calisto with Cincinnati Opera and Catacoustic Consort

The Catacoustic Consort has been fortunate to collaborate with Cincinnati Opera in their first ever production of a Baroque opera - Cavalli's La Calisto. (There are also some members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, playing violin, cello, and bass.) Many people have approached us at intermission and following the concert, wanting to know more about the instruments and us. So, I thought it would be handy to have an extra bit of program note material for people who might like to learn a bit more...

The music in this opera is played in a creative and improvisatory manner that is surprisingly similar to jazz. The composer provides the material for the solo voices, and only a skeletal bass line for the accompanying instruments remains. Instruments such as the theorbo, harpsichord, Baroque guitar, and lirone are expected to know how to play the correct chords according to certain theoretical rules of harmony. This practice, called basso continuo or simply continuo, was a very common way of playing music in the Baroque period.

About the Instruments
The viola da gamba was one of the predominant instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Western Europe. “Viola da gamba” literally means viola of the leg. The viola da gamba (or viol) is a fretted instrument with from five to seven strings and is played with an underhand bow grip, rather than the overhand bow grip of the violin family. The viola da gamba comes in a variety of ranges that correspond to the human voice: soprano, tenor, and bass. The viol is a hybrid of several Middle Eastern instruments and arrived first in Spain with Jewish musicians from the Middle East. When the Jews were expelled from Spain, many went to Italy and worked in the courts of Italian nobles. These nobles (especially Isabella d’Este in Mantua) took this new instrument and worked with their instrument makers to make it an “Italian” instrument, which is the viol we know today. In Italy, the viola da gamba was mostly an ensemble instrument that played vocal music, although it also played virtuosic improvisatory arrangements of solo songs. Jews later traveled to England (around the time of Henry VIII) and brought the viola da gamba. In the Baroque period, the viola da gamba flourished in France and developed into a “French” instrument with the addition of a seventh string on the bass. There is a wonderful abundance of music for the viola da gamba, as it was an instrument that wealthy aristocrats played. The noble class could afford expensive instruments, paper for the music, and professional musicians who would teach and compose music.

The lirone (pronounced lee-roh-nay) was played throughout Italy from the late 16th through the 17th centuries. It is a bowed string instrument that is held similar to a cello, but it has anywhere from nine to fourteen strings, with three or four strings being played at a time. The lirone was used to highlight emotional peaks in music and was considered ideal for dramatic laments. The lirone is a uniquely “Catholic” instrument and was especially favored amongst the Jesuits. It was described in Greek and Roman mythology and was brought into the church to attract parishioners.

The new harmonic language of the Baroque period called for a fuller chromatic range of notes than what came before it in the Renaissance. Whereas earlier harps only played diatonic notes (white keys on the piano), more chromatic notes (black notes on the piano) were now necessary. The Baroque triple harp has two identical diatonic rows of strings on the outside, with an inside row of chromatic notes.

In 17th-century Italy, the bent-neck lute was replaced by the theorbo (pronounced thee-ohr-boe). The bass strings were mounted on an extension, giving them nearly twice the string length of the treble strings. Naturally, this gave the bass more strength and volume. The purpose of the theorbo is to reinforce the bass, whereas the purpose of the lirone is to enrich the harmonies. The composer Giulio Caccini said that the theorbo was the perfect instrument to accompany the voice.

The recorder is a family of instruments (similar to the viola da gamba) with sizes ranging from the sopranino, soprano, treble, tenor, bass, and great bass. It is basically an extended whistle with a thumbhole and about seven holes for the remaining fingers. It was quite popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With its history tracing back to the Middle Ages, the recorder has undergone several changes in appearance and importance throughout the centuries. Characteristic for this early wind instrument are eight finger holes, including one thumbhole, as well as a block of wood set into the shaped mouthpiece, creating the place for tone production. The German and French names for the instrument “Blockfloete” and “flûte á bec” reflect this feature. Evolved from a one-piece body with cylindrical bore and single holes as seen in medieval iconography, the recorder became popular as a consort instrument during the Renaissance, forming a small ensemble of differently sized recorders from great bass to garklein (one octave above the soprano). By the 16th century, the recorder also began its development into a solo instrument. A substantial portion of recorder music was composed during the Baroque period. Eighteenth-century instruments have a conical bore, some double holes, a wider range, and often a more ornamented design than earlier models. The recorder fell out of use towards the end of the 18th century, and experienced its revival along with the rise of historical performance practice in the 20th century.

The cornetto is a wind instrument made of wood, covered with leather, and played with a small cup-shaped mouthpiece. Rare as it may be today, in the 16th century the cornetto was second in importance only to the organ as an instrument for sacred music, and was considered by many to be the most perfect of all instruments for its ability to imitate the human voice. The extreme difficulty of the cornetto, together with its remarkable agility and expressivity, made it necessarily an instrument of virtuosi, many of whom were among the most famous and well-paid in Italy. After 1600, cornetto virtuosi increasingly had to give way to virtuosi of a new instrument, the violin, but for the first half of the 17th century, the cornetto and the violin were considered virtually interchangeable. Many musical works, therefore, were written "per cornetto overo violino." With fashion moving inexorably in the direction of string instruments, it was inevitable that standards on the cornetto would fall. Though the cornetto was played in Italy until the arrival of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century, the virtuosi had long since disappeared, their "golden age" extending from about 1550 to 1650.

About the Catacoustic Consort
The Catacoustic Consort presents a variety of vocal and instrumental music from Renaissance chamber music to Baroque opera, with the intent of recreating the sound of the music when it was originally composed. The music is performed on period instruments such as the viola da gamba, theorbo, organ, harpsichord, Baroque guitar, and lute. In addition to a historically informed approach to performing music, Catacoustic is dedicated to approaching music with an understanding of the life and times when it was originally played. Some favorite composers of early music include J.S. Bach, John Dowland, Marain Marais, and Claudio Monteverdi.

The Catacoustic Consort is dedicated to the early music community in the greater Cincinnati area with its annual subscription series of five or six concerts. Catacoustic also provides a rental program of early instruments; concert tours (travels to San Francisco, Colombia, Portland, etc.); offers an annual scholarship for instruments, training, or early music education; and sponsors the annual Cincinnati Early Music Festival, which celebrates local musicians engaged in the performance of early music. Catacoustic is also committed to outreach to senior citizens.

Based in historic East Walnut Hills (Cincinnati), Ohio, the Catacoustic Consort is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information about the Catacoustic Consort, visit www.catacoustic.com.

Musicians’ Bios
Annalisa Pappano
(Founder and Artistic Director of Catacoustic Consort, bass viola da gamba, and lirone) studied at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute and at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Her playing has been described by critics as “mercurial and enchanting” and “with a sound that is lighter than air with the airy luster of gilding on the mirrors of a rococo drawing room.” She has performed throughout Belgium, England, Ireland, Colombia, Canada, and the U.S. and has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and has played at the Berkeley and Vancouver Early Music Festivals and the Ojai Music Festival. Pappano is a member of Atalante (England) and has performed with numerous other ensembles including the Houston Grand Opera, the Cleveland Opera, the Portland Opera, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (San Francisco), Les Voix Baroques, Opera Atelier, the Toronto Consort, the Concord Ensemble, Cappella Artemisia (Bologna), Wildcat Viols, and Consortium Carissimi. She has taught at Viola da Gamba Society of America national conclaves, the Viola da Gamba Society Pacific Northwest and Northeast chapters, the San Diego Early Music Workshop, ViolsWest, the Madison Early Music Workshop, and has been a guest lecturer at numerous universities. Pappano led the Catacoustic Consort to win the grand prize in the Naxos / Early Music America Live Recording Competition and recorded a program of Italian laments on the Naxos label. Pappano teaches viola da gamba at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Michael Leopold holds both an undergraduate degree in music and a master’s degree in historical plucked instruments from American Universities as well a degree in lute and theorbo from L’Istituto di Musica Antica of the Accademia Internazionale della Musica in Milan, Italy. Originally from Northern California, he continues to reside in Milan and has performed both as a soloist and as an accompanist throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, Chile, Mexico and the United States. He has played with a number of leading Italian early music groups, including Concerto Italiano, La Risonanza, La Venexiana and La Pietà de’ Turchini and several American period-instrument ensembles. He has also collaborated with several orchestras and opera companies, including Orchestra Verdi di Milano, Opera Australia, San Francisco Opera, Barcelona Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Gulbenkian Mùsica, and Portland Opera. His performances in operas have been noted in various reviews, “Michael Leopold was a standout on theorbo, providing some of the most sensitive and heartfelt musical moments of the evening,” (Kathryn Bacasmot, Chicago Classical Music. Teseo, Chicago Opera Theater) and “High marks especially to the marvelous theorbo, lute and baroque guitar specialist, Michael Leopold, whose recitatives added dazzling color.” (Harvey Steiman, Seen and Heard International. Xerxes, San Francisco Opera). He can be heard in recordings on the Stradivarius, Glossa, Naïve, and Naxos labels.

An accomplished and versatile harpist, Elizabeth Motter’s career has taken her across the U.S., as well as to Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Israel. Highlights include the Aspen Music Festival, two seasons with Des Moines Metro Opera, three summers in Italy at the Spoleto Festival, playing with the New World Symphony in Miami, and the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras. She spent three months performing in Japan and, as a finalist in the Singapore Symphony auditions, was invited to perform a series of concerts there in 1997. She has had the privilege of playing in orchestras supporting such legends as Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau, The King’s Singers, and Frank Sinatra. Elizabeth began her study of the baroque triple harp in 2011. She has attended the Amherst Early Music Festival, Accademia d’Amore in Seattle, Oberlin's Baroque Performance Institute, and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance degree from the Oberlin Conservatory. She currently resides in Cincinnati, teaching at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department and performing with many professional ensembles throughout the region. She has participated in recordings made by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, as well as two Christmas CD’s with Cincinnatis Vocal Arts Ensemble.

Alex Opsahl studied recorder with Peter Holtslag and Daniel Bruggen at the Royal Academy of Music. She studied cornetto in Italy with Bruce Dickey, continuing at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. She was the winner of the 2003 Moeck Solo Recorder competition, the 2001 and 2003 RAM Early Music Prize and 2003 Hilda Anderson Dean Award. She works now both as a cornettist and recorder player across Europe and the US. Alex has performed with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Apollo’s Fire, the Green Mountain Project, Le Studio Musique Anciennes de Montréal, Musica Angelica, The Whole Noyse and American Bach Soloists. She has performed at the Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and the Royal Albert Hall, and played in filmed productions of L’Incoronazione di Poppea with both Oslo Opera and Glyndebourne Opera. She recorded Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto in C Minor, RV 441, with the Norwegian period orchestra Barokkanerne, and the JD Berlin cornetto concerto with the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra. Alex is a member of the Dark Horse Consort and is the Music Director of the LA-based ensemble Tesserae.

Kiri Tollaksen enjoys a varied career as a performer and teacher. Equally skilled on trumpet and cornetto (a wind instrument used primarily in 17th century Western Europe), Kiri has been praised for her "stunning technique, and extreme musicality," (Journal of the International Trumpet Guild). She has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe with numerous groups such as Apollo's Fire, The Folger Consort, Tenet, Green Mountain Project, Piffaro, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, New York Collegium, Concerto Palatino, La Fenice, the Huelgas Ensemble, the Catacoustic Consort and Seattle Baroque Orchestra. She has performed both at the Boston Early Music Festival, and at the Bloomington Early Music Festival, and she is a founding member of the ensembles Anaphantasia and Dark Horse Consort.

As a professional trumpet player, Kiri performs with the River Raisin Ragtime Revue in Tecumseh, Michigan, and freelances throughout Michigan. From 1996-2005, she played the Eb soprano saxhorn with the Dodworth Saxhorn Band (a re-creation of a 19th century community brass band). From 1995-2004, Kiri was a member of the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Gustav Meier.
Kiri maintains a teaching studio in Ann Arbor, has taught cornetto at the Amherst Early Music Festival, and was on faculty at the Early Music Institute at Indiana Univeristy from 2006-2010. Kiri holds performing degrees in trumpet from Eastman, Yale, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. Her discography includes recordings with the Huelgas Ensemble, La Fenice, Apollo's Fire, Piffaro, The New York Collegium, La Gente d'Orfeo, the River Raisin Ragtime Revue and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.

Michael Unger is a multiple award-winning harpsichordist and organist and has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician in North America, Europe and Japan. He is a First Prize winner of the International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo, a First Prize and Audience Prize winner of the National Young Artists’ Competition of the American Guild of Organsits (NYACOP), and a Second Prize and Audience Award winner of the International Schnitger Organ Competition on the historic organs of Alkmaar, the Netherlands. He received favorable international reviews for his debut solo recordings under the Naxos and Pro Organo labels, and his performances have been broadcast on North American and European radio. Recent harpsichord performances include the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and appearances with the Skaneateles Festival, New York State Baroque, and Publick Musick. Michael holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music, and is a Gold Medal graduate of the University of Western Ontario. Since August 2013, he is Assistant Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Lutenist and guitarist David Walker has performed extensively throughout the United States, earning praise for his “surety of technique and expressive elegance,” (Columbus Dispatch) as well as his “tremendous dexterity and careful control” (Bloomington Herald Times). David has appeared with such early music groups as Chatham Baroque, Clarion Music Society, Mercury, the Newberry Consort, and Tempesta di Mare, and is a member of the chamber ensemble Ostraka. He has performed in numerous baroque opera productions, including engagements with the Wolf Trap Opera Company, Glimmerglass Opera, and Boston Baroque. Festival highlights include the Savannah Music Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and solo recitals for the Bloomington Early Music Festival and the University of Louisville Guitar Festival. Recording credits include Ostraka’s critically acclaimed debut, Division, in addition to recordings for Sono Luminus and Linn Records.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Catacoustic CD Available June 19

Five years ago, my dear friend Joanna Blendulf and I made a CD recording of our pardessus duo program. (The pardessus is such a rare little instrument--it was only played in France, and only during the 18th century!--that very few players perform on it today, and its charming repertoire gets much less attention than it deserves.) We worked so hard to prepare this virtuosic music. This is a program that we have invested years in and many hours of practice. We have taken our program to Portland, Eugene, San Francisco (SFEMS), Columbus, and Colombia. Sadly, the engineer lost the recording we made when his hard drive crashed, and he didn't have proper backups. You cannot imagine the feeling in the pit of our stomachs to learn this news.

Joanna and I have known each other since we were high school students and met at Interlochen Arts Camp, where we both were introduced to the viola da gamba by Mark Cudek and Ann Marie Morgan. Since then, we have been great friends, and a beautiful musical partnership has blossomed. We play fabulously together, if I may say so myself. There are a few people in this world, where – just like when you have a best friend, and conversation just comes so naturally and joyfully – we don’t even have to work to play together, but we know exactly what the other person is going to do. Joanna is one of these people. In technical, musical terms, our “ensemble” is pretty good.

After these years of licking our wounds, Joanna told me that she would be willing to record this program again. So, after a generous gift from Gregg Hill and Linda Holmberg, we decided to take the emotional plunge and make the recording once again in January of 2014. This time we had a great team: John Hadden, renowned early music engineer and producer, Fred Martens, our amazingly talented graphic designer, along with brilliant theorbo player David Walker and sparkling soprano Youngmi Kim. And, after over five years, we are actually BETTER! On June 19, our final product is due to arrive in the mail, entitled “Secret of the Muse.” The CD will be for sale at www.catacoustic.com, as well as through amazon.com and iTunes. You can be the first to own it buy purchasing it at our concerts on June 19 & 21.

What is the secret of the muse, you may ask? The secret is a dear friend.
Joanna Blendulf & Annalisa Pappano at Interlochen Arts Camp

Thursday, April 10, 2014

For Ye Violls: The Astounding Music of William Lawes

April 26 will see the third in Catacoustic’s series exploring the viol consort music of 17th century England.  We began last spring with the melancholic music of John Dowland, written during the quiet afterglow of Elizabeth’s reign.  Last fall we continued with a sampling of composers writing during the decades of the English Civil War.  Tonight we dedicate to the greatest of these wartime composers:  William Lawes (1602-1645).  

Charles I of England
Let us first consider Charles I of England.  One wonders how history might have turned out differently had Charles not, quite unexpectedly, ascended to the throne of England.  He was a terrible king, intransigent and self-righteous.  But he was also refined and educated, and he loved music.  He studied music, he employed full-time musicians and composers who travelled with him—music really mattered to this man.  How happy he might have been as a private aristocrat, ruler of only his own castle, generously patronizing his chosen artists.  Thrust instead into a job he was unsuited for, his life was filled with war, conflict, and unhappiness, and at the age of 48 he said goodbye to his two young children and was beheaded before a mob.  

 Charles I’s reign had an incalculable impact on English legal and monarchical history.  But it’s the music we’re here to talk about.  Hume, Jenkins, Simpson, and the other great composers we heard last fall all tried to keep out of the war and focus on their composing.  William Lawes, on the other hand, was right in the middle of the action.  

William Lawes
Lawes was employed by Charles and lived at court.  There he picked up on the enormous French influences felt in every corner of life.[i]  He absorbed French styles and the new Italian music just coming into circulation, married them to English conventions, and created a startling new sound.  He wrote fantasias with the melodies buried in the inner voices.  He wrote dance suites combining forms that had never been put together before.  He wrote airs that mimicked the sounds of battle, the basses laying down a pattern of cannon fire; the treble voices a swirling mass of bugles, shouts, horses, and chaos.  His counterpoint has been described as willful and angular.  His love of dissonance flew in the face of what was then considered in good taste.  He was as “out there” for his time as can be imagined—think of Elvis, combining country, gospel, and rhythm and blues, and producing something totally new.

Here’s how Laurence Dreyfus sums up this eccentric:   “To solve the puzzle of Lawes, one might focus on Lawes' influences and his social context, but they in no way account for his wayward musical personality. Attuned to his topsy-turvy world, one begins to hear in every piece an undiscovered place which hadn't been mapped before. The clarity of utterance is remarkable, for in overturning venerable rules of dissonance treatment, and deforming classical ideas found in the works of Orlando Gibbons and others, Lawes persuades you that backward is forward, that chaos is ordered, that ugly is beautiful. ” Lawes belongs among the true originals of music, with the likes of Charles Ives and Erik Satie.
Why have some composers remained well-known and widely performed, and others have slipped into obscurity?[ii]   Lawes' case is a good example of the randomness of history at work.  Lawes died fighting in the war, shot in a sortie during the siege of Chester, only 43 years old.  The king took time out from the war, his looming defeat, and the death of a close relative during the same battle, to institute special mourning for Lawes, declaring him to be the “Father of Musick.”  And then all hell broke loose.  The Stuarts lost the war, and the shocking fact of regicide created a fault line in English society that took generations to heal.  Lawes had been ground-breaking, but his death came before much seed had been sown into that ground, and it was easier for future music-lovers to go with neutral composers or favorites of the later regimes than to stick with the dead king’s favorite.  Even the great Purcell, working some 40 years after Lawes, expressed disdain for Lawes’ work, without realizing, perhaps, that Lawes’ devotion to and cultivation of counterpoint made his own harmonic profundity possible.
This gorgeous music will be performed by a large consort of internationally renowned musicians:  Joanna Blendulf (Madison, Alabama), Julie Jeffrey (San Francisco), Lynn Tetenbaum (San Francisco), Larry Lipnik (New York), Gail Ann Schroeder (Asheville, North Carolina), and Annalisa Pappano (director of Catacoustic).  

April 26, 2014 @ 7:30 pm.  Church of the Advent, Walnut Hills, 2366 Kemper Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45206. Tickets are available at catacoustic.com, at 513-772-3242, or at the door:  $25, $10 for students with ID. Children under 12 free.  

[i]  The reasons for the English Civil War were complicated and varied.  But religion played a large part.  England had been turned by force into a Protestant country over a century earlier, but its rulers had been see-sawing back and forth ever since.  The most powerful Catholic country in Europe at the time, France, wanted to see England return to the fold, and jumped in whenever it saw a chance to influence the English court.  Charles I, like all the Stuarts, was required by law to practice Anglicanism, but his true sympathies for Catholicism were barely concealed.  He married a French Catholic, filled his court with Frenchmen, and accepted as much French support as he dared when the war erupted.  When that war was lost, his family fled to France, where they lived for generations as their fortunes ebbed and flowed.  Remember “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”?  That song refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the last of the Stuarts to try to regain the throne for his family.  He lived over the ocean in France.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Report from 3rd Catacoustic Scholarship Winner, Michael Zaret

Many years ago (like back in the late 1970s), I was deeply involved in Early Music performance. Five students at CCM formed an ensemble, Musica Camerata. During our five years as a group we performed numerous concerts from New York to Florida, and Philadelphia west to Texas, including a stop in St. Paul to play on “Prairie Home Companion” and “Baroque and Beyond.” Unfortunately, our members eventually dispersed to various new locations around the country. That and increasing family responsibilities drew me away from Early Music performance. A couple of years ago, I heard Annalisa and Elizabeth Motter perform at a local library, and my interest was rekindled. However, my set of almost 40-year-old Baroque Moeck Rottenburgh recorders were in dire need of repair and revoicing.

Thanks to the Catacoustic Scholarship, I was awarded a grant to make them playable. So off they went to Boston and the Von Huehne Workshop, where they were revoiced and a key was added to the tenor recorder to compensate for my aging, shrinking fingers. In addition, a thumbhole ring was installed on my well-worn alto.
Fipple, with block removed
the block(curved side)- is inserted into fipple

What is revoicing, you might ask? Revoicing a recorder involves removing the block (the wooden piece that fits into the mouthpiece and shapes and steers the airstream) and ensuring that all the surfaces of the windway are clean and smooth and properly shaped to ensure the air from the windway is arriving at the edge (which sets it into vibration) correctly. The chambers at the exit end of the windway may be re-angled if necessary, and if the edge is damaged or swollen, re-cut.The end result is that revoicing makes a recorder play prettier! In the future, I hope to be able to send my Hopf Renaissance recorders in to also be repaired.
Block partially inserted into fipple
Recorder mouthpiece. Block fully inserted into fipple

I have had a busy year, playing with a variety of groups, both formal and informal. I’ve done some performing, and lots of practicing! I’ve also been practicing Baroque flute, but at this point, am not quite ready for prime time.

Again, I sincerely thank Catacoustic Consort for providing the spark to get me back into Early Music, and their generous grant to help make that happen!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Looking Back on the Cincinnati Early Music Festival, 2014

The Cincinnati Early Music Festival, 2014.  The word “doozy” comes to mind.  Also “humdinger.”  In the spirit of “Was it awesome or what?” I submit the following FAQs:

Was this the first or second early music festival?  This is the first year we were organized in advance.  In 2013 we promoted a collection of found objects.  (The fact that so many early music events were happening in the city in February 2013 was already a startling indication of how much the early music scene was taking off.)  So we’ll call this the 2nd Annual, and look fondly back on our fledgling days. 

What are the numbers?  We held seventeen events, in twelve locations around town.  Some 320 performers performed.  And over 1500 people silenced their phones and listened.  My favorite number from that list?  The 320 performers.  This includes local high school and university chorists, possibly being exposed to early music for the first time; young, wide-eyed enthusiasts just starting to think that early music may play a huge role in their future; internationally recognized professionals who have devoted their lives to the music; experienced veterans of the early music rediscovery of the 1970s.  Everyone has a part to play.  

Did I hear a viola da gamba in there somewhere?  If you had gone to every single event this month, you would have heard pardessus de viole, treble viol, tenor, six-string bass, seven-string bass, great dooble bass, and violone. And as a bonus, a viol ancestor:  vielle.  Essentially the entire viol family, all performed by local Cincinnati musicians. Think about the worlds of possibility this opens up for the Cincinnati early music community.

What about other instrument families?  We also heard lute, archlute, theorbo, and viola da mano (which I am told is a lute/guitar hybrid).  We heard quite a range of recorders, and apparently the possibility of recorders in the city was underrepresented this year.  Let’s get the recorder family up and out!  We heard at least half a dozen early keyboardists playing harpsichords and period organs.  We heard Renaissance guitar and Baroque guitar, brass and an oboe d’amore, a 200-year-old cello, and large string ensembles.  Think of the things we can do with so much talent and ability all around us!

Who were the participating ensembles and organizations?  Where do I start? The Catacoustic Consort, of course.  Ubi Caritas.  Cincinnati Bach Ensemble.  Cincinnati Camerata.  Cincinnati Chamber Opera.  Cantantes Camarae.  Cantigium.  Harmonia Sacra.  Noyse Merchants.  Consort in the Egg.  Cincinnati Viol Consort.  The Knox Choir.  CCM Early Music Lab.  Cathedral Choir of St. Peter in Chains.  Collegium Cincinnati.  Edgecliff Vocal Ensemble.  Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy Encore Choir.  Xavier University Concert Choir.  And then there are all the ad hoc groups that came together to perform one special program of music. They’re everywhere!   

What were some memorable moments? 
--The Cincinnati Bach Ensemble performed Vivaldi’s La Notte flute concerto, with Randy Bowman on flute.  It starts with a slow movement (wha…?), goes on to a later movement that has no movement but is essentially shifting chord progressions, and contains the most impossibly long trills for the soloist—I was reaching under my pew for an oxygen mask, and I was just listening!  Well done, Randy!  

--The Knox Choir from Knox Presbyterian performed Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich, by Heinrich Schütz, an electrifying piece with the voices of the choir crying out the name of Saul over and over—again, so modern-sounding, and so compelling.  I’d love to hear that one again. 

--Elizabeth Motter performing Kapsberger’s Arpeggiata on Baroque harp with Annalisa, a piece that makes everyone put down what they’re doing and attend.  

--Jory Vinikour explaining why Rameau is the most important overlooked composer of the Baroque, and then explaining it again at the keyboard.  

--Scot Buzza explaining why Galuppi is one of the most important overlooked composers of the Baroque, and then explaining it again from the podium.  

--Bill Willets, lute, and Melisa Bonetti, mezzo, performing the gorgeous Isabel by Luys de Narvaez, and Scotty McEvoy reading a translation of the lyrics.  

--Cantigium’s performance of El Grillo by Josquin.  If you think eight people can’t sound like a chorus of crickets, you clearly missed this concert.  

--The incredible Luigi Rossi piece, Un ferito cavaliero, performed by Catacoustic Consort and Meg Bragle.  The cavaliero of the title is the messenger who brings news of the death of King Gustavus Adolphus; the song is about neither of these two men, but of the remarkable queen who must make sense of it all. The singer pleaded, thundered, wept, and finally whispered—I’ve never heard anything quite like it.

--The mass choir sing of Hieronymus Praetorius’ Jubilate Deo.  I was vibrating at the end, and couldn’t tell if it was my ears ringing, or the cathedral itself.

--La Musica, personified by Alexandra Kassouf, painting tears on the faces of the whole cast of L’Orfeo, and then the cast making us believe they were real.

--The generally heedless revelry of Cantantes Camarae, pitching their way through “He That Will an Alehouse Keepe,” “Ale and Tobacco,” and “Toss the Pot.”  English pubs in the early 17th century must have been way fun.

Who is Sam Chan? He sight-read and goat-trilled his way through Classical Revolution, fooled everyone as the disguised Apollo in the opera, and led plainchant in the choral concert. Who was that masked man?  

If you were writing a Passion for all women, would you make Jesus an alto?  Heck, yes:  altos sit deepest inside the harmonies, and that’s exactly where Jesus would be.  Anna Little may be technically a mezzo, but it sounded like an alto part to me.

Will I always have to silence my phone at early music events?  Yes.

Is that it?  No more early music?  No! This is not just a foul weather pastime--these groups and others perform year round.  Catacoustic’s got an amazing concert coming up April 26.  Rumor has it that Cantigium may have a repeat of the Medieval concert in late March (yes, please.) Even Cincinnati Opera is doing a Baroque opera this summer!   Keep your eyes peeled, join Cincinnati Early Music Project group on Facebook, and keep the excitement going!