Members of Shulamit Kleinerman’s Seattle Historical Arts for Kids class recently had a memorable night hearing a concert by early music super-stars, Anonymous 4 during their recent appearance in Seattle on the EMG International Series. After the concert, the performers took the time to meet the students and posed for a photo. Throughout the performance, the young musicians were entranced and one even offered this astute observation:
“It was really interesting the way this music moved! Your body could actually be still, but if you closed your eyes it felt like you were moving, because of the way the music was swaying.” – Logan
Shula enjoyed accompanying the members of her class to the Anonymous 4 performance, especially because of the conversations that were stimulated by the experience.
As the teacher — chaperoning two of the kids while four others in our group attended with their parents — I really enjoyed the chance to encounter the music freshly as I imagined what it must sound like to them. Some of them were very studious about following the texts in their programs. The three violinists in the group were very excited to meet Shira afterward — alas we didn’t have a chance for a photo. One of them, Susana, who was sitting next to me, is one of my violin students, and she’s very interested in decorating medieval tunes in a quite mature way. I whispered to her about Shira Kammen’s ornamentation and she whispered back, “I know — that’s what I’m listening to!” – Shulamit Kleinerman
Members of Seattle Historical Arts for Kids were featured this season on EMG’s Early Music Discovery Series, presenting Merry It Is! in February. A fully-costumed show is quite an undertaking for anyone, but seeing young musicians undertake this effort is wonderful, especially when you hear what the kids had to say about the experience.
One of the things I really liked was the dances and I thought it was cool that there was so much jumping in them. Sometimes there would be a song that you would be acting while you were singing and I really liked that. And of course I liked plain singing and plain acting. We got to learn a lot about what it was like long ago. I noticed the speech, clothing, instruments, musical style and customs were different back then. I got to play a Renaissance violin and that was really fun. And we all got along together very well. - Nate K.
This account from another participant certainly gives a sense of what it was like to be a part of such an interesting project:
The beginning part of the show started with the medieval era. We sang songs in middle English, medieval French and medieval Spanish. We also did a short little dance to a song about a person seeing a wolf, fox and a rabbit all playing and dancing in the woods. I was the person, and I had a lot of fun playing a little tag game with the other animals. What I loved most about the medieval part was that I got to wear a simple medieval dress called a Kirtle that my mom and I made. We didn’t have time to put in grommets and lacing in the back, so at the last minute we zipped on some Velcro. So whenever I danced in my new Kirtle I could hear the little zipping noises of the Velcro – not my idea of medieval.
In the Renaissance part of the show I played Queen Elizabeth the first. I got to research for my costume so that it would look as queenly as I could get it in the short time I had. I learned about different types of undergarments, like Wheel Farthingales. I also learned about the change in fashions between the Tudor and Elizabethan eras. Dancing the Galliard and playing Queen Titania in a short excerpt from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” made it a very exciting experience. But all in all, the costume ended up being especially uncomfortable. In a way, I feel sorry for Queen Elizabeth.
The last part of our show was the Baroque/Colonial era. We sang a handful of songs sung around the time period. We also danced two main dances – the Hornpipe which was danced by more peasant folk, and the Minuet that was danced by more upper-class society. Even though I did not dance in the Hornpipe, I like it very much, and love all the jumping and kicking. The Minuet was pretty hard to learn at first but after a couple tries at the Minuet steps and the different patterns, I grew to like it. It even seemed fun.
Overall the whole show was a blast. I have been taking Shula’s classes about four or five years now and I look back into history in a whole new way. The different songs and languages and costumes teach me and others about how it really was. It all has been a great experience. I am so grateful for these classes and am looking forward to more. –Parlin Shields
For more information about Shula’s program with Seattle Historical Arts for Kids, including upcoming summer programs, please visit her website.
Early Edition is very happy to have a guest blogger this week, Susan Hellauer, from Anonymous 4. Anonymous 4 will be performing this Saturday, April 30 at 8PM at Town Hall. There is a free pre-concert lecture at 7PM.
We are looking forward with great eagerness to two things this weekend: 1) singing for one of our very favorite audiences on earth, those gathered by the Early Music Guild, and always gathered into the most beautiful and resonant spaces for us. We always feel like we can RELAX and enjoy the venue (and the coffee, and the food, and the shopping . . . ) when we come to Seattle. But THIS time, we’ll also have the pleasure of 2) working with our colleagues and friends Shira Kammen (vielle) and Peter Maund (percussion). Did I not mention that we are also their Biggest Fans? Well, consider it mentioned.
We’re all landing from NYC and the Bay Area of California on Thursday midday, and will gather to rehearse in the late afternoon and evening. We’ll work together again on Friday, and then play and sing songs in public on Saturday for you. We’ve made a composite program of works from our latest recording project (just wrapped), “Secret Voices: Music of the Las Huelgas Codex,” and some of the Cantigas de Santa Maria. This is all 13th century Iberian repertoire, but two very different sides of that coin. We’ve been eyeing the Las Huelgas repertoire since Anonymous 4 first sang together. Though there’s some controversy over who actually sang the repertoire in this manuscript made for the royal Castilian convent in the late 13th century, we find some evidence in the texts of the works themselves that these pieces were sung by the nuns at this convent (despite the Cistercian prohibition against nuns singing polyphony). Some of the works were newly composed in Castile, but many others were imported from elsewhere in Europe, most especially from the virtuoso repertoire of Notre Dame de Paris. Many songs with amorous lyrics were “contrafacted” (i.e. they were refitted with sacred Latin texts), so that the nuns could sing them in liturgy, for non-liturgical devotions, or just for good clean monastic fun. The Cantigas, on the other hand, were ordered up by a Castilian monarch, Alfonso X “el Sabio” (the learned) during the 13th century, and are written in the poetical language of Galician (native to the northwest corner of Iberia, where the shrine of Sant’Iago at Compostela is found).
We think they mesh and contrast well, these two contemporaneous repertoires, and show a good, rounded-out picture of 13th-century sacred art music. We hope you enjoy them!
The Early Music Guild office is buzzing with activity this week in preparation for the upcoming baroque opera production “A Day on the Town, A Night in Hell”. With three performances (Friday, April 15, Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17), we hope everyone will have the opportunity to see this exciting show.
Tickets are going fast but you can still get yours here, in person at the Moore Theatre box office, or by calling 877-784-4849.
Will Rose wrote a highly engaging article describing what audience members might expect when they attend this weekend’s performances of “A Day on the Town, A Night in Hell”:
An ambitious blend of comedy and tragedy, told through baroque opera and ballet: An upcoming collaboration of the Early Music Guild, Spectrum Dance Theater, and Seattle Theatre Group attempts to do it all, with two casts, different sets, composers, directors, and sensibilities, and a complex technical setup. Will it prove a recipe for triumph or disaster? – Will Rose, crosscut.com
This not-to-be-missed production was featured on FOX Q13’s ArtsAround segment which aired on April 7.
Click this link to hear Vivian Phillips interview Donald Byrd and Music Director Stephen Stubbs about their experience working on “Il Ballo delle Ingrate”.
Theodore Deacon shared some behind-the-scenes insight on the creation of this production in two blog articles:
by Theodore Deacon, producer of EMG’s upcoming baroque opera production: A Day on the Town, A Night in Hell, on April 15, 16 and 17 at the Moore Theatre. Click here for more information about performances and to buy tickets. To read part one of this article, click here.
Another blog on turning L’Amfiparnaso into English! Hey, how hard can translating be? It’s just a simple matter of finding an English equivalent and doing the “Moon, June, Croon, Poltroon” bit to finish it off, right?
Well, it’s not that easy. Even in straight prose, translating is a minefield of misconstrued intent and lost subtext. Just missing the “tint” of a foreign text can turn The Magic Mountain into a literary molehill. Now imagine trying to match the stress of poetic meter, the ebb and flow of melodic lines and retain the tang of the bawdy innuendo of commedia scenarios and you get a taste of the enormous challenges facing an English L’Amfiparnaso.
Where to start? The basic outline of L’Amfiparnaso is straight out of the vast collections of commedia scenario handbooks. (Commedia dell’arte, an improvised performance style, did not preserve its dialogue.) Also, L’Amfiparnaso has an unusually large cast and occasional unconnected story lines. To help speed things along I melded similar character types together, so now there is one set of lovers and one pair of comic servants. The result is classic commedia. A miserly father (Pantalone) wants to sell his daughter’s (Isabella) hand in marriage to a decrepit pedant (Dottore Gratiano) rather than lose her to a penniless young suitor (Lucio). With the help of the ubiquitous clever servant (Arlecchino) and the wise and wily courtesan (Hortensia) the lovers evade Pantalone’s malodorous matchmaking as well as the machinations of a horny Spanish braggart (Capitano), just in time to proclaim an absurd happy ending.
But wait! There’s more! In the original Italian, many of the jokes depend on the impenetrable regional dialects that define the characters, as when Pantalone’s crotchety Venetian collides with Arlecchino’s rustic burr from Bergamo while the lovers coo in elegant Tuscan. And then there’s the foreigner Capitano who butchers his Italian, often to uproariously obscene effect. Rather than trying to adapt American dialects – say Pantalone with a Southern drawl or a Dottore from Harvard Square – it is more effective to have the servant spout contractions and vulgarities, the elders gabble in persnickety patter, and the lovers proclaim passion in heartbreaking lyrical verse.
And what about those dirty jokes and innuendoes? Well, you’ll just have to come to show to see what happens when Arlecchino is asked to “service his lord” or find out where the Capitano “puts away his mighty poker.” It’s all in fun and very much in the bawdy, raucous style of those ancient commedia zannis whose slapstick humor has the distinct sting of truth.
Carolyn Surrick, viola da gambist and member of Ensemble Galilei, gives Early Edition a behind-the-scenes look at why musicians do what they do and how important it is in their lives. You can hear Carolyn and her colleagues on Saturday, April 2 at 7:30PM at Dusty Strings. Tickets and more information can be found here or by calling 206-634-1662.
Two and a half years ago I fell. Changing a light bulb. I fell hard. When I hit the ground there was a moment of, “Maybe it’s not that bad,” followed by the realization that it was indeed bad enough to head to the hospital. My right arm was broken, both bones at the wrist.
“Surgery” the doctor said. “You need to see an orthopedic surgeon.”
There was a myth that was part of my life for thirty years and it went something like this: if someday, I stopped being a musician, I could do something else. I could go back to the restaurant business that kept me fed in my twenties. I could be an administrator at a performing arts center. I could teach musicology at a university and coach the Collegium.
But the next day, as I lay on the couch, waiting for the vicodin to take away my very painful consciousness, all I wanted was to feel a bow in my hand – the smooth wood, my fingers resting on the hairs, the resistance of the bow on the string. I wanted to hear The Fair Child. I wanted to play the melody once and then play it again adding double stops. I wanted to hear the dissonance and resolution, the room change as the music vibrated through the air. I wanted to feather the note at the end until the sound turned to silence. Instead I heard words in my head saying that I might never have a chance to do that again. And something inside of me broke.
It was days before I surfaced. I went for a second opinion and the new doctor was furious that they had put a cast on from my hand to above my elbow and when he took it off I understood why. All the muscles in my arm had atrophied. My beautifully muscled forearm was shriveled and tiny. It looked like the arm of a woman a hundred years old. My shoulder muscles were so weak I could not raise my hand.
I had the surgery – a titanium plate and twelve screws, and started physical therapy two weeks later. I could write the recovery protocol for musicians. Acupuncture twice a week, physical therapy three times a week, cranial sacral treatments once a week. Do the physical therapy exercises four times a day and ice afterwards. Move your fingers all the time.
Five weeks after surgery I played my first concert. And it hurt. Oh my god did it hurt. We were out on tour in Indiana and Iowa. I was so happy to be playing again, to hear the music, to feel the harp vibrating next to me. I was home.
I no longer think about leaving music. I cannot.
Last weekend, Seattle was treated to a memorable and heart-felt performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion given by Portland Baroque Orchestra and the voices of Les Voix Baroques and Cappella Romana, presented by Early Music Guild. Part of the American Handel Festival happening all over town this week, there was much to be enjoyed about this presentation.
Here is what the critics had to say:
We don’t often have the opportunity to hear either of the great Bach Passions, so we owe a big vote of thanks to the Early Music Guild for bringing us a stellar performance of the St. John Passion by Portland Baroque Orchestra, Les Voix Baroques, and Cappella Romana, Sunday afternoon at Town Hall. – The Gathering Note
Sunday afternoon (March 20), one day shy of Bach’s birth 326 years ago, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, led from the front desk of the violins by the English violinist and conductor Monica Huggett, gave a musically accomplished and dramatically powerful performance at Town Hall Seattle of the composer’s “Passion According to St. John.” – Crosscut
Looking ahead to this weekend, Early Music Guild presents Seattle Baroque Orchestra in Handel’s Grand Concertos on Sunday, March 27, 3PM at Town Hall. Tickets are available online or by phone at (206) 325-7066.
Byron Schenkman and Ingrid Matthews were at Town Hall recently to film a segment for FoxQ13’s ArtsAround, highlighting arts activities throughout the Puget Sound. It will air on Thursday, March 24 at 9:45AM, but here’s a sneak peek:
Also this weekend, on Saturday from 1-3pm Cornish College of the Arts is presenting a Baroque Winds Masterclass. It is free and open to the public. Cornish early music program faculty members Janet See, baroque flute, and Kris Kwapis, baroque trumpet are the clinicians – along with out-of-town luminaries of baroque wind performance Gonzalo Ruiz, baroque oboe, Danny Bond, baroque bassoon, and Paul Avril, natural horn. Local music students have been selected to perform for the class and receive advice and coaching from the clinicians who specialize in baroque performance practice. It should be an informative, inspiring and fun event!
Cornish College of the Arts/PONCHO Concert Hall is located on Capitol Hill at 701 East Roy Street, Seattle, 98102.
J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion is one of the greatest masterpieces of the baroque era, if not all time. Bach’s ability to tell a story through his artful manner of setting text to music is well-demonstrated in this dramatic and moving work. The original Latin title Passio secundum Johannem translates to “The Suffering According to John”, and this weekend Seattle audiences have the opportunity to hear this sacred oratorio performed by the Portland Baroque Orchestra along with sololists from Montreal’s Les Voix Baroques and vocalists from Cappella Romana. The reviews so far have been glowing, heightening the anticipation for this not-to-be-missed performance.
Saturday’s concert was not only a landmark performance by the ensemble but also the strongest performance of any kind this season. – Oregon Live
J. S. Bach’s two surviving settings of the Passion story are pillars of Western art music. The emotional intensity and directness of Bach’s setting of St. John the Evangelist’s text has been the subject of much musicological discussion in recent years. As she did for her Grammy-nominated recording of Bach’s Orchestral Suites, Monica Huggett will reexamine the original, more intimate scoring of this work, dating from 1724.
The text translation can be found here, which might be helpful to review before the performance if you are unfamiliar with the work.
The cast includes:
Monica Huggett, artistic director and violin
Charles Daniels, tenor, Evangelist
with Les Voix Baroques (Montréal, Canada): Shannon Mercer, soprano; Matthew White, alto; Jacques-Olivier Chartier, tenor; Joshua Hopkins, baritone; Tyler Duncan, baritone.
and the ripieno singers from Cappella Romana: Catherine van der Salm, Melanie Downie Zupan, Kerry McCarthy, Stephanie Kramer, Cahen Taylor, and David Stutz.
More information is available on the Early Music Guild website.