By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist
May 14, 2017
What a satisfying task it is to announce there’s going to be another BLEMF, another Bloomington Early Music Festival. We’re moving toward the end of May, a time often reserved in our recent past for that celebration of Early Music, now more preferably referred to as Historical Performance.
Most important for me is not how this wonderful music is referred to but that zealous folks are working very hard to bring back the glories of a feast that enriched May time in Bloomington. The 2017 version of BLEMF may not yet be the equal, in length and luster, of those given us before a shutdown. But what’s coming looks highly promising, and those who’ve designed it say BLEMF 2017 is a major step toward ones contemplated. Revival is being carefully taken, so to assure success for what’s to come this month and months of May beyond.
Festival time 2017 arrives over the extended Memorial Day weekend of May 24 through 28. Ten events are scheduled, all of them free of charge and each different from the others. Planners point to the return of three favored participants from earlier years, IU Jacobs School alums who have made it big time: violinist Ingrid Matthews, harpsichordist Byron Schenkman, and flautist Colin St. Martin.
“I’m thrilled that those three remarkable musicians, headliners each, will be able to join us,” Alain Barker told me, he a figure of historical importance in the BLEMF story, having served as its executive director through 10 of its glory years, 1994 to 2004. Now director of Music Entrepreneurship and Career Development for the Jacobs School and member of the Bloomington Early Music Board, he remains instrumental in the creation of the festival’s future. “Ingrid, Byron and Colin will boost the variety and quality of our chamber and orchestral offerings,” he pointed out. “They are great talents. And we also have a celebration focused on Wendy Gillespie’s wonderful career.” She is retiring after decades of service at the Jacobs School.
According to another Bloomington Early Music Board member, Dana Marsh, director of Jacobs’ Historical Performance Institute, Wendy Gillespie “has played a vital role in the revival of the performance of the viol consort repertory during the 20th and 21st centuries, as her exemplary work with Fretwork and Phantasm, the two pre-eminent viol consorts of the past five decades, shows. Her work at IU has emphasized first-hand experience in viol consort study for students to an extent that has not been possible elsewhere in the country.” Honoring her will bring back a number of her former students.
Also being celebrated is Angela Mariani, whose WFIU produced and syndicated program “Harmonia” marks its 25th anniversary, certainly an important element of the Early Music scene here and in all the places to which it goes.
BLEMF 2017 entertainment stretches from a harpsichord concert of music by Scarlatti and Frescobaldi (performed by Curtis Pavey) and a program of French love songs from the Medieval and Renaissance periods to a Bloomington Baroque concert of sonatas and trios by Bach, a violin/fortepiano recital by the Duo Park-Kim of music by Mozart and Schubert and a “grand finale” Festival Orchestra concert featuring Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, a concerto for two flutes by Telemann (with Colin St. Martin and Leela Breithaupt as soloists), and music by Purcell, Camilla de Rossi and Dall’ Abacco, with the involvement of more soloists: violinist Matthews, harpsichordist Schenkman and lutenist Nigel North.
Yes, there’ll be the popular Instrument Petting Zoo once again. There’ll be pop-up performances around town. There’ll be a program of pop and rock songs “reimagined for early music instruments.”
Dana Marsh notes that in the days prior to the BLEMF weekend, a “Historical Performance Institute Conference on Theory, Practice, and Interdisciplinarity” will be held, drawing scholars from all over the world, as was the case last year. “Our future plans with the conference,” Marsh explained, “involve creating educational opportunities through workshops and academy activities during the weekdays that link the two weekends. Ultimately, it will add up to one large early music event unique to our area only. A significant step in this direction will be taken next year. Early Music America and its Young Performers Festival typically alternates holding court at Boston and Berkeley early music festivals in alternating years. In 2018, rather than going to Berkeley, all that will come to Bloomington at the time of the conference and BLEMF. A great opportunity.”
Alain Barker, too, looks ahead with optimism. “Now that we’ve had a few years to regroup and it, thankfully, no longer feels like a question of survivability, going forward, we can focus on a few things that I think will provide sustainable growth. The festival continues to be the primary activity of Bloomington Early Music, and we have an opportunity, as Dana says, to expand our operations next year in partnership with both the institute and Early Music America.
“We’re delighted also,” Barker continues, “to now be the fiscal home for Bloomington’s Bach Cantata Series and look forward to assisting with the development of that project going forward. Our education projects are coming back to life. Partnerships with ensembles like Alchymy Viols and Les Ordinaires will help us produce concerts through the year. And it’s fortunate that Gamma Ut, the student organization for early music at IU, has become a close partner as we develop our projects. I believe the model we’re working on — one that connects the interests of an academic institution with the growth of a community-based not-for-profit — is proving to be very successful. I have hopes that the special relationships we’re developing will sustain us for years to come.”
I share those hopes. I believe many of us in the area do. By attending the forthcoming series of events, we can prove our interest. It is BLEMF time again.
Contact Peter Jacobi at email@example.com.
Diverse Performances Before & During Memorial Day Weekend
Bloomington Early Music, in association with Alchymy Viols, invites you to a Free Concert!
A poignant tale of the trials of love performed by Alchymy Viols and guests.
Directed by Catherine Turocy, director of New York Baroque Dance Company.
When: Saturday, January 14, 2017, at 7:30pm
Where: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium
A project written by Phil Spray and Catherine Turocy in the form of 17th century masque entertainment: The concert will include vocal and instrumental music by Cavalli, Cima, Benedetto Ferrari, Monteverdi, and G. Strozzi, using a variety of instruments, dance, costume, drama.
Erisbe: Rebecca Choate Beasley, soprano
Ormindo: Nathan Medley, countertenor
Amor: Lindsey Adams, mezzo-soprano
Wendy Gillespie, Joanna Blendulf, Julie Elhard,
Erica Rubis, Philip Spray, viols
Thomas Gerber, keyboard
Allison Edberg Nyquist and Janelle Davis, violins
Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundationand the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation along with individual donors.
WFIU: MEDIA SPONSOR
Bloomington Herald Times / December 5, 2016
By Peter Jacobi | H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday evening, Bloomington Early Music took over the soaring rotunda of the Monroe County Courthouse for a program titled “A Renaissance Christmas Story," featuring "Advent Motets and the Story of Christmas, Music of Heinrich Schutz.” BEM consists of those in town and gown who seek to bring back BLEMF, our dearly missed Bloomington Early Music Festival. Friday’s event was one of the sponsors’ temptation-inducing evenings of early music designed to increase our longing for the whole package. Hints indicate we may get at least a fuller package next spring.
If what’s to come is anywhere near what the seated and the standing attendees heard on Friday, then success is assured. Schutz, considered to be probably the most important German composer pre-Bach, wrote glorious music. Under the inspired direction of Dana Marsh, the recently appointed head of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music’s Historical Performance Institute, Schutz was honored with outstanding performances by four continuo players, an instrumental ensemble of 10 musicians and a vocal contingent of 14.
They first tackled a couple of motets set to words from Isaiah foreshadowing the Christmas story, radiant pieces full of exultation. Then came that Christmas story, told in recitative style, a declamatory form of delivering the spoken word musically that Schutz mastered while studying in Italy and then took home with him. New it was back then. Now, it’s a familiar and accepted method still prominently used.
Schutz’s score is stunning as it expresses the Christmas story. Stunning describes the performance, too. The instrumental elements were beautifully revealed. The singing amazed for its resonance and radiant quality. It was pristine, without slurs or slips, without slides or notes just almost there. Tenor Gregorio Taniguchi had the most to do as the Evangelist, the story’s narrator. He was terrific; the others, fortunately, matched him.
Music Review: 'The Gentle Shepherd' and Brahms Scenes from revived 1725 Scottish opera win over audience
By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | email@example.com
The opera dates back to 1725. In North America, historical evidence tells us, a Philadelphia audience attended a performance of the piece in 1798. That was it until two months ago, when, on consecutive days, two audiences in Chicago had the privilege. And last Saturday evening, that opportunity was extended to Bloomington: to experience in concert what may be the first opera ever written in Scotland, “The Gentle Shepherd.”
We can give thanks for the opportunity to Bloomington Early Music, the folks who continue to strive for the return of the still fondly remembered Bloomington Early Music Festival. They sponsored the performance and offered it to us free of charge, perhaps as a memory enhancer, as a faith builder for things to come. Right now, the festival exists in spurts: a performance here and there, with the promise that — in a couple of years — we might once again have a bigger, longer event approximating to what we had up to a few years ago.
Behind the revival of “The Gentle Shepherd” is a one-woman force, violinist/fiddler Brandi Berry, artistic director of the Chicago-based Bach and Beethoven Ensemble. While seeking Scottish folk tunes, she chanced upon facsimiles of the composition. “It struck me as such a unique piece of art,” she said, labeling it not an opera or a pastoral comedy but a “musical play.” Berry recruited her ensemble and members of another period group, Alchemy Viols, which has performed here previously, to participate in a plan to produce it. And so it came to be.
The musical play’s author is the Scottish poet Allen Ramsey, who, it is believed, called upon an Italian composer of his time, Lorenzo Bocchi, to provide the music, heavily based on Scottish folk tunes and style, along with generous touches of Baroque Italian music. It is attached to a story about a shepherd who discovers he is not as humble in origin as he thought. He stems from royalty, a fact that has an impact not only on him but on those who have been important in his life, including his beloved.
On Saturday, those of us gathered in the Rose Firebay of the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center saw only scenes from the whole package. They were, however, charming and performed with such grace and joy and sincerity that a watcher and listener had to be won over. I certainly was. The instrumental musicians chosen from those two participating ensembles proved thrilling in music that kept rising from sweet songs and dances to faster and louder fortissimos.
The vocalists were adroitly chosen: Thomas Alaan, owner of a glorious countertenor voice, as the Gentle Shepherd; a beautifully voiced soprano, Alexandra Olsavsky, as his love, Peggy, and Lindsey Adams, with a healthy mezzo to her credit, as Peggy’s older sister, Jenny.
All the musicians were believers. Consequently, I came to believe as — I’m sure — others there did. The closing ovation sounded super enthusiastic
Melodies of the Highlands
with scenes from Scotland's first opera, The Gentle Shepherd
Waldron Arts Center, Rose Firebay Theater, 122 S Walnut St, Bloomington, IN
November 12, 2016
Alchymy Viols returns to Bloomington, IN after its successful premiere program, Alchymy at the Courthouse, to present a concert of Scottish music in collaboration with Chicago’s Bach and Beethoven Ensemble (BBE). Featured prominently in this program are staged scenes from Allan Ramsay’s The Gentle Shepherd, Scotland’s first opera (1725). Last seen in Philadelphia in 1798, the show was (re)premiered in North America in September 2016 by the BBE and members of Alchymy Viols. This is not your grandmother’s grandmother’s granny’s opera! The Gentle Shepherd is a charming comedy of shepherds and their lassies, featuring light-hearted folk tunes, wistful ballads, and foot-stomping pub-band music. This program in the 70-seat Firebay Theater is free to the public.
The selected scenes featured in this performance will highlight the following roles: Countertenor Thomas Aláan as Patie, the gentle shepherd; soprano Alexandra Olsavsky as Peggy, Patie’s sweetheart; and mezzo-soprano Lindsey Adams as Jenny, friend and “sister figure” of Patie and Peggy. Instrumentalists include Brandi Berry and Tim Macdonald (baroque violin), Leighann Daihl (traverso), Jeremy Ward (bass violin), Erica Rubis (lyra viol), and Phil Spray (viol, lute, baroque guitar).
Alchymy Viols’ members represent some of the country’s finest players of the viola da gamba. In just its first season, Alchymy is already attracting attention from local audiences, media, and major funders. Melodies of the Highlands pays tribute to the popularity of viol in Scotland in the 18th century and features the intimate qualities of the favored lyra-viol way of playing that is unique to the British Isles. For more information visit Alchymy Viols on Facebook.
The BBE, founded in 2009, has performed on series and festivals across the Midwest and Northeast including: the Chicago Early Music Festival, Classical Music Mondays at the Chicago Cultural Center, Byron Colby Early Music at the Barn, the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe series, Canterbury Music Society, and the Academy of Early Music in Ann Arbor. For more information about the BBE, visit bbensemble.org; find @bbensemble on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud; or contact the BBE at firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s the name of a Renaissance band, a five-person ensemble consisting of musicians who’ve chosen recorders, shawms (period oboes) and dulcians (bassoons) to make their music from a period of so long ago. Those instruments proved not shy at all, filling the up-and-down and in-the-round space of the Monroe County Courthouse rotunda.
The sounds, greeted by an overflow of listeners, were more often brash than mellow, suggesting informality, entertainment for the streets and plazas of the 15th and 16th centuries rather than more formal venues.
Some of the music was written by those we recognize, such as Orlando de Lassus, Josquin des Prez, Claudio Monteverdi, and Guillaume Dufay. Others — the Franco/Flemish composers Gaspar van Weerbeke, Nicolas Gombert and Antoine Busnois, the French Jean L’Heritier and the Spanish Francisco de Penalosa — added their own zest and personalities to the occasion.
Of course, the musicians themselves, the members of Forgotten Clefs, contributed more than significantly with their command of the instruments and feel for the Renaissance era, they being Charles Wines, Chris Armijo, Keith Collins, Sarah Huebsch and Kelsey Schilling. An add-on came from the rotunda’s wonderful resonance and an amusing strike every half-hour from the courthouse gong.
The junior high school I attended a bunch of decades ago in Houston, Texas, was named after the esteemed poet Sidney Lanier. He belonged to a branch of a long-standing family named Lanier, its patriarch along the way having been Nicholas Lanier, much honored during his lifetime (1588-1666); he became the first Master of the King’s Music. He kept himself busy, not only through music but fathering nine or so children. And somewhere in the lush family tree, one finds poet Sidney.
And those who attended Saturday afternoon’s BLEMF program by the Ensemble Lanier watched and listened to Brady Lanier, master of the viola da gamba and descendant of Nicholas, whose music, along with that of other composers in the family, was featured on the program.
Ensemble Lanier’s other members include the fine lutenist Everett Redburn, distinguished recorder artists Eva Legene and Sarah Cantor and soprano Christina Lynch. They excelled.
Lynch, in particular, was important because much of the music performed was vocal in nature. Her voice, beautifully trained for this music of old, was a stunning instrument to carry the tones, sometimes magically floating them through the worship hall of the First Presbyterian Church, at other times piercing dramatically to address matters of romance or romance lost. Example: “Lo here I burn in such desire that all the tears that I can strain out of my empty love-sick brain cannot allay my scorching pain.”
The music, whether sincere or poking fun, enticed, thanks to Lynch and her instrumental colleagues and also to the melodies and harmonies left to us by creative composers attuned to their society of some 400 years ago.
Edmund Battersby, the eminent pianist who died two months ago at the far-too-young age of 66, was a good friend of the Bloomington Early Music Festival and, on several occasions, contributed well-remembered concerts to earlier festivals. He triumphed not only on today’s Steinway grand but on the fortepianos favored by composers of 200 years ago.
BLEMF’s Saturday night concert in the First Presbyterian Church recalled Battersby’s friendship and amazing talent with a program of Beethoven (Quintet in E-Flat Major, Opus 16), and Mozart (Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K.448, and the Quintet in E-Flat Major, K452).
The two quintets joined fortepianist Hsuan Chang Kitano to a horn ensemble (Sarah Huebsch, oboe; Elise Bonhivert, clarinet; Kelsey Schilling, bassoon, and Burke Anderson, horn). In the Mozart sonata, she teamed with fellow fortepianist Mike Lee.
The music was praiseworthily realized in the cheerful Beethoven and the lovely Mozart quintets. The Mozart sonata, as performed by the two keyboard artists, was absolutely beguiling and virtuosic, a show stopper. As a means of honoring Edmund Battersby, its reading — of note — proved a reminder of how capable he was at shaping surprises and memorability. Like the beloved Battersby, Kitano and Lee struck a chord with their performance; he would have cheered it.
Bloomington Early Music (Early Music Associates, Inc.) is a registered 5019(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission encompasses catalyzing historically informed performance arts in Bloomington and South Central Indiana.