p12fRecently, a most engaging talk fell into my hands, a CBC radio interview from 2002 between Eric Friesen and gambist, cellist and educator Peggie Sampson, on the occasion of her 90th birthday. During the course of the interview, Dr. Sampson reflected on various possible ways of presenting early music in concert. One way to do it, she said, is to recreate an occasion: “to be in somebody’s court, on a definite day – the marriage of this princess to that prince or something like that, and then you try to reproduce the whole scene.”

Her comment led me to observe that more than one group have thought to celebrate this season of “definite days” by recreating an occasion, bringing the audience as close as possible to an experience of what that event must have been like. So I asked the artistic directors of three of these groups to tell me a bit about the genesis and development of this idea in their performances. Here is some of what they told me.

The Tallis Choir and its artistic director Peter Mahon very much enjoy taking this approach in their programming, devoting one concert per season to a reconstruction of the musical content of an historic event. Choir member (and enthusiastic researcher of programme material) Douglas Cowling notes: “These reconstructions allow us to hear the classic repertoire in the musical sequence which the composer intended. In the upcoming Gabrieli mass, we will be unable to recreate the cannon volleys on the Grand Canal which punctuated the service at significant moments, but we will see how Venetian composers assembled a mass with seemingly independent movements, hear for the first time Orlando di Lasso’s polyphonic settings of the mass responses, and experience Gabrieli’s famous brass music as ‘cover’ for grand ceremonial in San Marco. It will be a unique concert experience – and a lot of fun.” And so on December 4, the Tallis Choir takes the audience back to 1605 with a recreation of Christmas Eve in the ducal chapel of San Marco in Venice. Featured is Giovanni Gabrieli’s Mass for Twelve Voices, interwoven with more glorious sacred music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Lasso and Grandi.

p13On December 11, the Aradia Ensemble and its artistic director Kevin Mallon take their audience to Dublin, Ireland, in April 1742 for “The Dublin Messiah,” recreating the premiere of Handel’s famous work. Mallon is enthusiastic about this presentation and the reasons for it: “As early music performers, we try to recreate the instruments so they sound as the people of the time and the composer would have heard; we try to get as close as possible to a performing style they would have expected; we try to get as close as we can to the text the composer wrote, etc. So, the notion of recreating a particular event from a definite time or place is all part of that. However, I have found that the audience get a real kick out of the recreation. We can have fun with it – for example, pointing out that the tradition of King George standing at the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ came from the London performances which post-dated the premiere in Ireland. So in my strong Irish accent I ask them to sit and enjoy it! The first audience was asked: ‘The Ladies who honour this Performance with their Presence would be pleased to come without hoops, as it will greatly encrease the Charity by making room for more company. The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords.’ So we ask our audience to do likewise!”

On December 10, 11 and 12 the Toronto Consort presents “Praetorius Christmas Vespers,” recreating the joyful celebration of Christmas Vespers as it might have been heard under the direction of Michael Praetorius in 17th-century Germany. As in all Toronto Consort presentations, a great deal of scholarship has gone into the preparation of this concert. Artistic director David Fallis talked a bit about the research involved – everything from determining the permissible elements of the Lutheran Vespers service as distinct from the Catholic service (for example cutting down the number of psalms to only one or two, and the addition of the Creed), all the way to delving into Praetorius’ complete works to create parts, thereby enabling the performers to play and sing the music. Praetorius, as you’ll discover if you go, loved groups of strings and groups of brass; and there’s something very warming in being enveloped by the massive chords of singers, violins, cornetti, sackbuts, theorbos and keyboards as they resound from the balconies and all around the church – a joyful invitation to join in the celebration of a north German Christmas.

 

Some upcoming concerts

There’s no possibility of doing justice to the amazing flurry of early music concerts in December and January – you’ll have to go on a listings treasure hunt to find them all. Here are but a few:

• December 4: A night to make a choice. In addition to the Tallis Choir concert, discussed above, there is: Toronto Chamber Choir, “O Magnum Mysterium” (serene motets of Palestrina, expressive harmonies of Monteverdi, beautiful voices and strings of Vivaldi); Flutes by Night, “Bach, Bach and More” (J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Telemann and Hotteterre for traverso, recorder, cello and harpsichord); Cantemus Singers, “Welcome Yule” (renaissance and medieval carols; Sweelinck, Praetorius and Byrd; Schütz’s delightful Christmas Oratorio). Fortunately, this concert is repeated on December 12.

• December 18: Sine Nomine Ensemble for Medieval Music, “Minstrels at a Christmas Court” (In this English romance, the faithful Sir Cleges, benefactor of minstrels, becomes the beneficiary of a Christmas miracle. Around this compelling narrative framework is woven a mixture of seasonally evocative 14th- and 15th-century English Christmas music for voices and instruments).

• January 15: I Furiosi, “My Big Fat Baroque Wedding” (We are not just staging a wedding, but the clothes will be designed by Canadian designer extraordinaire Rosemarie Umetsu who is presenting eight to ten new garments at the show. Works by Bach, Campion, Handel and more. We encourage audience members to come wearing bridesmaid gowns that they have never reworn.)

• January 28 in Kingston: Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra, “Handel’s and Haydn’s London” (J.S. Bach, J.C. Bach, Handel, Geminiani, Haydn and Greene – the second concert of this newly-formed, mainly baroque-spirited, chamber orchestra).

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

Being a university town, Kingston, Ontario, attracts interesting people. One such person is David Cameron who, after his early training in Toronto and the USA, has led a very busy musical life in Kingston for over four decades as organist, choir director, teacher and composer. He founded the Melos Choir in 1984 – a choir which, even then, had its sights on producing an authentic baroque style (Cameron’s graduate studies had involved early music and performance practice) in its execution of the major works of Bach, Handel and other composers of the era – but without the availability of period instruments or players to contribute to the authenticity to the sound.

Things are changing now, though, and Cameron’s vision of a part-time but professional baroque chamber orchestra in Kingston is much closer to realization. In his words: “In recent years the arrival in town of some early-music people, with replica instruments, and a broader selection of young players who had been exposed to early music work in their training, opened up new possibilities. So we began with a complete Messiah at A equals 415, with replica woodwinds and modern strings playing with baroque bows – and several further events have led to the present attempt to establish a continuing baroque chamber orchestra here. We can’t yet afford to buy replica strings, but are seeking grants for that purpose; we have players willing to master them when they become available. So it’s a work in progress.” The hope for the long term is to establish a presence in the city modelled after Toronto’s Tafelmusik.

This newly formed baroque orchestra gives its first performance this month, assuming the role of accompanist to the choir and the organ. On November 26 in Kingston, the Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra and soloists present “In Praise of Music,” with Bach’s Cantata 148 Bringet dem Herrn, Purcell’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (a timely piece incidentally, as November 22 is the feast day of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music), Handel’s Organ Concerto in B Flat Major, and, in recognition of Wesley’s 200th anniversary, his anthem Ascribe unto the Lord. (In January, a further development: the first solo performance by the orchestra, so stay tuned for more news of this event.)

Meanwhile in Toronto, the model for Kingston’s new venture is fully into its 2010-11 season. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir presents (along with works by Rameau and Charpentier) Handel’s very spirited setting of Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus. This is Handel’s earliest surviving autograph, composed when he was just 22 and living in Rome. It demands extreme technical prowess from all the performers, suggesting that (to quote John Eliot Gardiner) “this young composer, newly arrived in the land of virtuoso singers and players, was daring his hosts to greater and greater feats of virtuosity.” Tafelmusik performs it four times, November 11 through 14.

Other November Concerts

p19You never know how talent will manifest itself. Soprano and core member of I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble, Gabrielle McLaughlin, has just had a short story published in Pilot Project’s new Pilot Pocket Book 7: Baroque. You have to read it to get the flavour. (I couldn’t begin to describe it here!) But you can get a copy (which contains as an added bonus: an I Furiosi five-track mini-CD) at the launch party, complete with live performance and auction, on November 7 at Tequila Bookworm, 512 Queen Street West in Toronto. (See Announcements Etc., page 53) As well, the group’s first concert of the season, entitled “The Empire Strikes Baroque,” takes place on November 27.

Some of the loveliest Bach is found in his chamber music, sacred and secular. If you desire to spend an evening listening to the more intimate treasures of the master, go to the Academy Concert Series’ An Evening with Bach. You’ll hear a whole world unfolding in the first movement of Violin Sonata BWV 1014, tender joy woven by soprano and cello in the aria “Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze” (from Cantata BWV 61), and an engaging gigue with an easy swing in the Trio Sonata BWV 1040, as well as other gems for baroque oboe, recorder, soprano voice, baroque violin, harpsichord and baroque cello. This concert takes place on November 13 at Eastminster United Church.

p20Anyone who’s been to a Toronto Consort performance knows Laura Pudwell – her marvellously flexible, clear and expressive mezzo voice has long been a feature in their concerts and in performances (from early music to contemporary) in Southern Ontario and internationally. With some friends of hers (Julie Baumgartel, baroque violin, Margaret Gay, baroque cello and Lucas Harris, archlute), she’ll be presenting “Laura Pudwell and Friends.” This performance is a presentation of Classics at the Registry, and it takes place in Kitchener on November 14.

Scaramella’s mission (or one of its missions) is to bring together diverse expressions of art and in so doing, reveal much about the connections that lie between them. In “Old World/New World,” the first concert of the season, this takes the form of exploring the meeting of widely separate cultures and their influences on each other. High art-music of 16th and 17th century France and Spain is juxtaposed with folk music from Brazil and Canada, much of which has only survived in oral form, transmitted from one generation to the next. The concert takes place in Victoria College Chapel – a stunning place to hear combinations of baroque guitar, recorders, harpsichord, violas da gamba and voice – on November 20.

The Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto is perhaps the only community orchestra in Canada that dedicates itself to playing baroque music on period instruments. (If anyone knows of other such groups, would you please be in touch?) CBOT performs twice this month, with violinist Patricia Ahern as soloist in the Bach Violin Concerto in A Minor, and also with music by Muffat and Lully. Their first performance takes place in the Beach on November 21 and their second in Bloor West Village on November 28.

A glance at early December reveals that two choral concerts occur (alas!) on the evening of December 4: Cantemus Singers’ “Welcome Yule” (Sweelinck, Praetorius, Byrd, Schütz, Renaissance and Medieval carols) in Toronto’s east end (repeated later in December in the west end), and Toronto Chamber Choir’s “O Magnum Mysterium” (Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vivaldi) at Christ Church Deer Park. Not an easy choice!

For details of all these, and a whole range of other concerts, consult The WholeNote’s concert listings.

 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

October seems to be a month of refreshment, as there’s so much interestingly new going on in the realm of “early” music. Three relatively new groups have upcoming concerts:

The debut performance of the Vesuvius Ensemble takes place on October 29, and its title, ”Fronna: Folk Music of Southern Italy,” gives some idea of the sunny and impassioned outlook of this group. Led by the Italian tenor Francesco Pellegrino (now teaching Italian art-song at the University of Toronto), who is joined by early-music specialists Marco Cera (oboist with Tafelmusik, who plays both reed and strummed instruments in this group) and lutenist/guitarist Lucas Harris, this ensemble is dedicated to preserving and performing the traditional folk songs from Naples and the Italian countryside. Besides baroque guitars and voice, other instruments such as the ciaramella (a type of traditional Italian shawm, related to the bagpipe) and the tammorra (a very large frame drum with bells attached to the sides) will contribute their colours.

Bud Roach is accomplished both as an oboist and a tenor. Perhaps it is the combination of these musical sensibilities that led him to found Capella Intima in 2008, in order to revive hauntingly beautiful 17th-century motets and cantatas, chamber music both sacred and secular, for voices and instruments. Their next concert focuses on the influence of the great Monteverdi, insofar as it reveals something of the talents of  those composers who worked with him and indeed were overshadowed by him. “In the Shadow of Monteverdi” presents music by Cavalli, Grandi and Legrenzi as well as Monteverdi, and will feature tenor, baritone and bass voices, as well as portative organ and cello continuo. It will be performed three times: on October 30 and 31 and November 1.

With the intent of presenting little-heard music for voices from the Renaissance and Baroque, Michael Erdman began Cantemus Singers. In a relatively short time this 16-voice a-cappella choir has developed a flourishing concert series, performing each one back to back in two different parts of Toronto. Its next performances pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth I, with madrigals, motets and sacred works – including Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices – all by composers whose intent was to please “Good Queen Bess” with flattering prose and glorious music. You can hear them in the city’s east end on October 2, and in the west end on October 3.

And more, in chronological order…

p23Tafelmusik, always ready to deliver the unexpected, presents 19th-century composers Chopin and Spohr in its next group of concerts, October 7 to 10. Featured soloist is pianist Janina Fialkowska, who will perform Chopin’s First Piano Concerto on a 19th-century Pleyel piano, with chamber ensemble arrangement. The French piano manufacturing firm Pleyel et Cie has a long and important history: Founded in 1807 by composer Ignace Pleyel, it provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin, and ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first and last concerts in Paris. The innovative company was the first to use metal frames in their pianos. Pleyel pianos were the choice of musicians such as Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Ravel.

On October 9, the Cardinal Consort of Viols presents “An English Harvest”: five-part music for the viola da gamba, including works by Dowland, Holborne, Gibbons and Tye. This concert affords a rare opportunity to spend an evening enjoying the delicately ravishing sound of five viols in consort.

Intrigue, secrets and wonderful music are the subjects of The Toronto Consort‘s “The Ambassadors,” presented on October 15 and 16. An exploration of the world of 16th-century diplomats (“bearers of lavish gifts, writers of secret dispatches, keen observers of courtly life”) and the musical riches they encountered, this pair of concerts was designed by the ever-inventive Alison Mackay.

In Kingston, the ensemble Trillio celebrates both the music of the Baroque and the riches of October with “Baroquetoberfest.” With a real sense of occasion, this energetic group delights in presentations that combine music with culinary feasts; and I can attest to the fact that you’ll not be disappointed on either count if you go. Music by Telemann, Bach, Pepusch, Schickhardt and others for harpsichord, baroque oboe, recorders, baroque bassoon and viola da gamba will be performed; and German-style sausages, apfelstreusel and other mouth-watering treats will be served, on October 16 and 17.

In Kitchener, Nota Bene Period Orchestra perform their programme, “The Grand Tour,” presenting music that a young 17th-century English traveller might have heard as he completed his education by soaking up the cultural climate of the continent. Featured in this concert is a sonata from “Il Giardino Armonico” by the 17th-century Dutch composer and viol virtuoso Johann Schenck – a work that was considered lost in World War II, but in reality was part of a collection hidden in Kiev, and only recently uncovered and returned to Germany. The sonata, scored for two violins, gamba and basso continuo, probably hasn’t been heard in Canada in recent memory – but now it can be heard, on October 17.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra performs at Roy Thomson Hall on October 26, in a fascinating concert that juxtaposes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with a recent violin concerto by Philip Glass, The American Four Seasons. Violinist Robert McDuffie is the soloist, and also Glass’s inspiration when he composed this 21st-century companion piece to the Vivaldi.

p24Musicians In Ordinary launch their tenth official season on October 30 with Her Leaves Be Green, a charming mix of songs and lute solos from the English courts of James I and Charles I. This duo, soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards, regularly invites Toronto audiences into the Privy Chambers of English kings and queens to hear the intimate music provided for their majesties by the “musicians in ordinary for the lutes and voices.”

 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at: earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

Greetings of the new season to all early music lovers – you’re in for a great time ahead! I know, because in surveying the coming months I already find a vast and fascinating variety of music to talk about. There’s far too much to mention in this column – but here are a few of the many things that have caught my eye.

The earliest composer I see represented is Hildegard von Bingen, the German abbess, musician, author, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, poet and visionary. Her feast day (the anniversary of her death in 1179) will be celebrated on September 17 in the Church of the Holy Trinity with a concert and labyrinth walk, entitled “Meditation in Motion.” This is an opportunity to experience the mystical properties of her music while either sitting and meditating, or walking the spiraling 36-foot labyrinth placed in the church for the occasion, or simply listening to the music.

At the other end of the spectrum, the most recent compositions represented on the early-music scene probably have yet to be written: Aradia’s February 5 project, entitled “Baroque Idol!”, is to elicit ten new compositions from ten young composers, thereby fostering new music for baroque ensemble using the tonal possibilities of old instruments.

There’s a wide range in other areas too. For example, you can hear early music on modern instruments, such as cellist Winona Zelenka’s stylistically aware performances of Bach’s solo suites for cello (September 2 at the Toronto Music Garden; February 24 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts; April 16 at the Almonte Town Hall). Or you can experience romantic music on period instruments, such as pianist Janina Fialkowska’s performance of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto on an 1848 Pleyel piano – a Tafelmusik presentation from October 7 to 10. Contemporary music on period instruments can be heard on September 19, as the Windermere String Quartet plays Alexander Rapoport’s Quartet written in 2006 (as well as Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven).

P15The theme “Old World/New World” crops up, in two interesting programmes. Scaramella’s November 20 concert (with this same title) will pair European art-music with music of the colonies (specifically Brazil and French maritime Canada). On May 8, master gambist Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI will evoke Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque, and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions in their programme “The Route of the New World: Spain – Mexico.”

As has often occurred in the past, there are some striking correspondences to be noticed in this season’s programming. For instance, who would expect to find all three pinnacles of Bach’s choral works performed in the area, within a three-month period? That’s the case this season: the B Minor Mass is presented by Tafelmusik from February 9 to 13; the St. John Passion is offered by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (actually the 70-voice Mendelssohn Singers) on March 3; and the St. Matthew Passion is programmed by the Masterworks of Oakville Chorus and Orchestra on April 15, 16 and 17.

If you missed Tafelmusik’s 2009 spectacular commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s development of the telescope – or if, like me, you absolutely have to see it again – you’re in luck: a reprise of “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” takes place March 2 to 6. A production like no other, it uses music, words, images and very imaginative staging and lighting to explore the artistic, cultural and scientific world in which 17th- and 18th-century astronomers lived and worked. It also features the orchestra performing almost completely from memory as they probe the wonders of the heavens.

Perhaps it’s the present climate of environmental consciousness? Our fellow furry and feathered creatures are represented in at least three programmes: September 18, Beaches Baroque (Geneviève Gilardeau, baroque violin, and Lucas Harris, theorbo) present “Beasts of the Baroque,” featuring baroque sonatas that imitate the calls of animals. Hot on its tracks, Classics at the Registry in Kitchener follows on September 19 with “Baroque for the Birds”: music inspired by birds, performed by Alison Melville, baroque flute and recorders and Borys Medicky, harpsichord. And February 5, Scaramella’s “Birds Bewigged” features musical improvisations based on readings of haiku, and poetic readings on an avian theme.

P16And I must draw your attention to some of the visiting artists coming this season: In addition to the above-mentioned ensemble from Spain (Hespèrion XXI), here are others to be noted: On October 26, the Venice Baroque Orchestra appears at Roy Thomson Hall to play both Vivaldi and Philip Glass. This group, founded in 1997, is recognized as one of Europe’s premier ensembles devoted to period instrument performance. On March 12, the a-cappella vocal ensemble the King’s Singers graces Koerner Hall stage to sing Palestrina and others. On March 23, Soundstreams presents Norwegian vocalists Trio Mediæval together with the Toronto Consort to perform a world premiere based on ancient music: James Rolfe’s “Breathe”, which draws inspiration from the music of 12th- century composer Hildegard von Bingen. The programme also includes medieval classics, music inspired by Norwegian folk traditions, and recent masterworks.

As well as all the above, you’ll find many other fascinating programmes coming up, which I hope to do more justice to in future columns – for example the Monteverdi Vespers sung by the Grand River Chorus on October 30; a concert of Josquin Motets and Chansons presented by the Toronto Chamber Choir on April 2; the Toronto Consort’s “Canti di a Terra” on April 1 and 2 with guests: Montreal’s Constantinople (who draw their inspiration from the music of the Mediterranean, the classical Persian tradition, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance) and Corsica’s vocal quartet Barbara Furtuna (who specialize in the centuries old traditions of Corsican singing).

Finally, you might want to expand your travel plans this month to include ancient Egypt, Scandinavia and the Baltics in Viking times, and Elizabethan England, with the following events taking place: Aradia’s semi-staged production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto plays on September 11, fresh from Sulmona, Italy, where it has had four triumphant performances. On September 27 at Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival, Ensemble Polaris presents “Nordic Music to Love,” a modern tribute to the Vikings with original, traditional and new music on a wide variety of instruments. On October 2 and 3, Cantemus Singers celebrates “Good Queen Bess” with glorious music from the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at: earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

P16Thinking of going on an early music treasure hunt this summer? Here are some ideas for you.

If your travel boundaries lie within Toronto and the GTA, you could spend the whole summer sampling a variety of styles and genres in many different programmes:

The Italian singer/instrumentalist Viva BiancaLuna Biffi (featured in the June early music column) presents her one-woman show, “Fermate il Passo,” a programme of Italian frottola in which she sings universal tales of love – its euphoria and torments, its ultimate triumph over adversity – while accompanying herself on the viola d’arco. This Music Mondays concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity takes place on July 5.

Beaches Baroque, a duo made up of baroque violinist Geneviève Gilardeau and lutenist Lucas Harris, presents “The Bach/Weiss Sonata.” The featured work is a seven-movement sonata for violin and lute supposedly by Bach, but striking in that the lute part began life as a sonata in its own right by Bach’s friend, the virtuoso lutenist Leopold Weiss. As well, more music by Bach, Weiss and Hagen will be presented, on July 10 at Beaches Presbyterian Church.

Hildegard von Bingen’s music broke the boundaries of expression for its time, and sounds amazingly modern today. The soaring chant of this 12th-century abbess can be heard on August 8 at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, sung by a group that’s been acclaimed for its performances of medieval music and Gregorian chant. The five-voice women’s ensemble Schola Magdalena is led by artistic director Stephanie Martin.

And sprinkled through the ambitious Summer Music in the Garden programme of the Toronto Music Garden – a concert almost every Sunday and Thursday from now till late September – are the following hour-long programmes, each one featuring a different aspect of early music:

July 4: On the day before her Music Mondays concert (described above), Viva BiancaLuna Biffi’s imaginative show “Fermate il Passo” can be heard here too, in this lovely outdoor setting.

July 15: “In Four Hands, Twenty-Nine Strings,” baroque violinist Linda Melsted and guitarist Terry McKenna explore a whole range of styles from the 17th to the 20th century – old English dance tunes, an opera overture, tango and more.

August 12: “Inspired by Cremona” presents some of the bold new music created to showcase the unsurpassed perfection of the stringed instruments crafted by 17th-century Italian makers. Music by Farina, Merula and Castello will be performed by baroque violinists Patricia Ahern and Linda Melsted, harpsichordist Borys Medicky and lutenist Lucas Harris.

August 22: In “Masque of the Garden,” musicians of the Toronto Masque Theatre, actor Derek Boyes and baroque dancer Dorothea Ventura celebrate the Music Garden itself, with music and dances that inspired the six sections of the garden.

August 26: “Able was I ere I heard Abel” is a tribute to the 18th century’s last great gamba virtuoso, Carl Friedrich Abel. Gambist Justin Haynes and baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes present music by Haydn, Schaffrath, and Abel himself.

September 2: In “Bach at Dusk,” cellist Winona Zelenka’s six-year odyssey through the Bach solo cello suites is fulfilled, with her performance of the Suite in C Minor (which is actually number five in the set).

It’s so easy to “catch the fire” of a summer festival – music springing up in various places, artists and concert-goers sharing the excitement of magical moments – and I urge you to work one or more into your summer plans. Here’s some of what you might find in various Southern Ontario festivals:

July 4: North of Toronto at historic Sharon Temple, Music at Sharon presents Les Voix Baroques, a celebrated ensemble specializing in vocal works from the Renaissance and Baroque. They’ll offer music by Charpentier and Carissimi in this imposing space.

July 18: Northwest of Campbellford, the Westben Festival presents the Toronto Consort in their presentation “Shakespeare’s Songbook.” The Consort uses the songs and dances of Shakespeare’s plays to engage the audience in the wonderful world of Elizabethan music: “music for fools, fairies and Falstaff.”

July 9-August 1: The Elora Festival takes place in a village with a spectacular setting along the Elora Gorge, north of Guelph. If you go, you’ll be able to hear four early music concerts: choral works with the Elora Festival Singers and collaborating artists on July 18 (Handel and Vivaldi) and July 22 (The Tudors); the delightfully daring group I Furiosi on July 24; and “Love: Sacred and Profane” on July 31 – a programme of renaissance music presented by Ludus Modalis Vocal Ensemble from France.

July 16-August 8: At the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, you can hear concerts as diverse as “Sound the Trumpet” (music for trumpet, soprano and piano by Purcell, Handel, Bach and Scarlatti) on July 29; Bach’s powerful B Minor Mass on July 30; and “Baroque on the Boat” (a morning concert on the M.V. Chippewa in Georgian Bay with the Festival Winds) on August 6.

July 19-August 22: At Stratford Summer Music, gems seem to be multiplying: Winona Zelenka, having recently recorded all the Bach solo cello suites, will perform each of them in separate concerts – and as several of these are now sold out, more performances are being added as I write. (Zelenka is featured as the cover story in The WholeNote’s June issue.) As well, Bach’s Coffee Cantata can be enjoyed in the appropriate setting of a coffee house (August 13, 14 and 15); and from it another event has been brewed: “Bawk’s” (alias Tiefenbach’s) Cappuccino Cantata (or The Lonely Barista) can be savoured the following week (August 20, 21 and 22).

July 24-August 7: If you find yourself in Ottawa this summer, you must take in some events of the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival. July 28: Les Voix Humaines (gambists Susie Napper and Margaret Little) present “Master and Pupil: Sainte-Colombe, the master, and Marin Marais, his pupil”; August 1: Ensemble Caprice explores an unlikely connection in “Bach and the Baroque Gypsies”; August 5: Helene Plouffe, Mark Simonds and friends present “Discovering the viola d’amore and chalumeau”; August 5: Ludus Modalis perform “Spiritual Songs and Psalms of the Renaissance” with music by Sweelinck, Estocart, Ferrabosco, Costelley and Le Jeune. (This list is not comprehensive, so do check the listings.)

As for me, I am enslaved by a gamba and a cat, neither of whom travels very well; so I’ll probably do most of my concert-going within the boundaries of Toronto. But you never know – don’t be surprised if you find me at any of the aforementioned events. And may your own treasure hunt be fascinating!

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at: earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

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