Thursday, March 29, 2012

March: In like a Lion, but we still have April!


We are approaching the end of our 2011-2012 season. It seems like we are ending with a bang: we have three events in April, making it our busiest of the year.
  • Our third Museum Concert this Sunday, featuring our own local Courtly Noyse in a rollicking April Fool’s Day performance. This is the group my wife is always bugging about: “When is Courtly Noyse performing? Are they Next?” The performance is free with museum admission, and there is always something new and interesting to view at SDMA!
  • The string quartet Quatuor Mosaïques is performing Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven at the Neurosciences Museum auditorium on Monday the 16th. Some may not view this post-Baroque repertoire as being “early music” (we can argue all day about that definition), but this exceptional quartet specializes in historically informed performances on period instruments. Our future at this fine venue is cloudy, so this could be our last concert there.
  • Finally, Marcia Hardjimarkos is performing on a genuine Broadwood fortepiano at All Soul’s Church in Point Loma on Friday, April 27. Opportunities to hear any fortepiano — let alone and authentic one — are few and far between. I’ll write more about Marcia in the coming weeks: this concert was my personal choice; I have all of her recordings, have corresponded with her for years, and finally get to meet her. (Did I mention that I have my world premier at this recital as a narrator in one of the pieces?)
As always, you can order tickets online at our website. After April we have only one more event, a Museum Concert in May, then the long, quiet period until our next season.

—Kemer

Thursday, March 22, 2012

La Rêveuse in Town

La Rêveuse preparing to practice, while trying to ignore
some especially fine San Diego weather
It was time to pick up the musicians of La Rêveuse! I doubted that any musician would be crazy enough to pack a theorbo, especially for a third of the way around the globe—and then back-and-forth across the continent. Given that, transportation of three musicians, along with their baggage, shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Imagine my concern when I met the performers at the airport, only to see a large theorbo case, in addition to a not-so-small viola da gamba case!

Fortunately, theorbo player Benjamin Perrot is quite the expert in packing, and also the three with me—Florence, Benjamin, and Jeffrey—were not afraid of cramped spaces. We managed to make it home without problems.

I especially enjoy introducing musicians to San Diego, and the recent weather is cooperating very nicely. Florence wondered if weather was always like this. No, sometimes it is better. (We can ignore the weekend storm that dumped an inch of rain on us as an aberration.)

They have cooked up a surprise for us Friday night; I bound by an oath to not reveal it under any circumstance. Except to say, I can't wait. This is a nicely formed group: theorbo, viola da gamba, and harpsichord backing up the singer. Just to be clear: it's not all singing, you will have a chance to hear each of the instruments solo. It's not too late to order your tickets online.

—Kemer

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Preparations—La Rêveuse

Marc-Antoine Charpentier
For many, our concert events are simply that: an evening out, oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes. Volunteer work for that “event” actually started more than a year in advance. Once we have “locked-in” the date, venue, and performers’ commitments, there is generally little to do until a couple of weeks before the concert. Then, things get busy.

We try to iron out the details a couple of board meetings before the concert. Where are they going to stay? Do we have the program? How are we going to transport them around? Will their baggage and instruments all fit into the available vehicles? Are they going to practice before the concert, and if so, when and where and how are we going to get them there? When (and what) are they going to eat? Who’s going to drop them off at the airport?

It may come as a surprise, but we generally don’t have budget to place our visiting musicians in hotels, or to hire vans to move them around. We count on members and supporters to provide the hospitality and help transport them. Although this creates logistical challenges for everyone, some of us find this the most enjoyable aspect of the event. Our visiting musicians are generally used to this arrangement and many have said they would rather stay in a home than in a cold, sterile hotel. Often they are from Europe and to them San Diego is a very exotic locale. On the part of the hosts, it is an opportunity to get to know some of the finest musicians in the world, to get an inside view of their world, and to become part of the production.

The musicians of La Rêveuse will be arriving a couple of days early for next Friday’s concert, "Courtly Songs of Lambert and Charpentier": they will be flying in Wednesday evening, then leaving the day after the concert. I’ll be transporting three, and I’m taking it on faith that their instruments (in this case, I believe a viola da gamba and lute) will fit in my Honda CrV along with their baggage. They usually do. I have learned that it is an exercise in futility to think I can anticipate every challenge; I always think of the dialog in Shakespeare in Love:
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
Things generally work out with the last minute arrangements. How, it’s a mystery.
It’s not too late to get tickets! How many opportunities will you have to hear intimate music of 17th Century France, performed by a leading French group? Order tickets online here. And, if you are interested in helping with future events, grab me or one of the board members at next Friday’s concert. I’ll be at the ticket table.
—Kemer

Sunday, March 4, 2012

La Rêveuse & Jeffrey Thompson Coming to Town March 23

La Rêveuse & Jeffrey Thompson
You won't want to miss our next concert: the talented young French group La Rêveuse, teaming up with American tenor Jeffrey Thompson, to present a program  of songs by Lambert and Charpentier for the unique sound of the French haute-contre (high tenor) voice. Instrumental music of the period utilizing the viola da gamba, lute, and harpsichord will fill out the program and help establish the atmosphere.

Wikipedia has a nice article on Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 24 February 1704), along with a recently discovered portrait that is presumed to be of him. As a piece of trivia, Wikipedia points out that the prelude to his Te Deum, H. 146, a rondeau, is well-known as the signature tune for the European Broadcasting Union, heard in the opening credits of the Vienna New Year's Concert, the Eurovision Song Contest and other Eurovision events. This theme was also the intro to "The Olympiad" films of Bud Greenspan.

Information on Michel Lambert (1610 – 29 June 1696) is more sparse. He was a French singing master, theorbist and composer. Most importantly, his vocal works have been attributed to the creation of the French opera.

Saint James by the Sea is the ideal venue for an ensemble of this size. I've been sitting in the back most of the time these days—I seem to have become our latest ticket-taker—and have been favorably impressed with how well the sound carries all the way back there.

For more information on the concert and how to buy tickets, visit our web site.

— Kemer