Seicento Baroque Ensemble presents “Inspire Baroque”

Series of educational sessions are open to the public

By Peter Alexander April 7 at 6:50 p.m.

Imagine that you are leading a chorus. What do you do when a pandemic prevents you from presenting concerts, or even gathering for rehearsals?

If the chorus is the Seicento Baroque Ensemble, Boulder’s chamber choir devoted to the music of the early Baroque period, you might see this as an opportunity to expand knowledge and understanding of the Baroque style of music. You could, for examle, provide educational sessions designed to “demystify ‘Baroque Performance Practice’ in classical music and dance.” 

Seicento Baroque Ensemble with their director, Amanda Balestrieri (in blue)

In fact, that is exactly what Amanda Balestrieri, Seicento’s artistic director, decided to do this spring.

This intriguing appraoch allows safe distancing, since each session only requires a single presenter, and perhaps one or two other participants. It provides insight into the often arcane matters of early Baroque performance—knowledge that will benefit both the choir’s audience and their members. It allows Seicento to stay in contact with their supporters, and might attract the attention of potential new listeners.

The first of the “Inspire Baroque” series, as it is called—a class on Baroque dance—was held in March, but four sessions remain. The first of those remaining sessions, “Cellos & Viols and Students, Oh My!” will premiere on YouTube at 6 p.m. Friday, April 9.

Sarah Biber

For that session, Baroque and viola da gamba specialist Sarah Biber will explore and explain the viol family of instruments—bowed stringed instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods that are similar to, but distinct to the more familiar violin and its larger relations. Assisted by colleagues and students, Biber will use the “La Folia” theme, employed by many Baroque composers and familiar to Baroque music enthusiasts.

Other sessions of the “Inspire Baroque” series and their premieres will be:

—“Historic Organs Meet 21st-Century Tech,” 6–7 p.m. Friday, April 23. Using a Virtual Pipe Organ (VPO) setup, historical keyboard specialist Wesley Leffingwell will discuss organ history and music that showcases the versatility of a virtual instrument.

—“What’s Your Temperament (and why does it matter)?” 6–7 p.m. Friday, May 7. Organist and harpsichord performer Eric Wicks will venture into the complex and deeply mystifying subject of Baroque-era intonation and systems of tuning, and explain the ways that different temperaments affect the sound and expression of early music performances.

—“The Flute’s Pleasure Garden,” 6–8:15 p.m. Friday, May 21. Flutist and recorder specialist Rob Turner will present Baroque music written or arranged for unaccompanied recorder and transverse flute, using his extensive personal collection of instruments. The YouTube premiere of the “Inspire Baroque” session will be followed by a Q&A session by Zoom. 

Each session is free, with a requested donation to Seicento. You may sign up for the individual sessions here.

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