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Savannah Baroque uses period instruments to make music dance, sing, cry

  • Savannah Baroque is back for two concerts on Jan. 13.
 

Savannah Baroque uses period instruments to make music dance, sing, cry

10 Jan 2017

The members of Savannah Baroque will delight listeners with two concerts on Jan. 13 at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“We’re trying an experiment,” founder Anne Acker says. “We’re doing the concert at noon and 7 p.m.

“We heard from a number of people who don’t like driving at night,” she says. “So we’re reaching out to the retirement community and offering group rates. We’re hoping to start picking up more people who want to go to the concert.”

The upcoming concert is Savannah Baroque’s second official show. It also is part of the church’s music series.

Savannah Baroque is the only musical group in the region to specialize in baroque music.

“Our first concert was very well received back in May,” Acker says. “Now we’ve got bookings into 2018.

“We’re going to do two concerts a year in Savannah. We’re also going to be playing in Greenville, S.C., in April.

“We’re trying to get up to Atlanta next fall,” she says. “We’ll be playing down in Jacksonville this coming May.”

Members of Savannah Baroque are Acker on harpsichord, Marcy Jean Brenner on viola da gamba, Ann Cafferty on baroque violin, Jeana Melilli on baroque flute and sopranos Tina Zenker Williams and Ashley Roper.

“I planned our next concert for a time of year when I think people are once again hungry for something beautiful, exciting and different,” Acker says. “Baroque music is supposed to convey ‘the passions,’ which in those days, referred to the gamut of feelings and emotions. In this next concert, I have chosen vocal and instrumental music from the late Renaissance to the High Baroque that explore love and loss in intense and in light ways.”

There will be something for everyone.

“It’s going to be a beautiful concert,” Acker says. “The material we’re doing is quite a breadth of material and yet will carry people through all sorts of emotions.

“The theme is love and passion. In the Baroque period, that refers to all emotions.

“The job of the performers is to affect the audience in some way,” she says. “The music is incredibly sad, incredibly rapturous, with thoughtful sad bits, or something joyful and fun.”

Just watching the musicians play the instruments is enthralling.

“It’s going to be entertaining for the audience,” Acker says. “I know it is for us.

“We’re the only group in the area that performs on all period instruments,” she says. “At the moment, we’re flexibly comprised.”

Using period instruments ensures authenticity in the sound.

“It’s amazing what you can do with this size group,” Acker says. “The bass section can be made of one or more instruments that carry the bass line, such as the harpsichord and viola de grande. The viola is kind of like the stand-up bass in jazz.”

Acker built the harpsichord she will play at the concert.

“Just like anything else, you learn the skills and you do it,” she says. “We also present a historically informed performance.

“That means we really do our research and make sure we’re not playing baroque as it was in the 1950s and ’60s. We go back to the sources about how this material is supposed to be performed — how the ornaments are done, how the phrasing is done.

“All those little things make a difference,” Acker says. “They make it exciting and moving, they make it dance or cry, whatever it’s supposed to do. As Jeana puts it, we’re historic performance nerds.”

The repertoire is impressive.

“We’ll start with some Renaissance music,” Acker says. “We will have music from the late Renaissance up to high Baroque. That way we get a nice change of color and flavor.

“We’re doing a piece by John Dowland, a lute composer primarily, and music by Thomas Morley and John Blow, very famous English composers. We’ll also do Tobias Hume, Handel, Teleman, Alessandro Scarlatti, Rameau, Couperin and Marin Marais.

“The highlight of the concert is a very rare performance of a piece for violin and harpsichord by Isabella Leonarda,” Acker says. “She was one of those very bright women born to wealthy families who went into a convent. Her works have recently been rediscovered.”

A French cantata for two voices written by another rediscovered composer, Michel Pignolet de Montéclair, also will be presented.

“We wanted to end up the concert with something not too deep and powerful,” Acker says. “This is silly and fun.”

Acker arranges the music for Savannah Baroque.

“I do the crazy ideas,” she says. “It’s going to be interesting with the flute and violin dancing. It seems to be working.”

IF YOU GO

What: Savannah Baroque

When: Noon and 7 p.m. Jan. 13

Where: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1 W. Macon St.

Cost: $20 or $15 seniors/students

Info: savannahbaroque.org, 912-484-0628

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