There were many glowing moments in Calmus’s concert at the Church of the Assumption in Redford. The ancient music of Palestrina, Schütz, C.P. Bach, J.S. Bach and Altnikol (J.S. Bach’s son-in-law) has enhanced and deepened humanity’s faith and spiritual longing for centuries and continues to resonate in the present. The five singers of Calmus are as one voice – so attuned to one another in their collective comprehension of text, subtle harmonic shifts, and projection of mood and message through silken blended tone and unified diction and dynamics.
The “unhinged” secular half of the program allowed the artists more freedom to show their individual vocal colors and temperaments in expressing extreme emotions in the madrigals of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Janéquin, and Flecha. The historic stone church provided just the right amount of ring – lush resonance without an echo. Whispered pianissimi reached the farthest corner of the sanctuary up in the balcony. When Calmus offered as an encore Mykola Lysenko’s “Prayer for Ukraine” –“Bozhe velykyi yedinyi” – there was not a dry eye in the audience. One hundred attended the exceptional performance and the next day Calmus was off to Charlottesville to continue their USA 2022 Tour!
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The four women of Infusion Baroque brought wonderment and joy to a rapt audience of 100+ with the performance and discussion of their signature program “Virtuosa.” Played on historically accurate instruments of the period – flute, violin, cello, and harpsichord – Virtuosa highlights women musicians of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Featured composers included Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677), Anna Bon (1738-1769), Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (1709-1758), Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818), Élizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729).
The extraordinary program is the result of several years of research and development, and indeed, the scholarly efforts of Infusion Baroque have yielded enough riches to create several more similarly fascinating programs. The afternoon led off with an informal pre-concert chat with the artists sitting casually on the edge of the stage, discussing various reasons why extraordinary women musicians – performers and composers alike – have been omitted from concert programs, history books, and educational curricula. It was an engaging conversation that continues to be relevant even in the present.
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One of our friends commented afterward, “Those guys were smoking!” It was one of the premiere performances launching Le Vent du Nord’s 20th anniversary tour “20 Printemps” (translated “20 Springs” with entirely new material, both traditional and original. Now they will tour the show extensively throughout North America and Europe. The band was stoked – they gave us everything: instrumentals and vocals in every possible combination, and podorhythmie (feet) galore. All the fame and glory that has been heaped upon Le Vent du Nord is richly deserved.
But the best part? The band loved our audience and our venue. The hall was packed with enthusiasts for this creme de la creme of Quebecois bands. In addition to our regulars, there were lots of newcomers, many coming from quite far afield. It took some doing to turn a crummy old gym into a cool concert club, and you might ask why, but we needed to be in a spacious place where folks felt safe. And it worked. Several people even praised the acoustics – amazing, considering it is a cement block gym! But our soundman Russell Feher worked his magic to make the sound very clear. Smashing show!
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The viola-guitar (and lute) duo concert of Patricia McCarty and Bill Zito was just as wonderful as we anticipated and more. The live acoustics of the historic Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel suited the instruments beautifully â€“ their delicate sounds wafted bell-like to the back of the intimate hall. A full house of 100 turned out for the program, which included works of Dowland, Telemann, Giuliani, Nin, de Falla, and Granados, as well as some contemporary pieces by Gunter Braun and Robert Sierra. The concert was a collaboration between Hill and Hollow Music and Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel for the benefit of the chapel, with all proceeds going toward the restoration of the chapelâ€™s 1933 original stained-glass windows.
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The renowned Horszowski Trio more than delivered the goods to a capacity house on Sunday, November 14. We knew this was going to be an extra-special concert and yet it exceeded even our highest expectations. The crowd did not save its standing ovation until the end; several in the audience jumped to their feet at the conclusion of the first piece on the program, Dvorakâ€™s Dumky Trio. From there the excitement built and built through Rebecca Clarkâ€™s Piano Trio and Schumannâ€™s ultra-romantic Piano Trio in d minor.
We waited 21 years for the exquisite pianist Rieko Aizawa to return to us – Rieko performed a solo piano recital on our 5th anniversary series in March, 2000! During the intervening years Rieko has been very active on the international chamber music scene. Her current participation in the Horszowski Trio, along with violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Ole Akahoshi is an all-consuming project. They give their study and performances their all and the result is overwhelmingly exciting and beautiful. This is an ensemble in demand all over the globe and we had them here in Saranac â€“ so thrilled!!
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It was overwhelming to be back inside our home venue again for a live concert, after a summer of outdoor concerts – overwhelming in a wonderful way! All the key ingredients were there: superb artists; an exciting program; a great piano; the old country churchâ€™s charming atmosphere and fine acoustics; and a full house of keen enthusiasts. The â€œcherry on topâ€ was the presence of Pulitzer Prize composer Lewis Spratlan, who gave a pre-concert talk about his two works being performed that afternoon, one of which was a premiere.
Dana Muller and Gary Steigerwalt had driven all the way from Tucson, Arizona to fulfill the engagement that had been cancelled twice since the start of the pandemic. During their weekâ€™s residency they not only holed up to rehearse for long stretches, but they reached out into the community to give a couple of mini-performances: Lake Forest Senior Living Community and a pop-up concert at the mall. Both were so warmly received.
Amazing concert by Cantrip on Labor Day at Weatherwatch Farm. Again rain played havoc and we gathered snug under the tent for an intimate sharing of some wonderful Celtic music. The guys first seduced us with tales told in their lilting brogue; and then the music poured out of them in song and on fiddle, flutes, guitar, and even bouzouki. Eventually the sun came out and folks were inspired to get up and dance; a Scottish conga line formed and weaved around the back. Great turnout with many newcomers. SlÃ inte Mhath! (pronounced slange var) in Scots Gaelic thatâ€™s â€œCheersâ€!
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Rain began at showtime and soon became torrential and continued thus unabated for the duration of Sundayâ€™s concert – gadzooks! We had a great crowd nevertheless, with few cancellations and only a few early departures at the half â€“ 125 under the tent â€“ very cozy and intimate. Ah, the vagaries and challenges of show biz during covid!
The Tim Collins Jazz Quintet, an ad hoc ensemble of A-list players (and good old friends from way back) assembled expressly for Hill and Hollow Music, gave two shows, both excellent. Although it was basically the same set-list twice, each performance was quite different and distinctive. Saturdayâ€™s drive-in show at Curbside in Plattsburgh featured the extraordinary John Ellis on tenor sax, while Sundayâ€™s show at Weatherwatch Farm featured the superb Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. But of course, everyone got to shine with ample solos: Tim Collins on vibes, Marcos Varela on bass, and Jon Wikan on drums. They played mostly original compositions by Christine Jensen, (Blue Yonder, Swirlaround, Margareta) and Tim Collins (Down the Old Road, North Country, Crazy Cat, The Other Side, Valcour). Great stuff and first rate playing!
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David Krakauer assembled an international all-star cast of high-octane musicians for his newest band, Mazel Tov Cocktail Party. The project was conceived and developed with his principal collaborator â€“ pianist-composer Kathleen Tagg â€“ in multiple extended Hill and Hollow Music residencies during the pandemic. The ensemble features Krakauer on clarinet, Tagg on keys and cello, Sarah MK on vocals and rap, Yoshie Fruchter on guitar and oud, Jerome Harris on bass and vocals, and Martin Shamoonpour on daf (Middle Eastern hand-drum) and jaw harp. Additionally, layered beats produced by Jeremy Flower and Selwa Abd (aka Bergsonist) are integral to the sound of the band.
Mazel Tov Cocktail Party gave two sensational premiere performances July 17-18: at Plattsburghâ€™s City Stage, as part of the Curbside at Harborside drive-in concert series; and at Weatherwatch Farm in Saranac, as part of the Hill and Hollow Music summer lawn concert series. The program included contemporary world-music settings by Krakauer and Tagg of the traditional dance forms of polka, square dance, hornpipe, calypso, and hora â€“ infused with klezmer, jazz, rock, and funk. Insane! There were some exquisite quiet moments, too, with transparent renditions of Poor Wayfaring Stranger and Street Singer (Gasn Nign). The bandâ€˜s next move is into the recording studio to lay this program down and produce a new CD, which will be released in October 2021. Mazel Tov!
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