September 7, 2014 Ars Lyrica Archive Flying High Opening night of Ars Lyrica‘s The Power of Music season Sunday, September 7, 2014 6 pm; 5:30 pre concert talk Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Matthew Dirst, Artistic Director By mkg On the heels of a Houston Texans football team win, the new season of the unique Ars Lyrica began. Houston waited for a team after the Houston Oilers moved away…so has it waited for this exquisite ensemble. Each member is a first round draft pick, as is the staff that creates each experience. Each musician is the MVP: leader and team player, master at their craft as they bring to our century amazing baroque music. This is not music you sleep to, since you’re in awe of the dexterity of the musicians while enjoying the ensemble quality your ear may never had been blessed hearing. You arrive at Hobby Center, you may pay for valet parking in front or self parking in the covered parking behind the building or try your hand at parallel parking on the street, if meters are not hooded (cost varies). You enter at the north end of building to a cozy lobby, with the ticket office to the left, concessions to the right. Bring in your shawl or light sweater. The audience is diverse in age and apparel, people returning and seeing friends, as well as couples, families, individuals and first timers. Arrive early for the pre game, keeping to the football vernacular. Thirty minutes prior to the festival of music, the creative team always plans something special. Enter the theatre and sit anywhere, though most go to their reserved seats. I recommend sitting close, due to the ongoing challenge of presenters not using a microphone. You will still have a few minutes to walk around prior to the concert. The opening night pre concert talk featured Mary Springfels (viola da gamba) and Barrett Sills (cello) who introduced us to the evolution of strings. These knowledgeable musicians spoke in layman’s terms to enhance our concert experience. Ms. Springfels shared some of the differences in the instruments, from design to how to hold the bow. Mr. Sills expanded, including the range available for over vs. under handed bowing. Be sure to secure a program when you enter. The overview enhances your experience. This concert’s was crafted by Director Dirst, who also shares interesting comments from the stage (high speed and low volume). Vocal text and translations are included as well as an audience survey included for your feedback. Your concert experience will be a mix of formal and informal. The staging appears almost like a final rehearsal, with the theorbo case on the floor stage right and musicians arranging the seats and stands. Sometimes stands were not moved and detracted from the performance. Performer apparel ranged from the jean clad stage manager to the exquisitely pink evening gown worn by soprano Celine Ricci. The concert’s ‘first play’ was very athletic, Jean-Féry Rebel, Les Caractères de la Danse: Fantaisie, 14 movements offering a peek at a wide variety of French Baroque dance music, a type of French Bandstand – Dick Clark would have enjoyed. The ensemble included violins, recorder and oboe artists who stood while performing. Seated were the viola da gamba, cello, bassoon, theorbo and harpsichord artists. The baroque guitar needed minor surgery and did not make an appearance. Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville’s Pieces de clavecin avec voix ou violon loved ornamentation for instrumentalist and vocalists. Not like Christmas ornaments: Wikipedia: Silvestro Ganassi’s treatise, 1535, musicians of early baroque decorated their music with improvised ornaments. Michael Praetorius spoke warmly of musicians’ “sundry good and merry pranks with little runs/leaps.” This was for the instrumentalists as well as the vocalists. The ensemble was seamless, enhancing each other while the Swarovski-like, cool mountain stream crystal voice of Ms. Ricci filled the house. The acoustics in Zilkha Hall offer an astounding audio experience. Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Minor featured the talented string instrumentalists from the pre concert talk, with Dirst at the harpsichord. The first half of happy listening ended with the feisty, driving while lyrical La Folia (Anonymous). Quoting Director Dirst, the suite that opens the second half is a kind of ‘performer’s choice’ comprising movements from several different sources, like a football highlight reel! The Suite in G (Corrette, Rameau & Rousseau) was a joyful mixture of music featuring the entire instrumental ensemble. It is amazing how just a few audience members believe if there is sound from the stage their talking can’t be overheard. On the whole, the audience was appreciative of the performers and mannerly to all. George Frederic Handel’s Tra le fiamme (Il consiglio) HW 170 closed this superb concert, again featuring the soprano with different shading in her tone as she warned ‘butterflies flirting with flame and Icarus’ fatal flight too near the sun.’ Dirst added the caveat of the possible underlying composer message to another in his words/libretto! Oh the depth of music! Football teams travel and perform around the country. Ars Lyrica thrilled audiences at the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival and Exhibition, performing the September program. As with a football game, Ars Lyrica offers ONE performance of each of their programs. Review their season, including their New Year’s Eve party! Featured musicians: Celine Ricci, Kathryn Montoya, MaryAnn Shore, Adam LaMotte, Sean Wang, Mary Springfels, Barrett Sills, Patty Fagan-Miller, Richard Savino and Matthew Dirst. Maria Lin, featured on promotional flyers, was not listed nor in attendance. About Ars Lyrica: Ars Lyrica Houston is an ensemble dedicated to providing audiences with historically-informed performances, of the highest caliber, of music from the 17th and 18th centuries. Guest performer,