ByDegreestheCastlesAreBuilt: EarlyMusic inireland

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1 Irish early musicians are always looking for an opportunity to return ByDegreestheCastlesAreBuilt: EarlyMusic inireland ASACHILD, Siobhán Armstrong learned to play what is imprecisely called the Celtic harp. The instrument, a product of historical imagination in the 1820s, bears little resemblance to the true wire-strung Irish harp that was played in Gaelic Ireland and Scotland for a thousand years. The ubiquity of the neo-irish harp in the modern world has unfortunately led to the almost total neglect of the original, courtly instrument, Armstrong laments. That original instrument had traveled through Europe by the end of the 16th century. It was especially favored, along with its repertoire, in England. Until there is a substantial revival of the playing of this harp, Armstrong notes, there will be a gap in our knowledge of performance practice in those places. Early Irish harp, therefore, is now in the position that many other period instruments, such as lutes and keyboard instruments, were in many decades ago. Armstrong, who has a musicology degree from Trinity College Dublin, founded the Historical Harp Society of Ireland in 2002 to lead the instrument s modern revival. The HHSI offers concerts, an international summer school, a library, and an instrument rental program. Its long-range projects include establishing an international academic journal on historical harps and building working copies of the 18 surviving early Irish harps. Number six is already in process. Lessons with Andrew Lawrence-King when she was young, along with an inordinate love of Dowland and Purcell vocal music as a teenager, ultimately led Armstrong to a career exploring not only the true Irish harp but also the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque By Shulamit Kleinerman harps of Europe. Armstrong performs extensively and estimates that about 80 percent of that work takes her across the Irish Sea to join ensembles such as Les Arts Florissants and play in early music productions on a larger scale than the ones Ireland can support. Early music is inevitably a niche activity in any country, she observes. That is even more true of an island nation, on the periphery of a continent, with a population of only four million people. It would be unrealistic to expect such a small country to be able to provide a sustainable living for period instrument performers working only within its borders. Ireland s orientation towards early music is thus different from that of other Western European countries. Not only early music but classical music in general is less deeply rooted in the culture. When the Republic of Ireland threw off British rule, it initially turned a cold shoulder to classical music, the idiom of its former oppressors. And the island s geographical separation from the continent has made itself felt with new keenness in recent years. One of the bright lights of Ireland s early music scene, Baroque violinist Maya Homburger, moved back to her native Switzerland with her husband, composer and double bass player Barry Guy, when flying with a double bass became too much of a headache after September 11. But, as in the case of its long-overlooked native harp, Ireland brings charms all its own to the international early music community. The landscape Early Music America Fall

2 The ubiquity of the neo-irish harp in the modern world has unfortunately led to the almost total neglect of the original, courtly instrument. Siobhán Armstrong In 2007, Malcolm Proud s former teacher Gustav Leonhardt gave a solo recital in Kilkenny, only the second time he played in Ireland. The first was 30 years ago in Dublin. itself is one key, both in sustaining musicians who wish to live apart from the urban centers of the profession and in providing a bucolic setting for the early music festivals that hold the country s spiritual and economic center for historical performance. The festivals, still unfamiliar to most American early music tourists, draw international audiences to enjoy the good life: music (often in historical buildings), nature, the artisan cheeses and fine cuisine that have established themselves in Ireland in the last 20 years, and, as Baroque violinist Claire Duff adds, of course Guinness! At home and abroad Some musicians cherish the opportunity to enjoy a dual career as a figurehead at home and an international performer abroad. Keyboardist Malcolm Proud, who has toured Europe to perform and record as a chamber musician and with such directors as Gustav Leonhardt and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, lives in Kilkenny. His wife, Susan Proud, sits on the board of directors for the Kilkenny Arts Festival, which takes place for 10 days each August and features classical, jazz, and world music along with theater, literary presentations, visual arts, street performers, and events for children. Largely due to the influence of Malcolm and the high regard in which he is held by other musicians, Susan Proud says, the festival attracts early music performers among its lineup, including, this summer, countertenor Andreas Scholl and American lutenist Crawford Young. The Kilkenny Arts Festival is probably the only promoter in Ireland to have presented Bach s B Minor Mass on period instruments, she observes. Malcolm Proud adds that in 2007, his former teacher Gustav Leonhardt gave a solo recital in Kilkenny, only the second time he played in Ireland. The first was 30 years ago in Dublin. For Malcolm, living in Kilkenny and having links to some of the best early music specialists in the world has proved a very successful formula, Susan Proud asserts. Ireland s rural nature itself is a specific draw for some performers. American gambist Sarah Cunningham came to Ireland for a concert with Malcolm Proud, whom she credits with playing an influential role in the development of historical performance in Ireland. After one concert with Malcolm, I came out to West Cork for a brief visit with Francis and June Baines, beloved early music pioneers, collectors and players of old instruments, and mentors to a generation of British early musicians. The couple had moved to Ireland in retirement to be near their son, who was part of a wonderful spread-out community of artists, craftspeople, and back-to-theland types around the famous village of Ballydehob. I was instantly hooked: something about the land really called me. After a career that had begun in the 70s with lots and lots of recording and touring, playing with figures such as Gardiner, Monica Huggett, Ton Koopman, Christopher Hogwood, and Bill Christie, I was ready to get out of the rat race. I really thought I was leaving the music profession behind. A final American tour with James Galway brought the funds for Cunningham to buy a piece of land and build the house in which she lives. My appetite for travel and concerts has pretty much been sated, and I am happy staying home and growing vegetables all year round. My excuse for moving here was a plan to write a novel, which might still happen. I don t miss the city at all! Cunningham still enjoys what she describes as a nice trickle of work, playing a few times a year in recital with colleagues such as Homburger and Malcolm Proud, as well as in The Irish Consort with Proud and Armstrong. She continues to teach and perform once or twice a year in the U.S. Cunningham founded the East Cork Early Music Festival in 2003 to provide a venue for both local and international performers. Money is always tight, she reports, but having said that, we can t really complain, having been very consistently supported by the Cork County Council, the Arts Council of Ireland, and the Tourist Board. Perhaps Ireland s most uniquely beloved festival, and Cunningham s inspiration, is the one in Sligo, founded by Rod Alston in Alston moved from England in the 70s and has been a 34 Fall 2008 Early Music America

3 For more information on EARLY MUSIC FESTIVALS IN IRELAND Ardee Baroque is held one weekend every November with The Irish Baroque Orchestra playing mostly 18th-century music at Ardee Castle and in churches. East Cork Early Music Festival is held annually for five days (Wednesday through Sunday) in September. Concerts are mostly of 17th- and 18th-century music and are held in churches, recital halls, and a historical great house. Galway Early Music Festival occurs each May over one weekend and offers Medieval and Renaissance music (including costume and dance elements), amateur and hands-on participation opportunities, and a walking tour of Medieval Galway. Sligo Baroque s administrative partnership with the arts center that has hosted it is changing; stay tuned. The festival usually occurs over the course of an October weekend. OTHER MUSIC FESTIVALS WITH BAROQUE PERFORMANCES West Cork Chamber Music Festival is held for nine days, annually, in June/July. Kilkenny Arts Festival is held for 10 days annually in August. THE IRISH HARP Historical Harp Society of Ireland offers resources and an annual week-long summer workshop in Kilkenny. leader ever since in Ireland s organic gardening movement. A similarly wholesome, community-minded spirit inspires his early music activities. In 1990 he founded an amateur chamber orchestra that grew into a performing student and professional band, the Sligo Early Music Ensemble. It developed organically, as it were into the festival. Though the aim is to have most concerts at what might be thought of as an international level of performance, he says, it has been a deliberate policy to include young, emerging ensembles and individuals, both from Ireland and abroad; to include some period instrument performers resident in Ireland who wouldn t be world class; and to keep the links with the thing from which the festival originally emerged to include local student or amateur instrumentalists and singers. For example, Alston has programmed his early music ensemble for the festival s welcome reception. It has almost never been the case that someone has been invited to perform because they are a big name. Instead, Alston fosters a friendly environment, with an onsite café that makes it very easy for audience and performers to mix. This obviously has the biggest impact on people who come from outside Sligo to attend the whole of the festival, but it also, I think, is clearly felt by those who just attend one or two concerts. Performers almost always are very eager to return. It is unlike many of their touring gigs in that the musicians are able to relax for a few days in a beautiful setting with new colleagues, enjoying the accolades of a congenial audience, and sometimes being able to program pieces that elsewhere would rarely be possible. This also tends to mean that their performance has a heightened edge to it. Musicians do indeed seem to consider the Sligo festival a highlight on their performing calendars, speaking of it in warm terms without being prompted. Lutenist Richard Sweeney singles it out for its great atmosphere, really friendly and intimate. Cunningham calls it extremely convivial and fun. For performers who want a regular orchestral career, the Irish Baroque Orchestra is the After one concert with Malcolm Proud, I came out to West Cork for a brief visit with Francis and June Baines, beloved early music pioneers. I was instantly hooked: something about the land really called me. Sarah Cunningham Though the aim is to have most concerts at what might be thought of as an international level of performance, it has been a deliberate policy to include young, emerging ensembles and individuals. Rod Alston, Sligo Baroque Early Music America Fall

4 Ireland has the talent, it has the commitment from musicians and organizations, and it has a public that thirsts for early music performances. The main obstacle is funding. Claire Duff I d love to expose Irish audiences to less familiar musical landscapes lute quartets, Monteverdi with Renaissance all-gut-strung violins, meantone organs at 466, and the like. Richard Sweeney country s only professional orchestra of period instruments. Now beginning its 14th season, the IBO is currently under the direction of Monica Huggett, with whom it released a Bach family CD two years ago. The orchestra, which performed at Boston s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum last January and looks forward to a European tour in 2009, has its own festival in Ardee every November. The IBO s musicians are mostly Irish. The period instrument specialists among them all live in England or Europe and commute home for the concerts, while the locals, who make their living on Irish gigs, have careers on modern instruments as well. Rounding out the ensemble are a number of Spanish players from the Seville Baroque Orchestra, for which Huggett is also principal conductor. Richard Sweeney, lute, is among the Irish IBO performers who live abroad. He studied in London, where he continued to live for several years; he still spends nearly half of his performing time in England. Recently, travel woes drove him to move to Sweden. He hopes to continue adding to his lineup of gigs on the continent, where he plays with ensembles such as Concerto Palatino, Capriccio Stravagante, and Les Talens Lyriques. The orchestra s violin leader, Claire Duff, also studied in England, as well as in Holland; she performs with a number of high profile ensembles and tours regularly with the English Concert. She is carrying out research on Johann Sigismund Kusser ( ), Ireland s state composer in the early 18th century, with funding from the Arts Council of Ireland. She was the first person from the Republic of Ireland to become a member of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, a proving ground for young period instrumentalists selected from the whole of the E.U. When I decided to specialize in early music, Duff recalls, I knew that I had to study abroad. While I was delighted to have the opportunity to study at two of the main centers for early music in the world, there is always the danger that having been forced to leave the country, one may never return to live in Ireland again. It is important that musicians return to Ireland to help develop the early music scene there. She is glad to see the IBO raising the profile for historical performance in Ireland and offering an otherwise unmatched professional opportunity. But there is still much room for improvement. Ireland has the talent, it has the commitment from musicians and organizations, and it has a public that thirsts for early music performances. The main obstacle is funding. Although the Arts Council does what it can for historical performance, it relies on the government for its own funding, and, as is the case everywhere, corporate and individual sponsorships are crucial. It has always been my dream to return to Ireland and help develop the early music scene, while maintaining my international profile. I am hopeful that the funding situation will improve soon so that I and many other musicians can maintain careers as early music specialists in Ireland. Early music education Early music education is an important link in training new professionals, with nascent programs at Dublin Institute of Technology and at Cork School of Music, which recently purchased three harpsichords. But, says Cunningham, education is in a chicken and egg situation until there are more performing opportunities. In Ireland a lot of people use the term Baroque to refer to anything on period instruments, says Sweeney. I d love to see some of the more cuttingedge U.K. performers come to Ireland to really show people how early music is evolving. I d love to expose Irish audiences to less familiar musical landscapes lute quartets, Monteverdi with Renaissance all-gut-strung violins, meantone organs at 466, and the like. Why not an ensemble in residence somewhere? That way you could have a lasting influence on students, maybe even pave the way for more native specialists to emerge. Shulamit Kleinerman plays Medieval and Renaissance music, writes and lectures about music history, and teaches historical arts workshops for school age children in Seattle. She can be found online at shulamitk.net. 36 Fall 2008 Early Music America

5 Vote for this Man! Foreign policy is not his forte. Nor, for that matter, is domestic policy. And he is certainly deficient in gravitas. But his campaign assures us that he s the only candidate promising federal funding for Early Music! PERFORMERS FACSIMILES Urging voters to make Early Music a real special interest. Write your congressperson today! Early Music America Fall

6 Guntram Wolf Modern and historic wind instruments North American contact: Henry Skolnick Imports 7477 Hoover Ave. St. Louis, MO (314) Join Early Music America today! Early Music America is North America s non-profit service organization for early music. Serving performers, presenters, instrument builders and audience members. To become a Member or make a Contribution, call /1-888-SACKBUT, visit or mail to: Early Music America, 2366 Eastlake Ave. E, #429, Seattle, WA USA ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP IN EARLY MUSIC AMERICA. JOIN NOW! Individual $58 Instrument Makers $75 Senior $48 Organization, by income: Student $30 To $100,000: $95 Family $68 $100,001-$200,000: $140 Overseas $75 Over $200,000: $175 Yes, I would like to become a Member or make a Gift to EMA: Name Organization Address City, State, Zip Phone VISA/MC # Exp. Date MAKE A GIFT TO EARLY MUSIC AMERICA! Your support helps us serve the early music community. Benefactor ($1,000+) Supporter (under $100) Patron ($500-$999) My gift will be matched by my Sponsor ($350-$499) employer(please include form) Friend ($200-$349) Early Music America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributor ($100-$199) Contributions are tax-deductible as permitted by law. 38 Fall 2008 Early Music America

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