For some of us, every month is Early Music Month! But as it turns out, March is specifically designated that way. Early Music Month is a national, grassroots campaign designed to raise awareness of early (Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque) music throughout the North American music community.
I agree with Thomas Forrest Kelly that early music is “beautiful and intriguing; it expands our horizons and nourishes our souls.” In his wonderful book, Early Music: a Very Short Introduction, Kelly talks about two key trends of the early music movement: a rediscovery of little-known repertories, and the effort to recover lost performing styles.
The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado is certainly shaped and influenced by these two trends; in fact they are a vital part of why we exist. BCOC lives within a rich and vibrant early music “scene.” This scene is, at the same time, local and national (or really, international).
Locally, the growth and vitality of early music in the Denver area has been exciting to watch. This local scene includes ensembles and organizations like Seicento, Boulder Bach Festival, Colorado Bach Ensemble, and the Denver Early Music Consort, to name just a few. It also includes chamber-music groups like Semplice, Parish House Baroque (based in Colorado Springs), and the new viol consort Byrd on a Wire. A wonderful chamber series, Happy Hour Concerts, spotlights a wide variety of early-music artists and small groups in an intimate, casual setting.
A number of local universities enhance the scene and help cultivate the players and audiences of the future through their early music programs and ensembles. This school year the University of Colorado in Boulder inaugurated the Eugene D. Eaton, Jr., Chair in Baroque Music Performance with renowned harpsichordist Robert Hill, who came to CU after serving as professor for historical keyboard instruments and performance practice at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Freiburg in Germany.
As important as the local early music scene is, BCOC also benefits from, and contributes to, a lively national scene. About a quarter of our core members and a number of our guest artists are from outside Colorado. This enriches our ensemble with different perspectives, new research, and new insights. And the collegiality and friendships multiply as we play with each other and expand our own networks. (A positive aspect of social media is being able to keep up on what each other is doing!)
I have the honor of serving on the board of directors of Early Music America, and am inspired by their work to “develop, strengthen, and celebrate early music in North America.” In addition to sponsoring Early Music Month, that work includes awards, scholarships, grants, web-based resources, and an annual Young Performers Festival & Emerging Artists Showcase. I encourage you to become a member of EMA if you love early music. It will enable you to tap into a wider network while supporting the good work they do to cultivate the future of early music.
And, I hope you will celebrate Early Music Month: attend local concerts, listen to your favorite recordings (and buy some new ones), and above all expand your horizons through this beautiful and intriguing music.