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baroque music, Road to Hell

Arranging music for the Road to Hell

The ABC always enjoys arranging music to fit our group. This program is no different. We have incorporated many transcriptions of vocal music in this program, largely because they speak to our theme, but also because we will be joined by Ruth Cunningham, sound healer and founding member of Anonymous 4, for our Galway Early Music Festival Program.

O porta Caeli by Ignatio Donati

One example is O Porta Caeli (O Gate of Heaven) by Ignatio Donati. In general we try to use the earliest edition we can easily find to work from. Then, if the clefs are wrong or the notation is too hard for us to read we make our own edition. If there are too many voices, as in the next example, we make an arrangement.

In order for us to play arrangements of pieces written for four or more separate parts Gwyneth must cover viola parts as well as bass parts, often in the same piece. And Phebe must play two distinct parts, instead of simply realizing the harmonies with the base line. Judiyaba is often stuck coping with violin parts that do not sit well on the treble viol. As usual, the violin player gets off easy, no clef switching, no two parts at once, just a nice treble clef melody!

Flight of Demons by Johann Kusser

Kusser’s Flight of Demons is a good example of all the above. The violin lines do not set well on treble viol, the bass viol must cover the viola part, the harpsichord is left alone to fend with the bass part, and the violin player gets away with murder. But the end result is a satisfying demonic affect.

Other pieces we have arranged for the Road to Hell are Carlo Gesualdo’s Io pur respiro in cosi Gran dolore, excerpts from Monteverde’s Orfeo, and the delightful Ciaccona di paradiso, e d’Inferno. Our road to hell will be paved with some breathtakingly beautiful melodies, along with all the good intentions!

baroque music

Hell came to us first

In late October, Sonoma County, home to the Alphabet Baroque Club, was burning. Due to a high wind event, Public Safety Power Outages, and the Kincaid Fire much of where the Alphabet Baroque Club lives was under mandatory evacuation orders. The image above shows the fire, but especially shows how the wind was blowing the fire closer and closer to the towns of Healdsburg, Windsor, Geyserville, and Santa Rosa. Had it hopped the 101 freeway it could have burnt all the way to the coast, perhaps taking towns such as Sebastopol, Freestone, and Occidental with it.

We are so very grateful it did not hop the 101! However, we had to cancel our October 27 concert at the wonderful Iota Printworks in Sebastopol. Thankfully, we have been able to reschedule for January 25, 4 pm, at the Iota Press Printworks once again! Thank you so much, Eric Johnson, for working with us.

This event did make me wonder if we wanted to bring our audiences with us to hell….

The good news is, we will never quite get there! Come hear our concert, and find out!

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ABC On the Road to Hell!

This year the Alphabet Baroque Club is On the Road to Hell! Our composers were on the road as well! Many baroque composers traveled extensively for learning and employment. Johann Kusser started life in Bratislava, traveled to Stuttgart, on to Paris for a good while, back to Germany, and then to Dublin, Ireland for his final years. Our Spanish composers traveled to Italy and Peru, Irish composers to England, and Henry Madin’s parents were part of the “Wild Geese” who left Ireland, in this case to France. Italians stayed in Italy, traveling between the individual Italian kingdoms and principalities.

Our travels start with heavenly Marian music from the medieval Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, on to Italy for Ignatio Donati’s “Porta Caeli”, and crossing an ocean to Mexico for Juana Ines de la Cruz’s “Madre, de los primores”. As we descend to earth we have French/Irish Henry Madin’s “Domine salvum fac” (God save the King), a traditional ending to a French royal Mass.

While on earth we dance some dances; a Pavan by Irish harper to the Elizabethan court Cormac Mac Dermott, a saraband titled “L’Espagnol”, and a forlane titled “L’Anglois” by Johann Kusser. Then we play two love songs, “Cantarico” by Tomas Torrejon y Velasco and “Si n’os huviera” by Cristobal de Morales. And finally we praise the new Spanish King Felipe in an arrangement of the dedicatory prologue from “La purpura de la rose” by Tomas Torrejon y Velasco.

And now we get to some more infernal music, starting with a demonic flight and infernal dance by Kusser, two pieces, “Io pur respiro” and a Gagliarda, by the tormented Carlo Gesualdo with his signature twisted harmonies, excerpts from L’Orfeo by Monteverdi, and a battle between Barabas and Satan, “Batalla de Barabaso yerno de Satanas”, by Andrea Falconieri. And, to end, the charming “Ciaccona di paradiso, e d’Inferno”, which describes in alternating verses, or characterizations, the delights of heaven and the torments of hell.

We hope to see you cheering us along on our Infernal Journey!