baroque music, Road to Hell

Galway Early Music Festival

Here is the whole ABC with Ruth Cunningham, relaxing on the porch at our February “rehearsal camp” in Sonoma County. Ruth flew in from New York City to spend a couple of days of intensive preparation for our trip to the Galway Early Music Festival.

We are very excited to be returning to Galway for the festival. Charlie Byrne’s Books! Sheridan’s Cheese! And a dynamite line up of events at the festival.

Galway Early Music ( is a not-for-profit voluntary arts organization in Galway, Ireland. They were founded in 1996 with the goal of promoting both Irish and European music of the 12th-17th centuries. The flagship production of Galway Early Music is the festival at the end of May. The festival incorporates workshops, an instrument maker exhibition, theater aimed at children, and main stage events with artists such as Jordi Savall, Andrew Lawrence King, Red Priest, Sequentia, and many other wonderful ensembles. They highlight Irish performers such as Siobhan Armstrong, Malcom Proud, Malachy Robinson and others.

Galway itself is a city bursting with the arts in all forms. Among other things there is a robust busking scene and several outstanding theater companies, such as the Druid and Moonfish Theatre. This year it is a European Capital of Culture with events happening all year. And Ireland now has The Irish Youth Baroque Orchestra in addition to many other excellent early music manifestations.

So, book your tickets and come to the festival with us!

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!