baroque music, Uncategorized

Obligatory Zoom Shot

Okay, yes, it’s been quite a year! The ABC has only connected over iffy internet services, but even that helps keep the spirits up! As you can see, Ruth Cunningham, Gwyneth Davis and Judiyaba managed to appear as if they were in a forest, while Phebe Craig and Maria Caswell seem confined to their rooms. But what beautiful smiles we all managed! This is because we know there will be an end to this isolation, and the ABC will play again! We are still on the Galway Early Music Festival’s May 2022 schedule, and no doubt we will be planning new concerts for 2021/2022 ASAP.

In the meantime, Judiyaba and Gwyneth Davis have been preparing, photographing, posting, and eating beautiful Sunday brunches entitled Bubbly Sundays each week since the shutdown began. Phebe Craig has been Zooming up a storm as a teacher for UC Davis, Maria Caswell has been watching birds and exploring her love of medieval music, and our guest artist Ruth Cunningham continues to beautifully photograph the beauties of Inman Hill Park at the top of Manhattan.

Have a beautiful spring!

baroque music, Uncategorized

Down, but not out!

Left to right: Maria Caswell, Gwyneth Davis, Judiyaba, Ruth Cunningham, Phebe Craig

Well! We never made it to hell, the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, or Galway! We did, however, have wonderful audiences at Iota Press, the Throckmorton Theater, and the Westhaven Center for the Arts. I am happy to report that the Galway Early Music Festival has invited us for 2021, so we do have that to look forward to. Thank you, GEMF!

We remain safe in our homes, and trust that you are all as well. The music industry does not know what our future holds. The loss of our ability to play for live audiences is a gut punch, not to mention not being able to play in the same room together. And we watch with great sadness as the virus moves through our communities.

In the meantime, those of us that teach are doing virtual lessons. You can study violin or viola with Maria, Gamba or cello with Judiyaba and Gwyneth, and harpsichord or theory with Phebe (if she is not too crazy trying to teach her university courses online). Contact us through this web page. In addition, Ruth Cunningham, a sound healing practitioner, can teach the following: using voice as tool for meditation and relaxation, improvisation, singing poems/prayers, voice lessons specializing in chant, and recorder and baroque flute. Go to to contact her. Ruth has been posting lovely improvisations on prayers, hymns and poems on her Facebook page.

Best wishes to all of you! We are all in this together, and we look forward to playing for you once again when it is safe!


Iota Press Concert a Success!

The Alphabet Baroque Club had a great first stop on the road to the flames! Huge thanks to Eric Johnson at Iota Press Workshop. His support and enthusiasm is a big boost for us. We were essentially sold out! The audience was attentive and had fun along with us. Sighs were heard at the right places, and thunderous applause where appropriate.

This concert has so much beautiful music! So many beautiful songs, alas without words! But, wait! Who is that flying in to rehearse with the ABC in February? It is Ruth Cunningham, sound healer and founding member of Anonymous 4! Ruth will be joining us in Galway, but, if you want a little foretaste, a select few can hear a house concert with the ABC and Ruth on February 21, venue TBA.


Musical Journeys

Just like now, composers and musicians traveled the world to work. The graphic below gives a simple idea of where our composers traveled to and from.

Most of our Italian composers, Donati, Gesualdo, Monteverdi and Falconieri, stayed within present day Italy, but traveled between principalities. Spaniard Cristobal de Morales traveled to Italy and back to Spain, but his music traveled as far as the New World. Tomas Torrejon y Velasco made the journey all the way from Spain to Peru.

Johann Sigismund Kusser’s brown lines above show his zig zagging career. Born in Bratislava, active in Stuttgart and Paris, and finally ending his life in Dublin, Ireland.

Speaking of Ireland, the ABC is absolutely delighted to be returning to the Galway Early Music Festival on May 23. The festival’s theme this year is Passagio: Musical Journeys in Time and Space. We will be joined in Galway by Ruth Cunningham of Anonymous 4. Our Road to Hell includes many Irish connections including Cormac Mac Dermott, an Irish harper at Queen Elizabeth I of England’s court (his is the green line above), Henry Madin, the son of some of the “Wild Geese” who worked in France at the Chapelle Royale under the patronage of Louis XV, and a little bit of George Handel, who, of course, premiered Messiah in Dublin.

Of our composers, the Germans traveled the most, the Spaniards traveled the furthest, the Irish traveled to England, and the Italians traveled the least. The music, however, travelled everywhere, through time and space.


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!