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.

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!