Thursdays at 10:00 PM
Armored foot soldiers, Gothic cathedrals, royal feasts, castles, and bands of ancient instruments—sounds like Game of Thrones, doesn’t it? Or it could be straight-up history. Today, concerts of Baroque and Renaissance music have an ardent following, even if the historical context is lost on listeners—though often times real life’s plot twists could keep apace with Alexandre Dumas or Ken Follett.
While composers were committing their souls to paper, Europe’s religious and political life churned with blood feuds and power grabs. The great agitators, the men and women who animated the conflicts, were often the arts patrons (in fact Frederick the Great and Leopold I were worthy composers when they weren’t waging war). It was at their pleasure that composers and musicians (sometimes at their own peril) created a wealth of music, a collection that continues to grow through the efforts of modern-day, musical detectives.
Baroque&Before debuts with harpsichordist Ignacio Pregoperforming music from the Spanish court, recorded live at the Chicago Latino Music Festival, October 31, 2013.
Thursday at 10:00 PM, WFMT premieres Baroque&Before, a new series focusing on the marvelous legacy of early music, and the times in which it was created, stretching from Spain to Weimar, from England to Russia. WFMT’s Candice Agree is host and producer. Candice answers some questions about the new program and invites your input:
We get the Baroque, what’s the Before?
Baroque&Before, music before 1750, otherwise called early music. The music, especially the pre-Baroque non-sacred music heard on Baroque&Before was the popular music of its day, entrancing, enchanting, and inspiring “serious” composers. Composers throughout the ages have always incorporated melodies and lyrics that moved them on a visceral level. One of the reasons that early music has such a devoted following is that we can’t help but to respond to sounds so embedded in the earth’s soil and in our very souls that they endure and move us still.
Has this music been a particular interest of yours? What is your experience in this repertoire?
I’ve always loved polyphony and interesting rhythms, two of early music’s most prominent attributes. And I happened to have been an excellent sight reader as a kid. So when in high school I had the opportunity to be one of three vocalists in a small early music group organized by lutanist, guitarist and expert in plucked instruments Pat O’Brien (Harp Consort, Baltimore Consort, Schola Antiqua, New York City Opera; etc), I jumped at the chance. We presented performance-lectures throughout New York and Connecticut.
The first show comes from a live, local event. Should we expect more of that?
Absolutely. In fact listeners can look forward to the great majority of the programs to come from early music festivals held throughout Europe, as well as classic recordings and new releases of early music – from the sacred to the profane – from WFMT’s vast Richard and Mary L Gray Library.
Will you be doing interviews with Baroque artists?
With only one hour a week, Baroque&Before will be a music intensive program. Of course if Jordi Savall calls and wants to chat, I will run, not walk with my tape recorder to catch whatever insights he’d like to share.
Should we expect to learn more about the history surrounding the music?
I’m sure those who listen will be both entertained and informed.
How do you think a 21rst century listener will relate to music from the 10th through 18th centuries?
Actually I think listeners who aren’t familiar with early music will be surprised at how contemporary it sounds, filled with dance rhythms which still make us move today. While sacred music was a formal and structured affair, secular music was the popular music of the day, performed in the home, as well as by street and traveling musicians. Even on religious pilgrimages, campsites around the major cathedrals were filled with songs whose lyrics were decidedly more of this earthly realm than the heavenly. On Baroque&Before, listeners will hear secular music in all of its voluptuousness and sacred music filled with passion.
How can listeners keep up with the show each week?
You can get instant updates by following @baroquebefore on Twitter.