Category Archives: Bach & Biber

Ah, Bach!

Wow! The concert is two days away and we are SO excited to perform for you! Here are some teasers from last night’s rehearsal – it’s really sounding great!

Look at all the smiles! We love Bach (and Bill Gray)!

Do you have your tickets yet? Tickets are available on our website, at the door, or by calling Tickets by Proctors at 518-346-6204. Tickets are $25 general admission, $15 for students with ID at the door only.

The Challenge of Chamber Music

Derek StannardArtistic Director Derek Stannard writes about the challenges of singing Bach’s magnificent motets, one-on-a-part.

The singers of Auriel Camerata will perform Bach motets under the direction of guest conductor Dr. William Jon Gray on Saturday, November 7th 2015

The singers of Auriel Camerata will perform Bach motets under the direction of guest conductor Dr. William Jon Gray on Saturday, November 7th 2015

Most people are familiar with what a choir is – a group of individuals coming together, blending their voices, and unifying their sound. The sound of an individual is melded happily into the greater sound of the group.

Chamber music, on the other hand, is a group of soloists, all performing at the same time! Bach wrote his motets not for a chorus, but for a chamber ensemble, a group of individual voices. In Bach’s lifetime, he never would have performed his motets with more than one person per part. This is the chamber equivalent to being a soloist in an opera. You are fully responsible for your own part, and there is no one to lean on. This can be scary!

However, for a group of musicians who crave a challenge and like a musical adrenaline rush, this can be one of the most exciting ways to sing. Each voice represents one part, which is on equal footing with every other part being sung. There is no room for error. This type of challenge is exactly what the spectacular singers of Auriel Camerata crave, and indeed, a challenge at which they truly excel.

As you listen and experience this remarkable music, you will feel a connection to each voice, to each individual line, and know that each person worked diligently to make their brick, their part of the foundation, as strong as it could be.

I hope you’ll join us for a great evening of invigorating music!

Bach: Motets
Biber: “Rosary” Sonatas

Saturday, November 7 2015 • 7:30pm | St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 58 Third St. Troy NY
Guest Conductor Dr. William Jon Gray (Music of the Baroque, Carmel Bach Festival) leads Auriel Camerata in a performance that includes the Bach motets “Lobet den Herrn”, “Komm, Jesu komm”, “Jesu meine Freude” and the virtuosic “Rosary” Sonatas by Heinrich Biber, played by rising young Baroque violinist, Juan Carlos Zamudio.

Tickets: $25, $15 for students with ID at the door

or call Tickets by Proctors at 518-346-6204

Biber Fever

Derek StannardAuriel Camerata’s Artistic Director Derek W. Stannard writes about tuning, virtuosity, and the peerless “Rosary” Sonatas of Heinrich Biber.

No, this is definitely not Justin.

Biber_mysterienHeinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and virtuosic violinist whose talents brought him to Salzburg, Austria – the musical epicenter of the Baroque period – where he remained for the rest of his life. Of his prolific output, the “Rosary” or “Mystery” Sonatas are certainly ranked as some of the most important. The difficulty of these sonatas, built thematically around Christian Rosary devotion, is what brought these pieces back to life when they were published for the first time in 1905, some 230 years after they were composed.

These sonatas, for solo baroque violin and portative (read about portatives here), remained officially unnamed due to their missing cover page. However, their large divisions, listed as the five Joyful Mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries, and five Glorious Mysteries, make it evident what they might have been called.

These works are presented in a “scordatura” style, (literally meaning mis-tuning), or that the tuning of the violin is different than normal tunings. This complicated technique requires the player to see on pitch on the page, but to play a different one! This presents opportunities for a wider range of pitches and changes in timbre, the latter being most important for Biber.

Jeremy Eichler, music critic for the New York Times, wrote of Biber’s scordatura usage: “Each new configuration is a secret key to an invisible door, unlocking a different set of chordal possibilities on the instrument, opening up alternative worlds of resonance and vibration”.

You can hear the talented and rising young baroque violinist Juan Carlos Zamudio play these matchless works of beauty at our November 7th Bach & Biber Concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Troy NY. Click on the link for more information, and to purchase your tickets online! We hope to see you there!

Eichler, Jeremy (2011). Reciting a Rosary, but in Sonata Form. New York Times.

Portative, positive, tomato, tomahto….

Porta –what?

Our Artistic Director, Derek W. Stannard explains the terminology of moveable organs…
Derek Stannard
Most people are familiar with the image of a church organ. Large pipes facing forward, a console (where the organist sits) that looks like the inside of a fighter jet, and a sound that ranges from ethereal strings to bombastic trumpets. However, all organs are not created equal. When working in a huge cathedral, something larger would be necessary, but for intimate performances, a smaller organ might just be the right fit.

In Auriel Camerata’s November 7th performance of three of the Bach motets and selected Biber “Rosary” Sonatas, we are using an organ that fits the music we are performing. So, a portative it is. Or, at least that’s what I’ve always called it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve called the organ we will be using a portative. Upon further
research it seems that this term actually refers to a very portable organ that is pumped and played by hand, and contains one single rank of pipes. From the Latin “portare” or “to carry”. See below. This is not the instrument that we’re using.

So what is it then?

Well, as it turns out, the small organ we will play is called a Positive. This time from the Latin
verb “ponere” meaning “to place”. Organ aficionados will know this term as the smaller unenclosed division on a pipe organ, generally containing a scaled-down principle chorus, a few flutes and a reed or two. On some instruments this division would be called a ruckpositiv (forward, in German) and would be mounted on the edge of a balcony.
positive 2

These organs can range in size from looking like a scaled-down traditional church organ, to what is called a box or chest organ. On these instruments, the organ is often no higher than the keyboard and all of the pipes are tucked away within. These size organs have become exceedingly popular for chamber music due to their convenient size and portability (or should I say “positive-ability”?). These small instruments are usually made up of a few ranks of pipes (or sometimes one rank, playable at different octaves) and are perfect for accompanying basso continuo work, exactly as you will hear in the Bach and Biber program.

I hope you’ll join us for this wonderful program. I’m positive you’ll love it!