Tag Archives: education

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!

A Conversation with Caleb Eick, Auriel Scholar Class of 2015

Caleb EickIn September 2014, Caleb Eick, a baritone majoring in vocal performance at the College of Saint Rose, auditioned for and was accepted as our first Auriel Scholar. The Auriel Scholar program is an educational program, aimed at mentoring college-aged voice students, that provides practical experience and knowledge of the inner workings of a professional arts organization. Students involved in this program have the opportunity to sing in a fast-paced professional choir, acquire advanced choral and vocal skills, learn challenging repertoire and add practical performance experience to one’s resume – all the while learning the business skills it takes to become a music professional. The Auriel Scholar program is a valuable apprenticeship that helps students get a head-start on their professional musical careers.

Tell us a little about your background – where did you grow up, what did you listen to in middle school and high school? What were your favorite bands/groups/orchestras/singers?

I grew up in North Creek, NY. I had always loved choral and classical music from the time I was in sixth grade. I was always a member of chorus as well as the pop singers and jazz band. I was a great fan of Chopin as well as of bands such as Panic! At the Disco, Paramore, Shinedown and other popular bands. My favorite orchestra at the time was The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and their recording of Elijah featuring Bryn Terfel and Renee Fleming.

Did you play any instruments? Were you in musicals? Any favorite teachers? What made them great?

I played piano for the high school Jazz Band during my senior year. Every day during my lunch period I would practice piano in the music room and increased my sight reading abilities and my piano skills. I am by no means a great pianist, but I can get by. I was Albert in Bye Bye Birdie, Lt. Brannigan in Guys and Dolls, as well as the light tech for South Pacific.

My high school teacher Mary Leach was one of the biggest influences in my decision to pursue music. She continually encouraged me, challenged me to increase my ability, and directed me on my career path. She is a great musician as well as a great teacher.

Music made sense. It allowed one to move in ways you couldn’t in any other situation. Music allowed me to connect with people on a deeper level that we don’t allow ourselves to in our everyday interactions.

When did you know that music would be your purpose in life?

I knew music was my calling somewhere around ninth grade. I had just finished NYSSMA and it had been such a fun experience I wanted to do it every day. Katy Cole, a local voice teacher and performer, was student teaching during the time and got me interested in music school and vocal technique.

Music was also my unique interest. Many people in my small class of 30 students – we’re great at sports and science. I was not a physics or chemistry buff by any means. Music made sense. It allowed one to move in ways you couldn’t in any other situation. Music allowed me to connect with people on a deeper level that we don’t allow ourselves to in our everyday interactions.

Tell us about Saint Rose – what’s the best part about being a music student there?

Going to Saint Rose was one of the best decisions of my life. I met many wonderful people both in the college and local communities. Because of its involvement with the surrounding communities I was able to branch out and explore the professional music world outside of academia.

Saint Rose also presented me the opportunity to study with Dr. Susan Harwood. What an outstanding experience that has been! Without her guidance I would not have been able to achieve what I have thus far. She is not only an amazing teacher but an outstanding guide and advisor.

What music-related activities have you pursued at Saint Rose?

I have participated in many musical activities in my time here at Saint Rose. I have been a member of the Chamber Choir each year. With the Chamber Choir, I went on two international choir tours; to Cork, Ireland and Lyon, France. In addition I was a member of the Madrigals Ensemble, the Masterworks Chorale, as well as the Men’s Glee club. In the ’13-’14 academic year I assisted in running the Saint Rose Mixed Chamber ensemble under Dr. Harwood. I was able to assist in the selection of repertoire, program notes and translations, and booking/organizing rehearsals. Through the connections I made at Saint Rose I have also been able to perform with groups at Albany’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and FUMC Delmar. My senior year I was also given the opportunity to serve as the Vocal Intern at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church of Albany.

Tell us a little about the Lake George Music Festival and how you came to be involved.

In the summer of 2013, I assisted Bernadette Speach, Executive Director of the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek, NY, with the LGMF concert at her venue. While working as stage crew and as a venue assistant, she introduced me to the LGMF Executive Director, Alex Lombard. I gave him my information with the hope that they may have an internship opportunity in the future. In Spring of 2014 I was offered the Arts Administration Internship. The internship included assisting the directors with all aspects of the festival operations. It was one of the best and enlightening work experiences to date.

We’re certainly overjoyed to have you as our first Auriel Scholar! What are the best things about this program, and would you recommend it to other college students?

I don’t think I could pick just one part of the program I enjoyed most. The opportunity to perform with high quality musicians, perform advanced repertoire, as well as selecting repertoire and planning concerts has been such a great privilege. The program has allowed me to utilize and expand my abilities. I have enjoyed working in the program and being involved in such an amazing organization. I would most definitely recommend this program to other college students who have an interest in the professional music world beyond the classroom.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming senior recital – was rep planning easy?

I have been planning this recital for over a year now. I have been vigorously working to make the final selections the best they can be. One of my favorite parts of studying with Dr. Harwood is that she allowed me to research and present repertoire and she would either approve my selections or suggest something else. She has helped me increase my knowledge of standard repertoire and vocal literature.

On this recital I will have works of Lully, Campra, Bellini, Schumann, Gounod, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The works span from the Baroque to Late Romantic/20th Century.

I am very excited to present this recital. Everyone should come. My amazing mother is preparing the reception, which is a reason in its own to go!

As a perk of your involvement with Auriel Camerata, you’ve got a master class with Metropolitan Opera soprano Maureen O’Flynn coming up too – what do you hope to get out of that?

I am beyond excited to participate in this master class! I hope to gain a few rehearsal and performance techniques as well as another opinion on the repertoire itself. I have always wanted to participate in a master class that is open to the public with a well-known singer. I am also excited that others will be participating, and I can gain insight and information from their performances. I aspire to be a voice teacher and clinician and what better way than to observe a master class?!

What’s next for you?

I am awaiting a decision for a graduate assistantship from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. There is an outstanding baritone named John Kramar, with whom I wish to continue my vocal training. I met Mr. Kramar at the New York Summer School for the Arts School of Choral Studies when I attended in the summer of 2010. Under his guidance at this program I gained an incredible amount of knowledge in only one month. After grad school….I don’t know. I would like to begin teaching and performing professionally and building a reputation. I would also like to at some point in the future apply to a Doctor of Musical Arts program. Where…..I also don’t know. I would like to at some point return to the Capital Region to help build the expanding arts community and budding cultural center of Northern New York.

Caleb Eick’s Senior Recital will be presented on Friday, March 13 2015 at 7pm at the Kathleen McManus Picotte Recital Hall in the Massry Center for the Arts, College of Saint Rose. The recital is free and open to the public.

The Senior Recital of Caleb Eick

Caleb Eick Recital post card

We are SO proud of our Auriel Scholar, Caleb Eick! Please join us on March 13th as we support him as he gives his Senior Recital at the College of Saint Rose. Caleb has been such a delight – he’s hard-working, and is an expressive and sensitive singer. We’re excited to support him in this next step of his academic journey!

We knew, when we heard him audition for the Auriel Scholar program last Fall, that he was special. He has a glorious tone color, a wide range, and wonderful musicianship. Caleb’s passion for music has profound depth – he’s insatiably curious, loves research and has deep knowledge of rep – not just of his own, but of other fachs as well! Caleb has worked hard with us – he’s helped with program planning, rep selection, program notes, production planning – he’s done it all, with stellar results. He’s full of great ideas, and he keeps us energized and enthused!

We hope you join us next Friday to cheer him on – he’s a treasure!

Catching up!

Ack! Was July really our last post? We’ve been so busy we’ve been neglecting the blog!

So, in the spirit of “what I did last summer (and fall)”, here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • we listened to a lot of really wonderful singers at our September auditions and took on two fabulously talented singers! Welcome soprano Carla Fisk and bass Tyler Thomas!
  • We welcomed our Auriel Scholar, Class of 2015! Caleb Eick is a senior at the College of Saint Rose, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, where he studies with Dr. Susan Harwood. Caleb brings so much enthusiasm, passion and talent to our group! We’re very happy to have him aboard. First on Caleb’s agenda was assisting in the preparation of program notes for our first concert, and he did a great job!
  • we prepared and rehearsed and presented our first concert of the season, “This Other Eden: Music of The English Masters”, and it was glorious! We’re so grateful to the large, appreciative audience and the wonderful folks at Immaculate Conception Church in Glenville, NY, who made us feel so very welcome.

Here are a few pics from rehearsals for that concert:

Auriel Camerata rehearses for “This Other Eden: Music of the English Masters” at Immaculate Conception Church, Glenville, NY

Interior shot of Immaculate Conception Church as Auriel Camerata rehearses for “This Other Eden: Music of the English Masters.”

And here’s a bit of video from rehearsal:

From now on, we promise we won’t get so far behind on the blog!

We Aren’t Sure What This Is

We’re all for starting music education early, and drilling down to levels where you can express your passion through excellence…but…well, sometimes the internet shows us strange things. Thanks, internet…?

In defence of singers | Schmopera

“Along the road that is a singer’s development, there are checkpoints at which a number of aspiring singers are filtered out of the race. Auditions for undergraduate and graduate schools are two big checkpoints, but the filtering really just comes when young singers are presented with a hurdle. By the time singers are working professionally, they have braved stage fright, foreign language skills, and the struggle for a consistent and workable vocal technique. It seems like the last of these hurdles is learning to “adapt to the business”, which means “read people’s minds”. And I think that’s sort of lame.”

via In defence of singers | Schmopera.

This is a fantastic and thoughtful blog post from Schmopera about the frustrating realities about the audition process and the struggle to become your own artist. Definitely worth the read! Be sure to bookmark Schmopera, a vastly entertaining blog out of Canada (who doesn’t love Canadians, right?).

Asking How Much Opera Singers’ Work Is Worth

No one blinks when an experienced corporate manager earns a six-figure salary in this city. But an opera singer? We still romanticize the image of the starving artist. We like to think that talent will eventually fill dinner plates and checking accounts.

via Asking How Much Opera Singers’ Work Is Worth – NYTimes.com.

This is an interesting discussion about how we value the arts in our culture. There is a persistent notion that artists should somehow accept less than their training and work is worth. And it’s not just singing – this pervades all art forms. Thoughts?

Welcome to Auriel Camerata!

Auriel Camerata
Hello there! Allow us to introduce ourselves!

Who are we?
We started off as a group of singers who had performed together in various choral incarnations in the Capital District. Because we kept running into each other – and because we knew we blended well, had the same rehearsal ethic, and same rigorous choral standards – the question, “why don’t we we form a small group?” kept coming up. So we decided to make the group a reality!

Auriel Camerata is a flexible, versatile group of musicians who seek to bring excellence, passion and artistry in choral music to the Capital Region and beyond. Through our concert programming and our educational programs, we seek to expand the musical reach of our community. We are inquisitive and inclusive, supporting new music and living composers; and also seeking to honor ageless musical traditions.

Auriel Camerata’s repertoire is far-ranging and diverse; from Medieval chant, to Renaissance polyphony, to Baroque masterpieces, to lush Romantic works of the 19th century and to contemporary works of the modern age.

We are professional musicians and music educators. We believe that music is a language that transcends geographical borders and, as such, is a universal expression of the human soul. We believe in the power of music to unite, to soothe, to stir the spirit, and to express the inexpressible.
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