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December, 2003

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Hello! Bonjour!

If you like early music, or music in general, this is a good place to be. Our page is about one ensemble, The Boston Camerata, but there is plenty here to interest all kinds of human beings. We aim to provide:

  • news of our music (updated regularly),
  • a description of who we are and what we do,
  • a current discography, (including tons of fascinating and hard-to-find info on early music)
  • a touring and recording schedule,
  • for Boston-area friends, an announcement of our 2003-2004 intown season.
  • biographical sketches of Camerata's musicians,
  • and other important stuff we haven't thought of yet.

Please check back here from time to time, as we will try to keep our information current.

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Camerata sends the best of America to Old Europe

Camerata onstage at Sylvanès, France
As the memoir we are posting here by Camerata soloist Deborah Rentz-Moore makes clear, there is still plenty of love and affection between the United States and France -- given the right circumstances, that is. Our wonderful expererience singing American spirituals at the medieval abbey of Sylvanès last summer, the subject of Deb’s article, recaptures the moment very well. We shared beautiful music from our own early heritage with an enthusiastic European audience, and everyone was enriched thereby. Please click here to read the full story.

A special word of thanks goes to the Florence Gould Foundation, which has been helping Camerata promote these Franco-American exchanges for several seasons. We’ll have more news for you about an exciting new Gould-aided project in a few weeks....

And here’s a seasonal reminder: Camerata’s numerous recordings of New World music (including the bestselling “An American Christmas” make excellent seasonal gifts -- just click to find out more.

Boston Camerata August 2003 Tour, Sylvanès, France

Joel and the Camerata
are honored at the
Boston Early Music Festival
A   highlight of the recent festival -- for us at any rate -- was the presentation to Camerata director Joel Cohen of the Howard Mayer Brown Award for lifetime achievement in early music. The Franklin Room at the Park Plaza hotel was jammed for the July 13 ceremony, and Joel asked a represenative group of longtime Camerata collaborators to share the applause with him. In the photo below you can see, left to right:

Choirmaster Murray Forbes Somerville, soprano Margaret Frazier, choirmaster Hazel Somerville, percussionist Karim Mohammed, soprano Anne Azéma, Joel Cohen, gambist Carol Lewis, lutenist Olav Chris Henriksen, sound engineer and tenor David Griesinger, wind player Ingeborg von Huene, and board member Jane Kyte.

Photos: Paul Kyte

In his brief address to the assembled audience, Joel stressed the importance for our times of increased public awareness of history and historical context. "Our music is the ideal tool for accomplishing this," he said.

And a big, collective, pat-oneself-on-the-back to all of us in the Camerata community for so many years of hard work and wonderful music making.

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Close encounters of the Camerata kind: The 2003-2004 season

Camerata's Boston-Cambridge schedule is now definitive, with three major intown productions, plus a few bonus events. The major productions are: Nueva Espaņa (October); A Medieval Christmas (December); and Le Roman de Fauvel (April). You can find out more by clicking here, or request a brochure by clicking here. The best seats go first, so subscribe now!

Highlights of 2002

February -- We perform Italian Renaissance music at that miracle of Italian neo-Renaissance stye, Boston’s Gardner Museum.

April -- Cantigas tours in Germany. On the street in Berlin, heading towards the concert venue, Joel, dressed in his Moroccan djellabah, gets mistaken for an immigrant worker (which he was, in fact).

May -- We tour in the U.S. with “What Then is Love,” an anthology of Elizabethan airs and dances. Tenor Tim Evans steals the show as Roister Doister.

May -- The Paris public gets introduced to Shaker music, thanks to a grant from the Florence Gould Foundation. Radio station WHRB in Cambridge honors us with the first Boston Camerata orgy -- seventeen hours of recorded Camerata music broadcast in a single stretch.

June -- In Boston, Joel Cohen receives the Georges Longy Award for Musical Artistry and Leadership. The event includes a joyous reunion with some founding members of the Camerata -- Judith Davidoff, Alison Fowle, Friedrich and Ingeborg von Huene.

September -- The annual medieval music workshop in Coaraze, France, draws students from Japan, Germany, England, France, Sweden, Canada, and the United States.

October -- Shaker song resonates in Iowa, Michigan, and Utah. An interfaith event: Onstage with us in Utah, forty young Mormons perform Simple Gifts and other Shaker siprituals.

Longy Award Presentation in June, 2002

-- The trade book Shaker Songs appears on bookshelves, with an accompanying CD of performances by Camerata, and a number of musical transcriptions by Joel Cohen as part of the text.

November -- This was perhaps Camerata’s most important production of its first forty-nine years. Cantigas, an interfaith project featuring Christian, Jewish, and Muslim musicians, overcomes a series of international obstacles and snafus (last minute visa problems for our Moroccan guest artists) to tour nationwide, with standing ovations everywhere. On the road, tour manager Annick Lapôtre achieves the impossible every day, with typically Gallic aplomb. In New London, the audience refuses to go home, and follows us backstage and out of the hall, singing, clapping, and dancing.

December -- A Renaissance Christmas tours extensively, and a live recording of the program made in Schenectady is chosen to lead off National Public Radio’s coast-to-coast Christmas Eve broadcast. The Boston Globe features Cantigas in its best-of-the-year annual review.


We had many a sleepless night prior to the national Cantigas tour of November, 2002. But in the end the music, and the performers, emerged triumphant. As those of you who follow ouir activities know, this program of medieval Spanish music employs a mix of Euro-American and Arabic musicians in an attempt to re-create the unique musical and spiritual climate of thirteenth century Spain.

Cantigas has toured for four seasons in Europe on collaboration with the eminent Abdelkrin Rais orchestra of Fez, Morocco. But what was good enough for major festivals in France, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands raised objections in our own country’s immigration services. Several of our Moroccan colleagues, having been initially granted visas, were then denied them in a very late turnabout. We thus had to replace four cast members, and were fortunate to be able to find superb substitutes closer to home. Many people spent many overtime hours so that it could all work out in the end. But until the music actually went into rehearsal, it was a long nightmare of stress and anxiety.

At any rate, American audiences in Tuscson, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Baltimore, New London, and Boston stamped and cheered and clamored for more. Our “rainbow” cast of Muslims, Christians, and Jews delivered a strong message for these confused times. May that message ripple out from the concert hall into the wider world!

Here’s some press commentary from the recent tour.

Singers Hayet Ayad, Anne Azema, Equidad Bares and Lynn Torgove separately and in various combinations told the stories as vivid, fresh, almost gossipy events.... The substitute instrumentalists, with just a week to prepare before the seven-city U.S. "Cantigas" tour, shined
-- The Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2002

The Cantigas have been revived often in bits and pieces by early music groups but rarely in the systematic and historically astute fashion espoused by Joel Cohen, the musicologist-lutenist who heads the Boston Camerata... Cohen, who introduced each set with chummy humor, clearly relished the camaraderie among the musicians, some of whom (Arab-Americans from Boston) were last-minute replacements for members of Fez's Andalusian Orchestra who were denied visas. The communal rejoicing, a hallmark of the Cantigas, was much in evidence. The mostly Moroccan-garbed ensemble, which included Cohen, Mohammed Briouel (violin and viola), Hareem Roustom (oud), Boujoumaa Razgui (percussion), played with flair and confidence, as if they had been partners for years. And the vocalists—Hayet Ayad, Anne Azema, Equidad Bares, Lynn Torgrove—breathed life into the songs, each in her distinctive style. When Azema and Torgrove, in a duet (No. 417), sang with radiant piety, they made believers of everyone.
-- The Chicago Times, November 11, 2002

Joel Cohen never heard any kind of music he couldn't make his own... exhilarating results... a body of work that rivals the accomplishments of any ensemble.
-- The Boston Herald, November 12, 2002

The television news may be full of ugly images and hate-filled sound bites, but Sunday afternoon a multicultural group put on a concert at Sanders Theatre that delivered another message.. there was contrast, drama, development, and instruction.. Cohen's chief collaborator on this venture, Mohammed Briouel from Fez, Morocco, played the violin with an incredibly rich sonority and command of intonation... The Balkan encore... is about following a star to the birthplace of a miraculous child: Abraham. It had people on their feet and clapping in unison; once again music had created a community.
-- The Boston Globe, November 12, 2002

Please have a look at the record listings. The Boston Camerata has made lots of recordings (more, we guess, then any other early-music group in the New World). Many of these recorded programs have won international awards and distinctions. They all contain terrific music. In the recording links we in
vite you to explore, you can find tracklistings and/or extensive program notes for most of the titles, some song texts, and now even a few sound clips here and there (more of these to come). We aim to give good information on our current CD's for record buyers, prospective concert presenters, and early-music mavens. There is much in the program notes for students of music history.

Besides all this interesting material you can browse for free, you can even buy the music from us (hint). Yes, we have to charge a little more than Amazon or CD Now, but we offer personalized service. And you have the satisfaction of knowing that your music-purchase dollars help support real, live musicians, not some faceless Wall Street suits....

We welcome your inquiries. We sell tickets to Boston-area Camerata concerts, Camerata's highly acclaimed CD's on Erato, Nonesuch, and Harmonia Mundi (here is another chance to consult the current discography ), and other good stuff. All profits from merchandise sales go towards supporting future Boston Camerata projects.
Click on this link for more info concerning Camerata director Joel Cohen; or send him mail by clicking here. To inquire about Camerata activities, purchase tickets, order merchandise, offer comments or suggestions regarding what's on our Web site, we welcome email at the following address:

Boston Camerata OnLine Newsletter Archives:

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