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The Boston Camerata: Newsletter, Winter 1996-7


Camerata tours France, Norway, Germany.

Lots of music-making (the good part) and many hours logged in airplanes (learn to live with it). Our company's first-ever appearances in Scandinavia took place last May, in Norway, at the Bergen Festival . A total of twenty-three musicians presented two productions in the medieval Hakenshalle of that beautiful Nordic town: Tristan and Iseult (with the same outstanding cast that toured Japan in the fall of 1995) and Carmina Burana (featuring many of the same soloists who appeared at Tanglewood during the summer of 95). Boston Camerata's sister ensemble, the Camerata Mediterranea, made its Paris début at the Théatre de la Ville last March with Le Fou sur le Pont ; that same week, the Cam Med made an hour-long radio special for the BBC, broadcast last September 15. A trio of Boston Camerata soloists (Azéma, Cohen, and Lepkoff) performed medieval music in Paris and Frankfort last October. Closer to home, in November, we gave Simple Gifts , an evening of Shaker music (together with our friends the Shakers) at Wesleyan College. Our most recent on-the-road memory was the early- December French tour of An American Christmas . Eight musicians (Anne Azéma, Margaret Swanson, Elizabeth Anker, Timothy Evans, Donald Wilkinson, Joel Frederiksen, Jesse Lepkoff, and Joel Cohen) gave five performances in Mulhouse, Strasbourg, and Paris before large, enthusiastic audiences. That European swing warmed us up for the American concerts that followed in Schenectady and the Boston area. Our special thanks to Suzanne Establie, head of Les Amis de la Boston Camerata, for making the self-produced Paris event at the American Cathedral such a success.


New Camerata recordings.

Camerata is arguably the most-recorded early music group of this hemisphere, and our production continues apace. We enjoy doing this. Erato released three new Camerata CD's during 1996. Farewell Unkind, the John Dowland program, won top honors abroad; Trav'ling Home [travhome]was on the HMV and Tower Records best-seller charts and earned a rave review from (among others) the BBC Music Magazine. And our Carmina Burana appeared in European record stores in December; expect a U.S. release of that title this summer. Meanwhile, new projects are being readied: two different programs of late-Renaissance songs (one French, the other English) are to be recorded during the spring.


Speaking of Fran.

If you've had the occasion to call or write us recently, you have certainly notice some changes for the better. We are back to regular office hours, and more often than not a real human being answers the phone. Fran Imhoff is a terrific person, and morale around here has been given a major boost by her presence. Thanks to those who helped us with their gifts last year: you are making it possible for her, and us, to do good work. And a reminder that in the non-profit world, keeping any small organisation stable is a constantly renewed struggle. Ticket sales and touring fees do not, by themselves, cover the costs of running our company. We will once again need the help of our friends during 1997 to maintain and, if possible, improve our administration....


Radio days.

Both locally and abroad, there was lots of Camerata music on the air during 1996. The WGBH syndicated series, Sound and Spirit, dedicated an entire program to the Shakers and their music, including extensive excerpts from Camerata's best-selling Simple Gifts CD, and a long interview with Joel Cohen. [mikeLast March, Joel accompanied Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer and a BBC producer to Sabbathday Lake, Maine, where they and the Shakers created an hour-long radio special for British listeners. During the Bergen Festival, both of the mainstage Camerata performances were broadcast live, and Scandinavia-wide, by the Norwegian radio. In October, Joel also collaborated with board member Robert J. Lurtsema . Together they co-hosted a five-hour Morning Pro Musica tribute to early American composers on the occasion of Boston composer William Billings' 200th anniversary. Last December 16, France Musique, the national French classical music service, broadcast a two-hour special on the music of medieval Paris, featuring our recordings of Le Roman de Fauvel and the brand-new Carmina Burana. Joel Cohen and Anne Azéma, on tour with Camerata at the time, were guests on that broadcast. And, most recently, the Voice of America made a Christmas-music special out of our Nueva Espańa recording. About half of that program, you may recall, is composed of Christmas repertoire from colonial Mexico and Peru. The VOA broadcast, which was produced in Creole French for a Carribean island listenership, featured interviews with Joel (who claims to understand a little Creole, but who played it straight for the interview) and with Pierre-Louis Zephir, pastor of the Les Amis de la Sagesse congregation in Dorchester.


Upcoming performances.

The Sacred Bridge continues to be Camerata's most popular touring program. We presented it this spring in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Kalamazoo, Michigan. A Japan tour of Sacred Bridge is also in the works for May, 1998. We are hoping to perform Nueva Espańa at the Festival de Musica of Morelia, Mexico (near Mexico City), in July 1997. Next November Camerata musicians will be travelling once again to Paris, this time at the invitation of the very prestigious Cité de la Musique, the French capital's newest and snazziest performing arts facility. We will be giving four or five presentations of early American music to the French public. And, next December, we are planning to present (for the first time since 1985), a new version of the original Camerata Christmas program, A Renaissance Christmas.


Latest news.

Farewell Unkind , Camerata's recent recording of songs and dances by the great Elizabethan lutenist-songwriter John Dowland, has been honored in France by a nomination for the Grand Prix des Discophiles...and our latest release, Carmina Burana has just received a perfect "10" from the Paris review "Répertoire."

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