One week until our next concert!

For our next concert, All-Hallows-Even to Halloween, we’re exploring how ghosts, magic, death, and the afterlife were addressed by four Baroque composers.  Halloween has become a fun-filled holiday with costumes, candy, jack o’lanterns, and scary decorations, but it started as something vastly different.  Certainly in the 17th and 18th centuries, it had quite a different meaning.

This morning, our friends at KERA had a wonderful commentary by Paula LaRocque discussing the evolution of this holiday from its Celtic origins through to today’s trick-or-treat spookfest.  If you didn’t catch it on the radio, it’s a delightful read and provides some background for what you’ll hear next Friday night, November 4, at Zion Lutheran Church.

Do you have your tickets yet?


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Upcoming performances!

Thank you to all who came to the Home and Garden concert on September 30.  It was a truly lovely concert.

If you missed it – or not! – there are more opportunities to spend some time with the Orchestra in the coming weeks.

First up, four of our musicians will be playing music of the Italian Baroque for the opening of the new exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum, Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome, on Sunday, October 16.  The concert will also be broadcast live on WRR (click here for all of the pertinent info).  The first 101 visitors get in free, and they will be giving away ONS tickets.

Next, the Orchestra’s second season concert is on November 4.  All-Hallows-Even to Halloween will explore Baroque composers’ take on otherworldly matters – perfect for the Halloween season!  The concert is at 7pm at Zion Lutheran Church, and we hope that you will join us for post-concert treats and hot chocolate.  Keep reading for the full concert details. Continue reading

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Home and Garden I – This Friday!!!

Our first concert of the 2011-2012 season is this Friday, September 30!!!  Do you have a ticket yet?  If not, give us a call at 214-750-1492, and we be more than happy to help process your order.

Below is the press release that went out to the media; it has all of the juicy details.  For even more information, see our previous post for an interview with the concert’s featured musician, renowned fortepianist Christoph Hammer.

We hope to see you at the concert on Friday!

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Meet the Artist: Christoph Hammer

On September 30, 2011, the Orchestra of New Spain opens its 23rd season with an intimate Home and Garden concert featuring world-renowned fortepianist Christoph Hammer.  He has enjoyed an illustrious career across Europe and now teaches early music at the University of North Texas in Denton.  Recently, Maestro Hammer graciously obliged to answer a few questions for our audience in advance of the concert.

Christoph Hammer

Fortepianist Christoph Hammer

How did this collaboration with the Orchestra of New Spain come about?
When I arrived in Texas two years ago, I wanted to find out if there were any colleagues and ensembles who do performances on period instruments. Of course, I heard very soon about the Orchestra of New Spain and attended a concert with wonderful, never-heard-before music from South America. Then I got in touch with the musical director, Grover Wilkins. We had a wonderful evening together later at his home with an interesting conversation – not only about music.

What is significant for our audience about the pieces you’ve selected to play at the Home and Garden concert on September 30?
The program I put together will give a general survey about the history of the fortepiano, starting with a sonata by Lodovico Giustini from 1732, which is the first known piece which explicitly asks for a clavicembalo di suonare piano e forte. It will show the development of that instrument all over Europe, featuring Johann Christian Bach, who did the first public performance on a fortepiano in England, then going to Augsburg and Vienna, where the fortepiano had its great flourishing time in the classical period. The program will include Haydn and Mozart, of course, but will also extend to Schubert, who was strongly inspired by the the specific colours of that instrument in his way of composing.

For readers who may not be very familiar with your instrument, what are the essential differences between the fortepiano you’ll play at the concert and the familiar piano of today?
Generally, of course, any keyboard instrument where the strings are being hit by hammers are fortepianos – as opposed to the plucked instruments of the harpsichord family. We use the term fortepiano nowadays to make a distinction between the period instruments of the 17th and 19th century and the modern pianoforte. The fortepiano of around 1800 was a very different instrument: a purely wooden structure with a smaller compass, much smaller and lighter hammers, thinner strings and a smaller, but very refined sound. It also has knee pedals which allow the musician to modify the sound and enables very subtle musical gestures and colours.

Pianoforte or fortepiano and why?
Through all the 19th century, both terms had been used. We have to know that there is not a specific type of fortepiano. Even around 1800, there were more than 100 fortepiano makers in Vienna, and each model was a bit different. And as time passed on and musical taste and demands developed, there were always new instruments and changes. A fortepiano of the time of Mozart is very different to the one of Schubert. And even Brahms’ instruments were very different to the modern piano. Basically, we could say that all 19th century was a continuous development of the idea of the piano.

Why did you decide to specialize in early music and especially the fortepiano?  What drew you to this field and instrument?
When I studied organ in Munich and also had piano lessons, I always had problems with the modern piano and its big sound for earlier piano music. Then I happened to meet an original Walter fortepiano through friends and suddenly realized that I could do all the subtleties I was always thinking of on this instrument, and that opened a new world to me. Still, I had to develop a specific technique for that instrument and understand its possibilities. Over the years I had the chance to see and play and even own many different original instruments. One thing became clear to me: as a musician, I have to learn from the instrument and not impose traditional ideas on it. Then it can be a revelation for understanding compositions which have been inspired by it – never forget that Mozart and Beethoven played such a type of instrument all day and developed their ideas from the sound of such an instrument.

Knowing that each had and used pianos, is the piano of today a legitimate instrument for Bach?  For continuo in Mozart operas with a modern orchestra?
Any good and intelligent music is legitimate! On the other hand: one ought to be respectful to the ideas of a composer. If we interpret classical music on period instruments, then it is not for the sake of just being historically informed. It means a respectful approach to the music. We try to find out what colours, what phrasings, what language, what sound a composer had in his mind when he composed the music. And it usually can reveal amazing new worlds and spaces of sound and diction.

Much like ONS’s founder and Music Director Grover Wilkins, you’re known for rediscovering little-known composers and their works.  What have been your most rewarding or memorable discoveries?
Too many to even tell…  I did lots of CD recordings with unknown composers where I had to transcribe the music from the manuscript. Concert arias by Conti, an opera by Ferrandini, a Miserere by Zelenka, an oratorio by Bertali and by Marcello, violin sonatas by Beecke, and so on. The fact that one probably has not heard that music for 200 or 300 years can cause a shiver sometimes. And it makes me question the term of ‘minor composer’ very often. The fact that music has not been in the canon of a performing tradition does not mean it is less good or important. I wish that we also can have an audience which is curious to hear always new things and not only the famous works.

You’ve worked all over the world, from your early career in Germany, to teaching and conducting across Europe, and now your position as Associate Professor at UNT.  How do you find living in Texas?
Besides the climate…. I find amazing people here, very open and friendly, an open space for ideas and new developments.

You’re a busy person professionally – wearing the hats of musician, conductor, researcher, and professor.  What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy nature a lot. Or just having great conversations with interesting people who can inspire. And I love reading a lot.

If you were stranded on a desert island with three recordings of classical music, which three would you want with you?
The famous question….  I guess it would be hard to find a CD player or electricity on a desert island, anyway. I rather prefer to find a piano there or build myself some instrument of any kind.  Making music makes me much happier than listening.

Tickets are still available for this intimate evening of wine, tapas, and music in an exclusive North Dallas home.  Details for purchasing are on our website, and you can call 214-750-1492 for more information.  We hope to see you there!

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2011-2012 Season Press Release

September is here, and that means a new season has arrived!  We announced our season to the press last week, and we’re busy printing brochures to send to all of our subscribers, ticket buyers, and other friends.  Here’s the full release:

Orchestra of New Spain Announces 2011-2012 Season

DALLAS (September 1, 2011) – The Orchestra of New Spain (ONS) announced today its 2011-2012 season, its 23rd season under the baton of founder and Music Director Grover Wilkins.

“To hear what we’ve uncovered in the last 23 years is truly astounding,” notes Wilkins. “No one was playing anything from the Spanish baroque in 1989. And now we’re on the international map as the principal purveyors of the masterworks of the Spanish, Bolivian and Mexican baroque traditions—think about how it would be not to know Velazquez and El Greco! For Dallasites who want a truly enchanting experience, nothing could be more simple than a subscription to a year of rediscovered music in some of the most marvelous venues in our City.”

Highlights of the season include two exclusive Home and Garden concerts, festive concerts in distinguished Dallas venues—Arlington Hall and the Meadows Museum—and a weekend dedicated to Dallas and the Trinity River. Wilkins discoveries Francisco Courcelle and José de Nebra will mingle with Handel and Mozart as the Orchestra places baroque Spanish and Bolivian music in historical context with its better-known peers.

Orchestra of New Spain 2011-2012 Season

Home and Garden I (Fri, Sep 30, 6:30pm)
Venue information with ticket purchase.
Christoph Hammer, world-renowned forte-pianist, explores the evolution of the early piano as an extension of the harpsichord from the first instance of the use of the term piano e forte in 1732 thru to Mozart, Haydn and Schubert. Join us to hear how moving a sweet, percussive sound it produces. Wine & tapas, valet parking. Tickets $50 (now through Sep 15).

All-Hallows-Even to Halloween (Fri, Nov 4, 7:00pm) 
Zion Lutheran Church
It came about as recognition of the departed saints (hallows), but the imagery has shifted markedly over time. In the baroque, Boccherini wrote the “House of the Devil,” Tartini “Devil’s Sonata,” and Vivaldi the “Phantoms” movement. Refreshments following concert. Tickets $25/Students $10.

With the Spanish Royal Family, Matins for Christmas (Sun, Dec 11, 6:00pm)
Christ the King Catholic Church
Whether in the Royal Palace of Madrid or the Monastery of El Escorial, the Spanish Royal Family celebrated Christmas with inimitable splendor that we recreate with the music that reinforced their seasonal celebration. Admission compliments of the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Christ the King Catholic Church.

The Annual Courcelle Dinner (Sun, Jan 15, 6:00pm)
Restaurant l’Ancestral
Keep out your New Year’s Eve finery and join us for our annual gala dinner, the perfect way to shake off the midwinter doldrums. Music, fine French fare in the intimacy of l’Ancestral, and an opportunity to help fund the Orchestra’s considerable community outreach. Black tie/cocktail optional. Tickets $125.

Valentine’s Day at Arlington Hall (Tue, Feb 14, 6:30pm)
Arlington Hall at Lee Park
“If music be the food of love, play on!” was Shakespeare’s sentiment, and we heartily agree. Wine, nibbles, love songs, and Eine kleine Nachtmusik at Arlington Hall will create the perfect Valentine’s Day experience for couples of all ages. Featuring Strozzi: Amour Dormiglione, Robert Valentine sonata for two violins. Tickets $25/Students $10.
March 3-4: Bridging the Trinity—Dedication of a Bridge
Handel’s Water Music and a Courcelle Te Deum in two full-orchestra concerts celebrate a new era in bringing Dallas together.

  • Zion Lutheran Church (Sat, Mar 3, 7:00pm)
    6:15.  Join Maestro Wilkins and Pastor and historian Robert Preece in a pre-concert discussion of the naming of the Rio Santissima Trinidad. Tickets $25/Students $10.
  • Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, on the bridge deck (Sun, March 4, 9:00am)
    Dedication of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the bridge deck. Sponsored by The Dallas Foundation. Complimentary.

Flemish/Spanish 15th Century: Pastrana Tapestries and Their Music (Fri, Mar 30, 6:30pm)
Meadows Museum at SMU
The 15th century was a time of progressive music-making in Spanish Flanders and in Valencia. Vocal soloists of the Orchestra in works of Flecha, Cárceres, and the Flemish School.  Tickets $25/Students $10.

Home and Garden II  (Fri, Apr 27)
Venue information with ticket purchase.
On the road to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. This chamber orchestra and chorus, the foundation of the Orchestra of New Spain, presents its Bolivian tour program just days before departure. Another evening of extraordinary music seasoned with wine and tapas to round out our concert season. Tickets $50 (through Apr 1).

About the Orchestra of New Spain

The Orchestra of New Spain is a 36-member orchestra and chorus created in the Dallas Arts District in 1989 and dedicated to exploration to the music of the Spanish baroque. The Orchestra’s seven-concert season, its annual school programs, annual Dallas ISD Strings Camp, and national and international touring programs are a unique contribution to the Dallas Arts community and to the introduction of great works of the Hispanic tradition to Dallas audiences.

The mission of the Orchestra of New Spain is to introduce in concert the neglected repertory of the Spanish 17th and 18th centuries, and to explore the Hispanic heritage of which it is a part, educating the public on the importance of the repertory and its broader cultural implications. Additionally, the Orchestra performs other renaissance, baroque, classical, and romantic repertories on period instruments as well as alternative repertory, from other periods and of other provenance.


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Summer Strings Camp in Dallas

Last week was quite an adventure!  Fresh from our trip to Bolivia, the Orchestra partnered with Dallas Independent School District to conduct the first-ever Summer Strings Camp for Dallas ISD students at Moisés E. Molina High School.

First, some statistics:

  • Over 90 students signed up to participate in camp for an affordable $25 fee
  • 20 Dallas ISD schools were represented
  • Students ranged from second to tenth grade, from beginners to more advanced musicians
  • 82% of students had never been to an orchestra camp before

It was the best experience I have ever had!  – Alondra M.

The camp began with a short audition for each student.  Most kids were nervous, but everyone made it through the auditions unscathed.  After being placed into either the Philharmonic or Symphonic Orchestra, students spent the week in rehearsals with Dallas ISD music teachers and ONS Music Director Grover Wilkins.  Each orchestra worked through several different pieces of music of varying degrees of difficulty.

I am very proud of how much I improved and how much advanced songs I’ve been playing.  – Anh D.

They also attended instrument-specific sectionals with Orchestra of New Spain master teachers Kristin Van Cleve (just returned from violin adventures in Bolivia!), cellist Eric Smith, and violist Katrin Meidell.  Katrin had just finished her doctorate, and she insisted on being called “Dr. K.”  Students worked on their music for the Philharmonic or Symphonic Orchestra, honed their musicianship, and learned new techniques.

Eric Smith and Bass

ONS master teacher Eric Smith helps a camper tune his bass.

My favorite experience was having a master class in sectionals before working on our pieces.  – Ashley S.

Angela and student

Dallas ISD teacher Angela Pendleton helps a student get the pitch *just* right.

It was a busy week, but there was lots of laughter and fun too!  Lunch, catered each day by Dallas ISD, provided a time for kids to get to know each other and make new friends.  Many students mentioned making friends as a favorite part of camp.

The week culminated in a performance for parents and friends on Friday afternoon in the Molina High School auditorium.  The program included the a performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra, a chamber quartet of students and teachers followed by a trio of ONS master teachers, and then the Symphonic Orchestra finished up the recital.

Mike Harris conducts the Philharmonic Orchestra

Dallas ISD teacher Mike Harris conducts the Philharmonic Orchestra

The Philharmonic Orchestra was made up of younger kids and students with less experience than the Symphonic Orchestra.  Their outstanding performance started with Del Borgo’s “St. Lawrence Overture,” conducted by Mike Harris.  Mike also helped facilitate the camp all week long and was involved in the planning process as well.

After thunderous applause, Angela Pendleton took the stage to lead the orchestra through Matesky’s “March in the Style of Corelli.”

Angela Pendleton conducts

Dallas ISD's Angela Pendleton commands the Philharmonic Orchestra as parents watch.

The Philharmonic ended their portion of the program with many students’ favorite piece of the week, Del Borgo’s “La Petite Danseuse,” conducted by Dallas ISD teacher Julie Powers.

Julie and the Philharmonic

Julie Powers conducts "La Petite Danseuse"

Best camp I’ve been to.  – Ismael G.

Next up was a student and teacher quartet.  Yasmine B. and Jasmine E., two advanced students, had approached the teachers earlier in the week asking to play some chamber music.  They ended up playing Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” with Katrin and Kristin as the Symphonic Quartet.

Symphonic quartet

Our Symphonic Quartet wows the crowd.

Orchestra of New Spain musicians love to play, so we couldn’t refuse our teachers their time in the spotlight.  The Faculty Trio (Kristin, Katrin, and Eric) gave the audience a taste of South America with Gardel’s tango “Por una Cabeza.”

Faculty Trio

Anyone want to dance? Our teachers play a tango

The Symphonic Orchestra was the last group to perform.  Conducted by Grover Wilkins, this group played McQuilkin’s “An English Folksong,” Galliard’s “Tanzun,” and finished with a little Spanish flair (“El Toro” by Brubaker).

The Symphonic Orchestra

Grover Wilkins conducts the Symphonic Orchestra, with a little help from Dallas ISD teacher Ron Totora on bass.

As a surprise for parents, the Symphonic Orchestra finished their portion of the program with a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”  Mike Harris and Angela Pendleton assisted with percussion to provide some extra bombast for the piece.

The audience went wild at the end of the performance, with cameras flashing to capture this special moment and applause that you must have been able to hear in the Molina High School parking lot.

I think camp was a fun learning experience.  – Bakari W.

The Summer Strings Camp was an incredibly successful endeavor.  All of us at the Orchestra applaud our Dallas ISD partners for their help, volunteerism, and leadership.  Dallas ISD teachers stepped in wherever needed – at sign-in, during sectionals and rehearsals, and even during the performance.

We would be remiss if we did not thank our very important donors, without whom the camp would not have been possible:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Jake Penson
  • Raymond and Martha Quigley
  • Mr. and Mrs. Michael Allen
  • Susan Nurre

Two local companies also helped generously:

And now, some more statistics:

  • Over 85% of students said they are more comfortable playing in front of people after attending camp
  • While all students said their playing had improved after attending camp, well over 50% of students said they had improved “a lot”
  • 96% of students said they would like to come back again next year

Pretty impressive, no?  Or in the words of one student:

It was very awesome and EPIC.  – Jorge S.

Maybe that says it all.  Until next year!

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Bolivia – Day 9

OK, I’m skipping around; some days are more interesting that others. And this day is particularly interesting, concert day.

Not only is our concert making the papers, we were on television live this morning at 7:30. Hmm, after those 10 dinners, a challenge. Vivian is everyone’s dream morning show host with her great smile and interest in her guests. But the studio is an amazing collaboration of 20 technicos covering three spaces at the same time. It’s marvelous to witness, creates no little uncertainty till you’re, on and then you’re on…

It must have worked. The concert was standing room only.

But you have to put that concert into context. I don’t think there had been many rehearsals on this Concerto Concert repertory before we arrived. Some of the kids really just can’t count the beats. And only the top 5 or 6 violins are really ready for prime time. So I and each of the teachers chose what to attack and predicted what would probably get the most bang for our buck. Daily we had talleros (sectionals) with the cellos (Carol) and basses, the flutes on their own (Maria), and the violins (Kristin) sometimes all together, sometimes divided into 1sts and 2nds. But as late as Tuesday, I was just not sure we’d get this thing together.

The soloists were two German lads spending their military service time here as volunteers in Sicor, teaching clarinet (Milan) and oboe (Fabian). They are supported by the German government and have really made their mark. And they were great to work with, fully prepared, and musically charged. But getting the  orchestra as polished appeared un-doable.

Today (Wednesday, Day 9) we did get into the concert hall for the dress rehearsal. Part of Rubén’s negotiations was to offer the concert in the Hotel Event Center in exchange for our complimentary rooms. Well, it is a fine hall, with very good acoustics, bright and inviting, high ceiling and no acoustic tiles! The dress was inspired and the hall played no little part in that. Fortunately the concertmaster, playing Saint-Saens Rondo & Capricioso, really blew it in the dress rehearsal. I was worried that if everything went too well, something would crash in the concert.

May I tell you that from the first measures of the opening Weber Clarinet Concerto it was clear we had pulled it all together. And when we closed the first movement and managed to keep the public from applauding with our concentration, I knew we had them. The concert was a smashing success. Marvelously concentrated and intense playing, many minor glitches overcome among some instruments, soloists in top form, and the public applauding grandly for all. When we finally ended the concert with an orchestrated version of the very popular Sobergio, they were on their feet and shouting! It was all very gratifying.

Before the post-first-concert—we’re on Thursday night in the city center—dinner, to which we invited our hosts, I was stopped numerous times, most notably by Guillermo, a local citizen amazed at what ‘his’ local kids were being inspired to do; by the Czech violin teacher who has his own trio with two Russians in town and is the local professor for the better violinists; and finally by the wizened old woman—reminded me of my hard-working grandmother—who knows the ‘boys’ soloists, for she and her accompanying daughter are residents of Plan 3000 (I owe you an explanation) where the Sicor Orchestra rehearses. Walked right up to me looked me in the eye with a big thank you, threw her arms around me and held me for moments, just to say thank you. Well, that’s all the thanks I need for this trip.

I leaned at dinner that this was a cultured audience. The Czech violinist cancelled his orchestra rehearsal and brought the entire group to our concert. But many other artists, musicians, and leaders of the city were there. They clearly got what they came for and are eager for more.

Tomorrow: the big downtown public concert.

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