Partner Profile: Early Music Guild

Sep 30, 2014 | Town Hall News

When David Brewster founded Town Hall Seattle in 1998, he envisioned a home for small and mid-sized arts organizations—specifically, Seattle’s Early Music Guild, which became one of Town Hall’s first presenting partners. EMG committed to presenting its entire series in the Great Hall during Town Hall’s first season, cementing a successful partnership that has lasted 15 years and counting.

Early Music Guild is dedicated to advancing the community’s appreciation for music from the middle ages through the 18th century, but Executive Director August Denhard is quick to note that you don’t have to know about the history of the music to enjoy the performances—they do all that work for you.

“There are elements of chamber, world, and folk music embedded in the performances. It feels like classical music, except you’ll hear instruments from another era. Instead of modern violins, we play Baroque violins—copies of instruments from museums. It creates a different sound that clarifies the music, makes the music lighter and brings it to life,” he says.

Denhard is particularly excited about the upcoming 2014-15 season. “This is the year we make a final decision about a new music director for Seattle Baroque Orchestra,” he said. “We’re coming to the end of a two-year search process, and the three remaining candidates will each ‘audition’ at a performance this season. This is a fairly rigorous process for a small organization, but we wanted to make it interactive to really get the audience involved.” EMG will distribute questionnaires at the SBO performances so audience members can share their thoughts and input.  “We’re looking for a great fit for the community and for the orchestra…someone who can contribute to the arts scene on many levels.”

You can catch the first guest director in action on November 1, when Matthias Maute joins celebrated soprano Shannon Mercer and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra for The American Dream, which recreates the musical life of Boston’s early days.

This season, Early Music Guild will also celebrate an international collaboration with Early Music Vancouver and Victoria, BC’s Early Music Society of the Islands to present Theodora, Handel’s famous oratorio. This is the first of many ambitious Baroque masterpieces envisioned by the partners. The International Series kicks off on November 15 with Montreal-based ensemble Constantinople, who will interpret Italian singer and composer Barbara Strozzi’s Baroque cantatas with an Iranian influence, presenting these 17th-century masterworks in a way they’ve never been heard before.

Denhard thinks Town Hall is the perfect place for audiences to appreciate these kinds of unique performances: “The Great Hall itself is perfectly suited to what we do. It’s a historical space with acoustics that are clear and resonant…it doesn’t sound like a CD. There’s a personality and characteristics that are unique to Town Hall.”


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