HAMILTON - Bitterroot Baroque will open its 2015-2016 season of performances with a concert by Agave Baroque and the acclaimed countertenor Reginald Mobley on Sept. 25.
Alex Shaffer, president of Bitterroot Baroque, said the concert will be very different from the organization’s last presentation.
“This is a big show and an extraordinary opportunity to hear one of the great countertenors of our time,” Shaffer said. “In addition to Mr. Mobley singing, the instrumentalists will consist of baroque violins, viola and cello, baroque guitar and theorbo (a long-necked bass lute), and a small organ.”
Agave Baroque, which specializes in string chamber music of the 17th century, has received numerous awards as a group and individually.
Henry Lebedinsky performs on historical keyboards across the U.S. and England. He is music minister at St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and the director of the Water Music Concert Series.
“I think one of the most important things about performing music that is old is that it is like performing Shakespeare in school,” Lebedinsky said. “The words were written 300 years ago, but the art moves the entire palette of emotions. All great music should touch the entire human spirit with emotions ranging from joy to sorrow. It’s our job to give modern audiences the toolbox they need to experience it and let the music speak for itself.”
Lebedinski said the group loves to bring baroque music to new audiences.
“We have our Seattle debut a few days before coming to Hamilton,” he said. “We are showing how passionate and how gorgeous this music is, and we love watching people light up with this music. We are not stiffs playing in suits; this is about communication. Baroque has the fire of bluegrass, the soul of R&B, and the intellectual depth of classical art music. It’s approachable and understandable, and if we do our jobs you’ll be hooked.”
Agave Baroque will perform “Song of Songs” with Mobley. It is music that expresses “love and loss in the shadow of the Thirty Years’ War.” The music contains heartbreaking laments to intimate expressions of faith and hope, and includes vocal and instrumental works by Johann Christoph Bach, Matthias Weckmann, Franz Tunder and David Pohle.
Mobley intended to be an artist who painted his inspirations. Instead, he has become a stellar baroque soloist.
The South Florida Classical Review said of Mobley: “Hearing a countertenor for the first time is astonishing. Mobley provides a perfect introduction to the genre, a genuine countertenor with a voice like maple syrup: smooth, pure, sweet, and not too heavy. Mobley’s musical taste matches his exceptional instrument, with clear diction and a sure sense of line whether whisper soft or commandingly loud.”
Violinist Aaron Westman said his choice to perform baroque music started in his teens. He said he loves playing the violin because he sees it as the electric guitar of the 17th century.
“For me, I grew up in the 1980s and 90s and was into heavy metal and classic rock,” Westman said. “I always played violin, and the hard rock music group Metallica spoke to me. When I started playing baroque music from the 17th century, I felt like this was the heavy metal music of that time. I’m still hooked. I think people can relate to it.”
Westman said Agave Baroque formed in 2008 in Los Angeles, California, and selected a name with a southwest theme. The goal was to do Latin American programs, which the group finally accomplished this year. Agave Baroque is now working on recording its fourth CD, and the Hamilton performance will be its third program with Mobley based on the beautiful poetry in the Old Testament Song of Songs.
“Our group has expanded and changed a bit (since 2008) with adding Henry, Bill (Skeen) and Natalie (Carducci),” Westman said. “This particular tour we have our largest group to make it a nice big sound. We needed more players to fill out the group.”
The day after the Hamilton concert, Sept. 26, the members of Agave Baroque will donate their time to teach a workshop for area musicians.
“These are some of the finest, most creative and polished early-music performers drawn from Boston, the Bay Area and Seattle,” Shaffer said.
Bitterroot Baroque’s presentation of concert by Agave Baroque and Reginald Mobley will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25 at Saint Francis Catholic Church at 411 S. Fifth St. in Hamilton. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $10 for students, and will be for sale only at the door (cash or check). Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Bitterroot Baroque is a nonprofit organization in Hamilton that provides activities and information about early music played on period instruments. The organization sponsors professional baroque and classical music concerts in the Bitterroot Valley by dedicated and innovative professional musicians and ensembles that represent the best in period instrument performance. For more information online visit bitterrootbaroque.org, reginaldmobley.com and agavebaroque.org.