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A Musical Adventure: Harmonia Baroque to Play 17th, 18th Century Music in Ashe

By Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

Do you love classical music? Are you making plans for the weekend?

If you said yes to both of those questions, you’re in luck. The Ashe Arts Center in West Jefferson will play host to an intimate performance on Saturday night by the Harmonia Baroque chamber ensemble.

The term baroque refers to aspects of European culture (in this case, music) which grew popular in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Harmonia Baroque.
Harmonia Baroque.

The ensemble’s core group of musicians have been performing together since 1999 and include Michael Bell on harpsichord, Alicia Chapman on haubois (oboe), Nancy Schneeloch-Bingham on traverso (baroque flute) and vocalist Priscilla Porterfield.

They will be joined on stage by Corinne Cassini on cello, Douglas James on theorbo and two students from ASU’s Hayes School of Music: Chandler Fadero on violin and Nicholas Allion on cello.

“We have a good relationship with the music and theater departments at ASU. We have some folks here in our county, like Michael Bell, who play with the ensembles,” said Ashe County Arts Council Program Director Rebecca Williams. “It’s nice to have that cross-county relationship, and we enjoy working with Harmonia Baroque. They come every year or so to perform, and it’s wonderful to provide classical music here in our Arts Center.”

Chapman said the performance will cover selections ranging in date from 1632 to the 1780s that hail from various parts of Europe.

“It is truly a musical journey. We will start in Italy, pass through Germany, France and England and arrive in Scotland,” she said. “It covers just about every taste a person can have. It’s a musical feast in the most adventurous sense of the word.”

Harmonia Baroque

Harmonia Baroque will perform with replicas of the instruments for which the music was written, giving you special insight into the characteristics and qualities of the period.

“We are a very small gallery space, so the audience will be up close and personal with the musicians. It’s all acoustic, so they’ll be able to hear the instruments and see them being played,” Williams said. “You’ll get a little history lesson on the music and when it was played in the 17th and 18th centuries.”

Chapman said the ensemble uses instruments appropriate for the time period in order to create a more authentic musical experience.

“The composers were so well-versed in the characteristics of these early instruments, and it produces a very different sound than when we try to play them on contemporary instruments,” said Chapman. “The composers would write in special keys, write special technical patterns that were very idiomatic for these instruments. Authenticity — that’s our interest and what we hope to bring.

“We cover a very big period of time, and some very interesting composers that some people may have never heard before. We like introducing seldom heard composers in our concerts.”

The personal atmosphere offered by the gallery space will also lend to the authenticity of the performance.

“Playing at the Ashe Arts Council is the perfect environment,” Chapman said. “This music was played in a small, intimate setting with a lot of interaction between the performers and the audience members. It was more like having a concert in your living room.”

The program includes selections by Giovani Platti, Evaristo Dall’ Abaco, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Henry Purcell, concluding with a traditional Scottish piece called Atholl Brose.

The musicians say they look forward to another great experience at the Ashe Arts Center.

“We have been traveling to Ashe County to play for a number of years, so we know the people who are coming to hear us play,” Chapman said. “They are very supportive and adventurous. Our audience in Ashe embraces the group and our music very warmly and they appreciate any new composer from the baroque period that we bring to them.”

Doors to the Arts Center will open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. performance. Call ahead at 336-846-2787 to guarantee a seat or get your tickets at the door. Admission will cost $12 for adults and $5 for students.

The Ashe Arts Center and the Ashe County Arts Council are located at 303 School Avenue in West Jefferson.

The free concert will be repeated in Rosen Concert Hall at Appalachian State University on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m.


Coming Soon to Ashe Arts

Check out these other programs coming soon to the Ashe Arts Center. Call the office for more details on any of these events.

Four Women, Five Elements: Reception Feb. 12

All four women artists in this group have work that deals with nature and the elements in terms of both material and subject. Join the arts council for refreshments and meet the artists. The reception will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12.

The Harris Brothers: Feb. 13

Sponsored jointly by the Ashe County Arts Council and the Blue Ridge Music Center, this 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday, Feb. 13 will feature brothers Reggie and Ryan Harris. Born and raised in western North Carolina, their repertoire consists of any number of musical styles including traditional roots music, blues, mountain music, vintage country and a little bit of rock and roll. Tickets will cost $16 for adults and $5 for students.

The King Bees: Feb. 27

The Ashe Civic Center will come alive with the sounds of the blues when the King Bees take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27. Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville and Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni have been stingin’ and swingin’ to the blues since 1987. The concert will feature John Ambrose, a veteran of the legendary Detroit R&B gospel scene, on drums; and Phil Stinson, the High Country’s king of the 88s with a rollicking style that captures classic sounds from New Orleans greats to Jerry Lee Lewis, on piano. The King Bees founded the New River Blues Festival and have performed in Paris, Rome, the Lincoln Center and at countless international festivals and Mississippi juke joints. Tickets will be $16 for adults and $5 for students.