St Luke's Chamber Ensemble offers "Baroque and Before" at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Image: S. Armstrong"Baroque and Before: The Celtic Tradition" is the theme for the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble's concert on Sunday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Afternoon tea will be served before the concert from 1 to 2:45 p.m. A pre-concert Art-to-Heart discussion with Howard Kissel, chief drama critic of the New York Daily News, will begin at 2 p.m.

The ensemble, New York's preeminent chamber ensemble, will examine the Baroque era and its antecedents, focusing on the Celtic tradition. By the beginning of the 18th century, Dublin was a tranquil city influenced by British rule and taste and Italianate Baroque music was popular. In fact, Handel's beloved "Messiah" had its debut not in London, but in Dublin, under the baton of Matthew Dubourg, master and composer of state music in Dublin from 1728 to 1752.

Dubourg was a skilled violinist fond of adopting Irish melodies as the basis of variations and letting them flit in and out of his versions of classical works, such as Corelli's Sonata No. 11, which will be a highlight of the ensemble's Quick Center program. A performance of Dubourg's variations on the traditional Irish tune "Eibhlin a Rúin" is also planned.

German-born Handel was quite popular among the Dublin elite and St. Luke's will offer several selections from his "Joshua," "Jephtha" and "Solomon." A number of works on the program will feature one of Ireland's most beloved instruments, the wire-strung harp, played by guest soloist Siobhán Armstrong.

The program also includes "Pléaráca na Ruarcach" from Neale's "A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes" and Geminiani's "Concerto Grosso No. 12 in D minor, "La Folia."

St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble is the artistic core of the larger Orchestra of St. Luke's. The smaller ensemble includes 21 virtuoso musicians who perform nationally and internationally with a repertoire ranging from the baroque to the contemporary. Musicians performing in the Quick Center program will be: Krista Bennion Feeney, Mayuki Fukuhara, Eriko Sato and Naoko Tanaka, violin; Maureen Gallagher, and Louise Schulman, viola; Myron Lutke and Daire FitzGerald, cello; John Feeney, bass; Stephen Taylor and Melanie Feld, oboe; Thomas Sefcovic, bassoon; and Robert Wolinsky, harpsichord. John Elwes will be the guest tenor.

Since its inception in 1974, the ensemble has won praise for tackling the masters and newer composers with equal zeal. Boasting a rigorous performance schedule, the group has made time for Bach and Brahms, as well as André Previn, Zhou Long and Philip Glass.

St. Luke's has produced more than 70 recordings, including three Grammy winners, John Adam's "Nixon in China," Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," and "Bel Canto" with celebrated soprano Renée Fleming. Recent albums include "Haydn: Morning, Noon and Evening" and a complete set of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.

"St. Luke's serves up a diverse feast for the ears year-round," according to Chamber Music Magazine.

Tickets to the Quick Center concert are $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 25, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 130