You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 5:50 a.m.

Academy of Early Music plans ambitious, intriguing season

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett

Finding yourself takes time, as any 20-something today will tell you. Heck, the 30-somethings are experiencing the same thing.

But one local 30-something—Ann Arbor’s Academy of Early Music—seems to have finally come into its own, finding a focus in presenting well-known early-music ensembles of national and international stature.

That’s a change from the organization’s former focus, supporting performers of music from the Middle Ages to the Classical era, said its president, Chris Dempsey, a musicologist who was a curator at the University of Michigan’s Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.

“We are still in the growing process,” he said in a recent phone call. “But our 30th year, when we presented Anonymous 4 and the Rose Ensemble, was a breakout year. We’re continuing to build on that trajectory.”

Its 2012-2013 season, No. 32, bears out his contention with a program that includes a collaboration with the Michigan Theater—a presentation of Sarah Bernhardt’s silent film “The loves of Queen Elizabeth,” turning 100 this year, with live Elizabethan music from the renowned Newberry Consort—and one of the few U.S. appearances of the Dutch group Capella Pratensis, which specializes in the music of Josquin and 15th and 16th century polyphony. All concerts also feature orientations to the music.

“We’re very happy where we are as an organization,” Dempsey said.

“We keep an eye on two other presenters in the Midwest, Early Music Columbus and Early Music Now in Milwaukee, and our series is completely comparable. We are right with them. Only our tickets are cheaper by at least $5.”

Tickets for the complete series of six concerts cost $100, and individual concerts run $20-$25. The concerts (with the exception of the Bernhardt film) take place at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on North Division Street.

While the University Musical Society and the Ann Arbor Symphony have high profiles in town, Dempsey said he thinks “many people don’t know that we are in Ann Arbor, but they are missing out.”

“Our program is exciting, innovative, really good, and the prices cannot be beat. If anyone wants to explore what early music is about, the season really provides a great way to do that.”

Tickets are available online, at the website; by mail; in person at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Center; and at the door.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up in the Academy’s 2012-13 season:

Sept. 29 Armonia Celeste “Udite Amanti - Lovers Beware! - Music from the 17th Century Barberini court”


Armonia Celeste

Armonia Celeste is an emerging ensemble specializing in rarely heard repertoire from the Italian Renaissance and early Baroque. The group is comprised of three distinct female voices accompanied by period instruments: lute, theorbo, guitar, and the rare arpa doppia (Baroque triple harp). Each of the five members of the ensemble is a highly experienced solo performer in their own right; together, the musicians create a combination of varied vocal and instrumental colors, florid ornamentation, expressiveness, and a noticeable passion for this repertoire.

Oct. 12 The Newberry Consort “Queen Elizabeth (1912) an Early Movie with Early Music”

The Academy of Early Music partners with the Michigan Theater to present a unique program featuring an important early film and one of the most prominent early music ensembles in the country. Les amours de la reine Elisabeth was one of renowned actress Sarah Bernhardt's most successful theatrical productions. Released in 1912, the film was the first distributed by Famous Players Film Company, which later became Paramount Pictures. The film's success helped convince other American distributors that feature films were viable commercially. The silent film was originally released with one of the earliest musical scores for film, which has since been lost. Through extensive historical research, the Newberry Consort has created a new soundtrack using music of the Elizabethan period, which they perform live to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this important silent film. Sponsored by Ann Arbor State Bank.

Nov. 10 Cappella Pratensis Missa de Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht

The Dutch-based vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis champions the music of Josquin Desprez and the polyphonists of the 15th and 16th centuries. The group combines historically informed performance practice with inventive programs and original interpretations based on scholarly research and artistic insight. As in Josquin’s time, the members of Cappella Pratensis perform from a central music stand, singing from the original mensural notation scored in a large choirbook. This approach, together with attention to the linguistic origin of the compositions and the modal system on which it is based, offers a unique perspective on the repertoire. Their 2009 DVD/CD release of this Mass garnered international praise, including a Diapason decouverte and the highest rating from Classica magazine.

Feb. 8, 2013 Hopkinson Smith "Bach on the German Theorbo"

Hopkinson Smith is internationally recognized as a leading personality in the field of early music and one of the world’s great lutenists. With his recitals and series of over 20 solo recordings, he continues to rediscover and bring to life works that are among the most expressive and intimate in the entire domain of early music. Smith performs his transcription of the first three suites for unaccompanied cello by Johann Sebastian Bach on German theorbo.

March 2, 2013 Ensemble Caprice "Salsa Baroque"

Under the artistic direction of Matthias Maute and Sophie Lariviere, Ensemble Caprice is renowned for its innovative interpretations of baroque music. For 20 years Ensemble Caprice has received national and international acclaim for their performances of early music. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the musical dialogue between the Old and the New Worlds produced extraordinary results. This fascinating blend of European polyphony and Latin American traditional music created a unique style. Gems from this spectacular musical era will be performed on instruments that were common at the time: flutes and recorders, baroque guitar, violoncello and various percussion instruments.

In addition to the concert, Ensemble Caprice will present public lectures and workshops over a two-day period in order to promote a greater appreciation for this interaction and the music it produced.



Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : 4:15 a.m.

I have attended several Academy of Early Music concerts. These are some of the finest musical events in the region. The performers on this series are uniformly excellent, and they play with great verve and beautiful intonation. Plus you get to sit up close in a beautiful, historic church. And as the article says, the ticket prices are very fair. Seats this good at a UMS event cost two or three times as much. What a great organization. Highly recommended.