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by Mike Telin

McStoots-Jason-BEMF-OrfeoInspired by one of the 18th century’s most famous tenors, Pierre Jélyotte, Les Délices’s new program The Leading Man includes operatic excerpts of musical heroism, absurdist comedy, and ravishing beautythat were central to Jélyotte’s repertoire. In her program notes, Les Délices’s founder and director Debra Nagy writes: “Jelyotte appears to have cultivated nothing but admirers. [His] contemporaries remarked on his range, volume, and the velveteen beauty of his tone.He had only to sing, and those who listened were intoxicated. All the women went mad.

On Saturday, May 3, beginning at 8:00 pm at William Busta Gallery and in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church on Sunday, May 4 beginning at 4:00pm (a pre-concert lecture by Dr. Georgia Cowart begins at 3pm), Les Délices performs a program of operatic excerpts by Lully, Boismortier, Leclair, and Rameau. The concerts features the unique voice and dynamic stage presence of tenor Jason McStoots.

“I’ve wanted to do a program that features a tenor for some time,” Debra Nagy told us by telephone. “In particular I wanted to focus this program with Jason on the career of Jélyotte because Jason is also a fabulous comic actor. He has a very expressive face. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Les-Delices-3Les Délices, the Cleveland early music ensemble that devotes itself to resurrecting treasures from the French Baroque, designed its mid-winter program, Conversations galantes, around the idea of musical conversation as that social art was practiced in the salons of eighteenth-century Paris.

Alas, there were fewer voices in last weekend’s discussions than originally planned. Nagy had lined up a program of quartets, but a sudden illness reduced the group to oboe, violin and harpsichord and the playlist had to be changed accordingly. Happily, the repartée in the altered program was probably no less eloquent. In music by Rameau, Leclair, François Couperin and Forqueret, Debra Nagy, Julie Andrijeski and Michael Sponseller provided plenty of engaging wit and delicious colloquy to delight the audience at Tregoning & Co. gallery on Saturday evening.

The hour-long program began and ended with all hands on deck. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

AF-Virtuoso-OrchestraAs Apollo’s Fire heads out on a real tour across North American, last weekend’s set of concerts gave us a virtual tour of some of the top orchestras across Europe—all without leaving our seats. Talk about not leaving a carbon footprint!

As simply and quickly as on Google Earth, listeners swooped from one musical capital to another — from Hamburg on the North Sea, south to Venice on the Adriatic, and across what we now used to call East Germany, from Cöthen and Leipzig to Dresden.

Each of the sojourns featured one of the composers who lived and worked in that town – Telemann in Hamburg, Vivaldi in Venice, and Bach in Leipzig and Cöthen. Dresden—one of the grandest of the orchestras and the pride of the Elector of Saxony—was represented by the little known Johann David Heinichen.

The theme, “virtuoso orchestra,” led music director Jeannette Sorrell to feature concertos in which Apollo’s Fire’s soloists could step forward and dazzle us as their counterparts 300 years ago must have done. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SORRELL-JeannetteAfter I congratulated her on launching her ensemble’s twenty-second season, Apollo’s Fire founder and artistic director Jeannette Sorrell said, “We’re into adulthood now, and we’re in a really fantastic place regarding our artistic reputation.” Cleveland patrons don’t need to be reminded of the high quality of playing their resident baroque orchestra turns in on a regular basis, but a wider audience is now sitting up and paying attention.

One indication of Apollo’s Fire’s “grown-up” status: the ensemble has recently been picked up by Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI), “a big stamp of approval”, Sorrell said. “We’re the first period instrument orchestra to appear on their roster, and after twenty-one years of honing our craft and trying to perfect our art, it’s great to be getting global attention.”

We reached Jeannette Sorrell via Skype last weekend to chat about the multiple performances of seven programs that local audiences will enjoy in area church venues this season. It all begins with “Virtuoso Orchestra”, which opens on Thursday, October 10 at First Methodist in Akron and will be repeated on October 11 and 12 at Fairmount Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights and on October 13 at Rocky River Presbyterian.

Sorrell promises that the program will live up to its name with dazzling performances including Vivaldi’s concerto for four violins, Bach’s fourth Brandenburg Concerto and a novelty for local audiences, a concerto by J.D. Heinichen. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Les-Delices-Woman-Scorned-BustaAnger, murder, guilt, and recrimination! The last episode of Breaking Bad? No: this was the opening concert of the season for Les Délices, the remarkable Cleveland-based chamber group specializing in music of the French baroque.

The program, “A Woman Scorned,” featured lurid stories of betrayal and revenge involving five of the great women characters of classical myth. These were stories that the court of Louis XIV loved, apparently seeing them as safe ways in which to rehash their own tortuous infidelities: Juno, the goddess jealous of her philandering husband Jove; Phaedra, driven mad by passion for her stepson; Armida, sorceress and seductress; Circe, who turned men to beasts; and Medea, sorceress and lover—passed over by Jason for a younger woman, she proceeds to poison her rival and then murder her own children in order to drive her ex to kill himself.

Not material for the faint-hearted. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Les-Delices-3For the past four years Les Délices have presented well-researched, thought-provoking and highly entertaining programs that explore music and themes of the French Baroque. Their concerts are performed in intimate settings that create an atmosphere similar to that in which this music was intended to be enjoyed.

This weekend Les Délices begins their Fifth Anniversary season with Woman Scorned, a program of wild, descriptive music depicting sorceresses and temptresses that explores universal themes of desire, jealousy, shame, and revenge by giving voice to the spurned lovers of antiquity. The program also includes two works never before heard in Ohio.

In addition to Les Délice’s regulars, baroque oboist Debra Nagy, baroque violinist Julie Andrijeski, viola da gambist Emily Walhout and harpsichordist Michael Sponseller, Woman Scorned also features renowned, Chicago-based mezzo-soprano Angela Young Smucker.

Les Délice’s founder and artistic director Debra Nagy says the program exalts in wild, passionate music portraying characters such as Circé, Phèdre, Armide, and Medea while contemplating the somewhat misogynist portrayals of the women in these works that is – in some cases – far removed from their classical origins. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

BEMF-BannerEvery two years since 1980, performers and fans of early music have flocked to Boston for a rich festival of pre-Romantic music. The 2013 edition of the Boston Early Music Festival, subtitled “Youth: Genius and Folly” ran from June 9-16. The annual meeting of the Music Critics Association of North America was scheduled to coincide with several days of the Festival, but I came a few days earlier to catch some events in the Festival Fringe that showcased early music talent with connections to Northeast Ohio.

Case Western Reserve University, its partner, CIM, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music have long been centers of activity in the Historically Informed Performance (HIP) movement, and faculty and student performers brought a wealth of expertise and excellent musicianship to Boston last week.

Oberlin musicians who perform under the banner of The Bach Project drew a sizeable audience to the Church of the Covenant in Back Bay on Tuesday afternoon, June 11 for a concert comprising all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “authentic” flute sonatas. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Les-Delices2As I write this, Ohio seems to be stuck in an endless winter of discontent. But the ungiving weather was more than a little mollified by the warm elegance and sprightly eccentricity of this weekend’s seasonal program by Les Délices. The group, founded and directed by baroque oboist Debra Nagy, is now completing its fourth season, and specializes in the music of the French Baroque.

The centerpiece of the program was a substantial cantata titled L’Hyver (Winter), one of a cycle of four cantatas on the seasons by the early-18th-century composer Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. With appropriate Baroque word-painting, Boismortier depicts winter’s horrors—bare trees, mountain storms, and frost-stricken buds—then shifts to winter’s pleasures—dances, feasts, and plays. Winter’s destructive fury turns out to be a foil to the delights of a Parisian salon, well heated and well stocked with wine and music.

The presiding muse of those delights was the masterful soprano Clara Rottsolk, who was featured on Les Délices’ recent CD, Myths and Allegories. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CaseTrinity1Debra Nagy’s Case Collegium Musicum treated the Brownbag Concert audience at Trinity Cathedral on March 6 to fifteenth-century songs and dances by Guillaume Dufay, Pierre Fontaine, Hugo de Lantine, Gilles Binchois and Johannes LeGrant. And elaborations by a non-fifteenth-century composer, Debra Nagy, who continued her interesting practice of adding new voices to old music with such a sure hand that Dufay and company would surely applaud her efforts if they were still around.

The Collegium on this occasion included sopranos Elena Mullins and Sian Ricketts and mezzo-soprano Tracy Cowart (Ricketts also played recorder), tenor Corey Shotwell, vielle players Cynthia Black and John Romey, lutenist Michael Bane and recorder and douçaine player Luke Conklin. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Shaw-NorthThe second of Les Délices’s offerings for this, its fourth season, gave its audience a Valentine’s Day treat (a couple of days late), replete with musical confections, kisses, sentiment, and…ah, je ne sais quoi!

Love, usually thought of in reference to a couple, became here a matter of the four players, sometimes flirting, sometimes fierce, sometimes laughing, sometimes in earnest, but clearly bound to each other in the bonds of the music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin


ThisHenneman-Shaw-Carrie is the time of year when all thoughts turn to love. Les Délices in collaboration with the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society presents Portrait of Love on Saturday, February 16 beginning at 8:00 pm in the Tregoning & Co. Gallery and on Sunday, February 17 beginning at 4:00 pm in the Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church. The concert features Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano, Nigel North, lute & theorbo, Debra Nagy, oboe & recorder and Emily Walhout, viola da gamba.


In her program notes, Les Délices’s founder and artistic director Debra Nagy writes:

In early-seventeenth century France, composers began to experiment with a new, expressive language of musical gestures designed to elicit intense emotional responses in the hearts of listeners. They also distilled their music to the barest essentials – a voice with spare accompaniment – in order to achieve the most direct effect: to make hearts melt with tenderness, ache with longing, weep in despair, or burn with passion. The resulting air de cour (courtly air) was a miniature masterpiece that could alternately express tender sentiments, gut-wrenching sorrow, utter desperation, languorous swoons, and intense ardor.

The program takes a “kaleidoscope of feelings aroused by love” including La douceur (sweetness or tenderness), Le contentement (satisfaction or happiness), La douleur (grief and pain), Les feux de l’amour (burning love), La langueur (languor and lovesickness) and Le desespoir (despair).


We reached soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw by telephone at her home in St.Paul and began by asking her what she likes about the program.


Carrie Henneman Shaw: It’s definitely a butterflies in the tummy kind of program. But the one thing I really like is that it spans a wide range of time. There are some entabulated pieces and some continuo songs, so there is a nice broad harmonic language.


It’s funny because a couple of years ago on a whim I decided to fly to Cleveland for cocktail hour and I asked Debra if I could stay overnight. At the time I was reading a book by the musicologist, Catherine Gordon-Seifert called Music and Language of Love, about French Aires de Cour and Debra and I were talking about how interesting her ideas were — connecting certain compositional strategies to affects, which was something a lot of philosophers and pseudo-scientists were investigating in the seventeenth century – what happens to the body when you’re feeling anger or in love. Gordon-Seifert separated out a number of affects that certain writers specifically named like languor, sweetness and despair, and Debra has divided the program into those areas.


Mike Telin: Debra sent me the draft of the program notes and they’re fascinating! I’ve learned so much about the French Aire de Cour.


CHS: Yes, and there is so much out there that has not been explored. I’ve been doing a long-term research project about a 17th century French musical publication that came out once a month. Each issue would contain six or seven songs by a variety of people. Some were anonymous female and male composers but some were well known. It’s really fascinating.


MT: Can you please explain what a continuo song is?


CHS: The difference between the tabulature and the continuo is the entabulated songs show fingerings the performer should play, whereas the continuo songs only have the bass line and figures.


MT: You have your own ensemble, Glorious Revolution Baroque. It seems that early music ensembles always come up with such inventive names. Are there classes on choosing a name?


CHS: I wish there were. The first time I ever tried to come up with a name for a group, a vocal septet, we were desperate and at our low point someone suggested Periwinkle Turnpike which was possibly the worst name ever. We ended up calling ourselves the Deviated Septet which we actually got from a list of bad band names. Now, even more then before, you do start to think that if I was going to Google something, what would I be Googling and how would someone stumble upon me?


MT: Speaking of Googling, I did Google Glorious Revolution and forgot to add baroque, but I did learn the historical background of your group’s name, Glorious Revolution Baroque: Early Music brought to you by Pleasure-loving Trouble-makers!


CHS: Well that was the best way I could describe us.


MT: And how do you define a Pleasure-loving Trouble-maker?


CHS: [Laughing] I think I define it as people who aren’t really out to prove that they’re smart. We want everybody to walk away from our concerts saying “my, that was so delicious and over the top.” Most of the people who are famous in our business came up in the 1970s and early 1980s, and a lot of what makes them famous is that they know so much about everything. I do respect that but it does set such a high bar for the rest of us. What I’m trying to do is to restore some of the party atmosphere to what we are doing. It all came out of a party! Everything that we do in Glorious Revolution Baroque is about trying to give pleasure and entertaining people as best as we can.


MT: It’s always amazing to me how research goes into a concert like “Portrait of Love.” In a video you did with Matt Peiken you say you like to combine research with intuition.


CHS: I think it is a healthy change of direction – planting seeds in less furrowed ground. We, Glorious Revolution Baroque, recently did a concert with the Bach Society of Minnesota. It was a Bach and Jazz show. We sang a lot of standards along with baroque stuff. There was a lot of trepidation among the baroque specialists because they were thinking, wow, I haven’t studied this, I don’t know what I’m doing. And the jazz people were like don’t worry, everything is right and nothing is wrong. I think it’s always good to be reminded that we are all musicians and we all know what feels right, so lets just try stuff.


MT: When did you first fall in love with singing?


CHS: I always loved music and singing. I fell in love with Little Orphan Annie. I just couldn’t stop thinking about Annie.


MT: Do you still sing THAT song?


CHS: No, but then I would get on the school bus everyday and start singing Tomorrow much to the annoyance to everyone on the bus.


Nigel North


We spoke to British-born lutenist Nigel North this past summer prior to his performance for the Lute Society summer workshop. The following is an excerpt from that interview.


British-born lutenist Nigel North has been captivating audiences for nearly forty years. His diverse musical life extends well beyond the concert stage; as a teacher, accompanist, director and writer, he has inspired generations of students and lovers of this most challenging instrument. “I love teaching”, Mr. North told us by telephone from his home in Bloomington, Indiana, where he has served as Professor of Lute at the Early Music Institute of Indiana University since 1999.


MT: Do you find that lute players tend to be a tight-knit group of people?


NN: The lute society has its summer workshop in Cleveland every two years, and I’ve been there five or six times. In the lute community everybody knows each other pretty well and it’s growing. And there are also a lot of loyal followers. All of the teachers and performers get together and this is about the only time of the year that that could ever happen.


MT: I personally love lute concerts, but what would you tell someone who has never been to one to convince them to attend? How much does one need to know in advance — or should you just show up and enjoy?


NN: I think you can just show up, and I would say it would be like an evening of poetry. It’s not hard music to listen to by any means. The instrument has such a beautiful sound, so if anybody does go to a lute concert you can just sit there and enjoy this very gentle, calming sound. But once you are used to that, there is an amazing amount of variety in the music, even from one composer. So I would say if somebody has never been before, you come for a pleasant and calming surprise.


MT: You have been part of the Historical Performance movement for quite some time; how have you seen it evolve over the years?


NN: I think, quite incrementally, people have had the time to focus on more and more detail on how the music is constructed and how it might have been played. They have also had time to let go of modern, romantic approaches to music. They have had time to read what sources in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have said, so now after forty years it seems as though people are starting from a much more aware place. And the levels of playing have gone up so much on every instrument, so now there are lots of new generations of young players to whom it is all just music. It’s no longer the circus act.


MT: You have had a very prolific recording career; what are the difficulties of making a lute recording?


NN: One thing is that you need it to be very quiet, but if you go into a recording studio, there isn’t usually much of an acoustic so it is added afterwards electronically, and I don’t like to do that. So the difficulty is finding a quiet enough venue, with good acoustics, which is usually a church, and then hoping there are no airplanes, dogs, birds, lawnmowers and road construction. I was recording a month ago and there were farm fields all around. It had been raining, but that day it was dry, so they planned to do twelve hours of harvesting, but fortunately their vehicle broke down. So very often we find that we tend to record very late at night and into the early morning. Which is actually quite nice because everything is so still, and that fits the lute very well.


MT: Finally, how did you first come to the lute?


NN: I can’t really answer that except to say that when I was in my early teens and playing the guitar, I found that the music I liked just happened to be lute music, and that is what made me pursue it. The style of the music from the 16th to 18th century seems to fit my nature.



Published on February 5, 2013

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