Monday, August 15, 2016

Musica Maestrale prepares to kick off its first Summer Festival in Astoria

Hideki Yamaya
Musica Maestrale Artistic Director
In the midst of a beehive of preparations for early music collective Musica Maestrale's first Summer Festival, to be held this week and weekend in Astoria, MM artistic director (and festival director) Hideki Yamaya had time to answer a few questions about this upcoming venture.

LW: So, the first MM Early Music Fest is this week. The schedule is posted here at the website. Anything interesting you can tell us about it?

HY:  Hopefully everything will be interesting!  We have 4 concerts planned on Friday and Saturday.  On Friday, there will be a noontime concert (for which we encourage people to bring their lunches, BTW) by yours truly, on four different plucked early string instruments.  The evening concert (7PM) will feature Phil and Gayle Neuman and myself for a program entitled 'Songs of the Sea: 16th- and 17th-century music for voice and early instruments'.  It'll be a light-hearted, rollicking program with a whole bevy of early instruments.  On Saturday, there will be a noontime lecture/demo concert featuring Phil and Gayle entitled 'Extreme Early Instruments', which will involve even more rare and bizarre instruments that most of us have never seen or heard.  The evening concert is entitled 'Songs from the Era of the Birth of Opera' and will feature Arwen Myers, soprano, Christine Beckman, violin, Gwendolyn Toth, harpsichord, and myself on theorbo and Baroque guitar.  Some of this music has been featured in programs presented in town in July in a paired down version with just Arwen and me.  It will be a whole new experience with violin and harpsichord added... a very rich texture and musical experience!

For musicians, the festival will offer 4 different workshops.  Friday is Renaissance day, and there will be 2 workshops led by Phil and Gayle, one in the morning, and another in the afternoon (both 2 hours long).  Saturday is Baroque day, led by Arwen, Christine, Gwen, and myself.  In the morning, there will be masterclasses for both singers and instrumentalists.  In the afternoon, there will be ensemble playing for all participants, and we will prepare pieces that will be performed at the student recital on Sunday at noon!

LW: What about details on some of the performers? There are some who are well-known here in the Pacific Northwest early music scene...anyone new to the area?

HY: The Neumans are well-known and beloved early music figures here in Portland.  Phil and Gayle are multi-instrumentalists who make most of their own instruments.  Arwen Myers if fairly new to town, but everyone should know her.  She is part of the music faculty at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and sings with many prominent vocal groups in town, including In Mulieribus and The Ensemble.  She is a fantastic early music soprano, as you have heard.  Christine Beckman might be somewhat unknown in Portland, but she won't be for long.  She has played with PBO, and she played with MM for the first time in May.  Amazing Baroque violinist!  Gwen Toth is not very well known in the West Coast, but she is a very prominent figure in the New York early music scene.  Great organist/harpsichordist and director, she directs ARTEK, a very well-established group in New York.  We are very lucky to have her come all the way out here! 

LW: What's the process been like putting this thing together?

It's been a huge ordeal, at least for me.  It's my first time putting something like this together, and the amount of logistics that one has to deal with, even with a mere 2.5 day festival, is huge.   Our limited budget didn't help!  It's been a learning process for me, and I have learned a lot.  I am hopeful and confident that it will be a success; all the musician participants will surely go home with newly acquired knowledge, and audience members will enjoy all four of the scheduled concerts.

LW: Thanks for taking time out to answer some questions, and I'm really looking forward to the festival!

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