I am writing to tell you of my plan to step down as Executive and Artistic Director of Music Before 1800. The concert series is close to fifty years old and is thriving. It has been my life’s project, and now, with the support and wisdom of a generous, thoughtful and attentive board of directors, it is time to find new leadership.
Our not-for-profit corporation has maintained a balanced budget with diligent oversight throughout its long history. As a result of the extraordinary financial support from donors, foundations and government agencies, our financial position remains strong. We acknowledge these donations with enormous gratitude.
Music Before 1800 encompasses a half-century of friends of early music. The critical components of this community are talented and highly skilled artists; discerning and loyal audience members; expert and hard-working staff; and supportive and wise board members.
The story began in 1976, soon after I was appointed director of music and organist at Corpus Christi Church. I had a few spare hours Sunday afternoon in the midst of a busy day of playing masses. The day and time have remained the same, but the scope of our programming has greatly expanded. The very first concert in June 1976 was a Sweelinck program. The wise and supportive pastor, Monsignor Myles Bourke, made the church available for concerts and underwrote the program’s expenses. Music Before 1800 has presented almost 500 concerts of early music, introducing many renowned groups, including Hèsperion XX (now XXI), The Tallis Scholars and Sequentia, to New York City.
Music Before 1800 has evolved from a dynamic local collective to a highly respected international concert series. We present groups and solo performers from across the country and abroad, from California to Cuba to Norway. Featured artists excel in the many particular specialties of music before 1800. Growth and change need to continue, with particular recognition of our commitment to diversity.
I look forward to being part of this evolution. The transition plan has been carefully considered. Although I will step down from administrative duties, I will continue serving on the board and will work with the new leadership in guiding Music Before 1800’s future.
Founder & executive director
Music Before 1800’s 48th season is filled with singing. We are presenting soloists and ensembles with repertoire ranging from the 12th-century Hildegard of Bingen to 19th-century spirituals, our new American Roots initiative.
We cannot wait for the return of Vox Luminis and Cappella Pratensis, whose absence we lamented during the pandemic. And after delays, at last we are hosting the North American debut of Tiburtina, an all-women ensemble from the Czech Republic, with six singers who specialize in medieval music. The program consists of music by the renowned mystic and multi-faceted genius, Hildegard of Bingen.
Of course, we do not slight our excellent home-bred performers.
The season begins on October 2 with the long-awaited MB1800 debut of Boston Camerata, inaugurating our American Roots focus with We’ll be there: American Spirituals, Black and White, 1800-1900. We welcome Anne Azéma and director emeritus Joel Cohen: seven singers plus a fiddle, a guitar, bass, and keyboard.
Les Delices’s director and oboist Debra Nagy brings string players and the virtuoso flutist Emi Ferguson in a program of works from the eves of the French and Haitian Revolutions. A new work by Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume complements music by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Luigi Boccherini.
Blue Heron’s diverse and imaginative programs always surprise and amaze us. This season’s offering is a musical valentine, celebrating Petrarch. The six singers are joined by two actors, one speaking Italian and the other English.
Twelfth Night is a new string ensemble of recent Juilliard alumni led by Rachell Ellen Wong, violin, and David Belkovski, harpsichord. The group’s Handel program features Aminta e Fillide, a cantata for two singers—Jessica Niles, soprano, and Xenia Puskarz Thomas, mezzo-soprano.
And we extend our traditional welcome to the latest iteration of baroque virtuosi from Juilliard’s Historical Performance Program. This year they celebrate The Splendors of Dresden under the guidance of British harpsichordist and conductor, Laurence Cummings.
We have eight Sunday afternoon concerts at Corpus Christi Church. Virtual concerts are presented a week after each respective in-person event and remain viewable for two weeks. See you then!
Sunday afternoon concerts at 4 p.m.
Corpus Christi Church, 529 West 121st Street, Manhattan
October 2—The Boston Camerata
We’ll Be There: American Spirituals, Black and White, 1800-1900
October 23—Vox Luminis
Bach: The Arnstadt Connection
December 11—Juilliard415 with Laurence Cummings
The Splendors of Dresden
January 15—Twelfth Night
Aminta e Fillide
February 5—Les Délices
Winds of Change
February 19—Blue Heron
Un petrarchino cantato: A Musical Valentine of 16th-Century Madrigals
April 16—Cappella Pratensis
Canons of Beauty: Josquin and Mouton
May 7—Tiburtina Ensemble
Celestial Harmony: Music for the Heavenly Court by Hildegard of Bingen
Programs are subject to change.
Please note: Virtual concerts are released one week after each respective in-person event and remain viewable for two weeks.
Save the dates! Subscriptions go on sale May 26 and single tickets July 12.
We are so happy to announce our 47th season and to know that New York can count on Music Before 1800 to help bring back culture to the city, forging the way to reopening! Read more