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Berkeley Festival Memories

A month has past since the final concert of the 2010 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, but the marvelous sounds of Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Cozzolani, Strozzi, and all the others remain fresh. The soaring melodies, bright colors and stinging dissonances in my head are accompanied by fond memories of the extraordinary atmosphere of the Festival, especially on the sunny Sunday afternoon when all the main stage ensembles joined together to celebrate the remarkable music of Seicento Venice.

The concert afforded me the unique opportunity of being both a part of the audience and a performer. In fact for most of the concert I sat in the front row and shared the experience of hearing the performances with the engaged and enthusiastic crowd. When I  returned to the stage for Monteverdi’s setting of the hymn Ave maris stella I had a different, and very valuable, perspective.

The strongest impression though was left by the exceptional sense of common purpose among the musicians on stage, whose talent, commitment and love combined to make this an event that will live on in the memories of all present.

A high point for me was the passionate performance by Jennifer Ellis Kampani and Katherine Heater of Barbara Strozzi’s exquisite motet O Maria – a preview of Magnificat’s February 2011 concerts, which will feature Jennifer in a program of music by four remarkable women composer including Strozzi.

Before the rehearsal Marion Verbruggen asked me if she could join the choir for the Vivaldi Magnificat as there was no role for a recorder. Of course I agreed and then forgot about it until I saw her among the sopranos in the Gloria – what a treat. Gwen Toth of Artek also joined the choir for the final Gloria and as I surveyed the stage during the stile antico fugal setting of sæcula sæculorum, it was hard to believe it was actually happening.

It had been a very full week for Magnificat, beginning with our CD release party at Yoshi’s for the first volume of our recordings of Cozzolani’s complete works. This was followed by three days of recording with the inimitable Peter Watchorn and Joel Gordon of Musica Omnia, during which we completed the final eight motets for volume 2, to be released later this year. On Friday we performed those eight motets (along with O caeli cives from volume 1) to a warm and appreciative Festival audience.

Magnificat is grateful to all those who helped to organize this year’s Festival, most especially Harvey Malloy of the San Francisco Early Music Society, whose efforts made the festival an unforgettable experience for audience and performers alike. I am personally grateful to the terrific musicians of Archetti, AVE, Artek, Music’s Recreation, the Marion Verbruggen Trio and ¡Sacabuche! for their hard work and good will throughout the planning and preparation of the Finale concert – molte grazie!

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