Music of the Baroque celebrates 50th year, plans future
By Joseph Cunniff
We call the period between about 1600 and 1750 the “Baroque Period.”
In painting, it was the time of Rembrandt, Rubens and the great master of light-and-shadow Caravaggio. In music, it was the time of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and many other composers whose names may be lesser known, but whose music is so worth hearing: composers such as the Englishman Henry Purcell and the German Georg Philip Telemann, who, incredibly, wrote even more music than Bach!
Music of the Baroque plays and sings their music, as well as the music of composers from the later 18th century including Haydn and Mozart. MOB is a modern instrument chamber orchestra and chorus including 60 of Chicago’s top musical professionals. Many play and sing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and at Lyric Opera.
Since 2002, their music director has been the internationally distinguished British conductor Jane Glover, and the harpsichordist and respected baroque conductor Nicholas Kraemer.
MOB performs in downtown Chicago at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park, in Skokie at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, and in intimate downtown and suburban churches. They also sponsor art education programs to strengthen musical endeavors in low-income communities. The “Strong Voices” program offers partner schools and young musicians weekly and small group vocal instruction by MOB Chorus members, choral coaching, master classes, exposure to high quality musical performances, and the chance to be tutored by professional singers.
Due to the current pandemic, the difficulty for travel of international conductors and soloists, and the need to maintain safety for musicians and audience, the repertory for their season will be revised. The planned golden jubilee season, featuring dramatic works including Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Handel’s Messiah, will have to be postponed entirely until the 2021-2022 season.
But Executive Director Declan McGovern commented, “It’s important for us to be on stage now more than ever. Even if we are only able to perform virtually, we will be engaging our musicians and providing live performances at a time when it is desperately needed. Our audience has been incredibly loyal and committed through this entire pandemic, and it is a priority for me to follow- through on our commitments to them.”
The newly retooled season shifts its focus to intimate, string-dominant music well-suited to social distancing, with the exception of a choral program at the end of the season.
* Mon., March 29, 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater, Jane Glover will conduct Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A Major and the “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Solomon. Then the acclaimed pianist Inon Barnatan takes the stage for the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 14, before the concert concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 29.
* Mon., April 26, 7:30 p.m., at the Harris, Nicholas Kraemer will conduct the MOB Orchestra in Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos No. 3, 4, and 5.
* Sun., May 9, 7:30 p.m., at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, there will be a very attractive program of music by composers including Handel, Vivaldi, and the underrated Locatelli.
* June 6, 2 p.m., at Faith, Hope, and Charity Church in Winnetka, the season will conclude. Jane Glover will conduct the MOB Chorus and Orchestra in “Musica Sacra,” featuring religious music by the Englishmen Byrd and Purcell and by the Italian Vivaldi, who was both a composer and a priest.
Music of the Baroque concerts can also be heard on Chicago’s fine arts radio station WFMT, 98.7 FM. For more, visit baroque.org.
Joseph Cunniff is a
Chicago-based arts writer.