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A stylish take on baroque

Chamber Music Concerts will kick off its 31st season with Chicago's smart and lively Baroque Band. The well regarded string orchestra is known for its ability to kick stodgy ideas about 17th- and 18th-century music aside, using period instruments to present their historically informed yet stylish take on baroque-era music.

The 14-member Baroque Band will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall on South Mountain Avenue. The performance, titled “An Evening at London's Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens,” will offer music associated with 17th-century English pleasure gardens. The gardens were large entertainment venues that drew people from all walks of life and offered attractions such as balloon launches, tightrope walking, concerts, fireworks and secluded areas for romantic trysts. Baroque Band will include a piece by George Frideric Handel that was specifically written for Vauxhall Gardens.

Tickets cost $40 to $46 for general seating and can be purchased online at chambermusicconcerts.org, at the box office in the Music Recital Hall or by calling 541-552-6154. 

Jody Schmidt, executive director of Chamber Music Concerts, says audiences can expect an exciting evening.

“We're all eager to hear the Baroque Band. I think they are a wonderful way to launch this new season,” she says. “Often baroque groups are very scholarly. They research the traditions and try to present the music exactly as you would have heard it in 1750. That can seem a bit boring to many of us, but this group puts an energetic spin on their pieces.”

Under the artistic direction of Garry Clark, Baroque Band aims to show the vibrancy and emotion in baroque music. The group's website cheekily refers to itself as the “original tribute band.”

In addition to the concert, Baroque Band members will offer an instructional program for music majors at SOU at 12:30 p.m. Friday, as well as a workshop at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, for the local Jefferson Baroque Orchestra. Both events are at the SOU Recital Hall and free and open to the public.

“The educational programs are the best,” Schmidt says. “I learn so much every time each new group comes. The more you learn, the more you realize how rich and enticing chamber music is.”

As part of the CMC's educational outreach, nearly all the groups that perform offer some sort of educational outreach, such as workshops or small performances for schools, music programs and residential care facilities such as Mountain Meadows.

Schmidt says the CMC has been working to encourage more members of the community to attend its concerts, offering $5 student tickets, along with a program that provides complimentary matinee tickets for music teachers and students, as well as discounts for parents. In addition, the Oregon Trail Card program offers $5 tickets. Recently, CMC started its “19-35 Program,” which provides $20 tickets to people in the 19-35 age range. 

Regular ticket prices are between $30 and $46. Schmidt says CMC's pricing programs have been successful so far.

“We have a lot of different programs to get a more diverse audience, and it is working. We've increased our student attendance by one-third over the year before. It's not just SOU students, it's students of all ages, and the Oregon Trail Card program has more than doubled since we started it.”

Pricing isn't the CMC's only lure. The concert season is offering a variety of strong performers who appeal to a wide range of audiences.

“We are having the same groups you'd see at Carnegie Hall, which is great for our small community,” Schmidt says.

CMC will present 10 concerts between November and April, including the award-winning Horszowksi Piano Trio, the Tesla Quartet, the Hugo Wolf Quartet and the Daedalus Quartet.

Call 541-552-6154 for more information.

The Chicago-based string ensemble, Baroque Band, calls itself 'an original tribute band.' Photo courtesy of Wendy Benner