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Texas Early Music Project
13915 Burnet Road, Suite 402 
Austin, TX 78728
(512) 377-6961

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13915 Burnet Road, Suite 402
Austin, TX 78728
United States

(512) 377-6961

Founded in 1987 by Daniel Johnson, the Texas Early Music Project is dedicated to preserving and advancing the art of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical music through performance, recordings, and educational outreach. 

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Blog

Explore more than 700 years of musical transformation

Filtering by Category: Interviews

Once again — From the top!

Danny Johnson

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Well, alrighty then. I, for one, would like to do our La Pellegrina concert about 10 more times in a few choice locations around the US—not to mention a few places elsewhere—but I think I would have to get some more sensible shoes if we did. Alas, I think we must be finished, because I don't see any rehearsals or concerts on my calendar. Drat. it was great fun, it was lots and lots and lots of work for the TEMP Board—good thing they're used to working hard to promote TEMP and work around problems that arise—and for Allison, Meredith, Jonathan, and Tiffany. Lots and lots of work. 

We might do this again. Who knows? But it can never again be the first time that it's been done in Austin, or in Texas, or in the U.S. [in at least 30 years and maybe longer]. That's a lot of 'first times' that the media missed, but, oh well. That's why we love Austin—there are always lots of artistic things going on. 

To all of the Board and staff and performers and supporters: A most solemn, sincere, and sacred Thank You! Grazie mille! We can all still continue to "Be a Medici - but Nicer" by supporting the arts and, of course, by not defenestrating people. 

And now on to the Madrigals. Eeeek. Only 6 weeks! 

Danny

P.S. You can pre-order the La Pellegrina CD here:
http://www.early-music.org/recordings/lapellegrina

P.P.S. Check out the Time Warner Cable News 8 Austin segment on La Pellegrina below! 

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Danny Johnson Bares All!

Danny Johnson

As we work through our week of rehearsals for TEMP Goes the Full Monteverdi, I recognize a familiar bifurcated feeling:

It’s our last concert of the season, so I’m happy that we enjoyed a good season, got to work with splendid musicians performing splendid music, and seem to have pleased the audiences!

But: It’s our last concert of the season, so we won’t get to experience the excitement of concert week again for four and a half months!

But: It’s our last concert of the season, so in addition to summer workshops, I’ll be spending lots of time researching, picking music for 2012-2013, inputting the winning music into my computer (yay Sibelius!), and enjoying other music nerd things. I admit it. [n.b. Sibelius is a music editing software, not just a composer!]

So, you see, it’s a confusing time of the year! I am very much looking forward to our Monteverdi concert, though. It’s such wonderful music, exhibiting the full palette of emotional colors. It’s fun for performers and audience alike!

And speaking of fun, here are some questions that the office elf Janey submitted to me about this concert and the answers I cribbed off someone else’s paper….

>  What's your favorite piece on the program?

There are about 10 of my very favorite pieces on this concert! "Lamento della ninfa" and "Zefiro torna" are probably in the upper tier...

>Why those?

Those were among the very first pieces of Monteverdi that really knocked my socks off when I was a sophomore in college. We performed those and others in the Collegium Musicum at Texas Tech. Unforgettable. My love affair with the passacaglia bass line of the “lamento” began immediately and hasn’t waned in all these decades!

>What pieces by Monteverdi do people know that might be on the program?  Or that might remind them of pieces on the program?

Most will probably recognize "Lamento della ninfa" and "Zefiro torna" and "Beatus vir" - but the thing that they will recognize about "Beatus vir" is that it sounds like some other piece they heard in Music Appreciation class: "Chiome d'oro". That trickster!

>Why do a Monteverdi retrospective like this?

Partly because of Monteverdi's ability to live in two eras, so it's not just a concert of Renaissance madrigals or Baroque continuo songs, but is inclusive of just about every important and lasting aspect of both eras.

>What does the audience get out of it that they wouldn't get out of a wider spread of composers?

Concerts with repertoire by a variety of composers are equally valid, of course, to represent a particular "school" of composition or national or linguistic aspects of creative art, [but] witnessing the progress and process of one genius/master/creator is a powerful experience.

We hope to see you and fifteen of your best friends at one of the two performances this weekend! Or come to both of them!

You can purchase tickets here in advance, or at the door on concert day!

Photographs by Cecily Johnson

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Q & A with Jane Leggiero

Danny Johnson

In celebration of the Christmas spirit, and in hopes of entertaining you, I posed a few questions to our performers.  What we learned from this endeavor is that TEMP has more than its fair share of amateur comedians and smarty-pantses.  Without further ado, I’ll let the performers speak for themselves.

Look for additional upcoming Q& A posts & happy holidays!

Jane Leggiero (official TEMP office elf)

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What is your favorite holiday music?

Danny Johnson: Still working on that one …

Claire Daniels: It is hard to pick favorites but I don’t ever tire of Handel’s Messiah. Sorry to be cliché! This is my first Christmas with TEMP though, and I really love the music Danny has picked for us to sing.

John Walters: I like lots. I like the old classics. I like new original music if it's good--my definition of what's good of course!  I loved finding new arrangements of Christmas for my school orchestras to play.

Cayla Cardiff: French carols, medieval English carols, Ariel Ramirez's "Navidad Nuestra", and Britten's "Ceremony of Carols."

Meredith Ruduski: 1940s and '50s crooner/jazzy stuff.

Scott Horton: Early 17th century like Gabrieli, Biber, etc.

Becky Baxter: The Chieftains recording entitled "The Bells Of Dublin" and that old Hershey's Chocolate kisses TV commercial where the animated kisses are pretending to be handbells ringing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." I still get a kick out of the last little kiss saying "Whew!" because it reminds me of how I will feel at the end of December after all the gigs are over!

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What is the worst holiday pop song?

Danny: “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus”

Becky: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Cayla: UGH that hideous "Do They Know It's Christmas" monstrosity.  I know they meant well but the lyrics are so pathetic.  ("Where nothing ever grows/no rain or water flows/do they know it's Christmas time at all" - about AFRICA?!?!?  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!)

Scott: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

John: I don't know. I'm too fast at tuning it out if I think it's going to be bad.

Meredith: That 1980s "Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart" atrocity

Claire: I don’t really mind the Christmas pop music. However, I HATE any version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas and the 12 Days of Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any version that I liked, so why bother?

Jeffrey Jones-Ragona: Without a doubt, "Christmas Shoes."  The first time I heard that song, I no longer believed in puppies, the laughter of children, or anything good.

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How many concerts do you have during the month of December?  Does your spouse/significant other/cat remember what you look like by January 1?

Abby Green: Mid-December is finally when I have some time off.  My tour/travel/festival season is July thru December.  I hardly stop at all.  December is my light at the end of the tunnel.  I finally get to breathe and relax!

Cayla: Including school work: 10, not counting the three I'm supposed to be at but am sending a sub, and not counting church.

Claire: If I counted correctly, I will sing 10 concerts, even more than that if you count informal short concerts and short performances for school. My boyfriend is actually in LA filming a movie for almost all of December. I won’t really see him until after Christmas so I guess I’ll have to let you know…

Jeffrey:  Typically, one (different) one each weekend, and some weekends, I have had as many as three different concerts-- not the same concert given three times, but three *different* repertoires/events/ensembles.  Although one year it was all Messiah-- just three different orchestras, conductors and Choruses.  Of course, the weeks before are occupied with rehearsals.  It's not unusual for December 26th to be my first full day off since Halloween or earlier.  And no, I have to get reacquainted with my cats right after Christmas.  They are definitely inquisitive and mildly distrustful when I spend an entire day at my house.  Although I spend most of that day like they do--sleeping!

John: My wife gets more than me.  [She’s in the symphony]

Meredith: Regarding pets and loved ones: after they get through the initial barking and smell my hand, they remember that I feed them and do the "recognition wag," though my husband still acts a little weird if I make sudden moves or go around his food bowl.

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You get invited to a white elephant gift exchange.  What do you bring?

Claire: A white elephant, you say?!

Meredith: A white elephant, duh! [Y’all are a bunch of literalists! – ed.]

Danny: Another white elephant? Wait, they didn’t say this was gonna be on the test.

Scott:  Silver picture frame.  [Care to explain, Scott?  Are you secretly a werewolf? – ed.]

Abby: A sleeve of saltine crackers wrapped in really pretty paper.

Cayla: A FRUITCAKE.

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What’s the weirdest gift anyone ever gave you?

Cayla:  A FRUITCAKE.

Danny: A paisley elephant.

Abby: I can't think of any that stick out in my mind.  I have given many odd gifts...  my favorite this year is a fuzzy pink monster puppet.  The recipient is 30 and she is going to LOVE it.

Meredith: A box of tampons.

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What do you like to do in Austin at this time of year?

Cayla:  Shop for local stuff on South Congress!

Claire: Sing Christmas music! Especially descants!

Danny: Apparently, I like to give concerts! Oh, and I do like the weather, usually, except when it’s 80 or so….

John: It's family time.

Meredith: Take allergy medicine and go on hikes!

Scott:  Not be hot.

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From pipers piping to partridges in pear trees, which of the 12 days of Christmas is your favorite and why?

Abby: FIVE GOLD RINGS!!!!  Because of Miss Piggy's contribution in the Muppets' Christmas album.

Claire: I hate to be a scrooge, but bah humbug! Refer to #2. [Question about the worst holiday pop song.]

Scott: The 13th day upon which I rest.

Meredith: I think "seven swans a swimming," although I wouldn't want to clean up after them.

Becky: Five gold rings - I'm a jewelry hound.

Cayla:   Three French hens.  I don't know why.  They sound happy.

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you freak out if it snowed right now?

Abby: If by "freak out" you mean throw a temper tantrum because I'm supposed to camp next week...I'd say a level 7 freak out, and a sad face.

Becky: I'm a Texas native. Nothing in Texas weather surprises me or freaks me out. Now, finding a snake or a scorpion inside the house is a whole other story.

Cayla:   2.  I'm not easily impressed.

Scott:  -1, i.e. not at al! Snow, snow, snow!!!!!!!!

Danny: In general, I'd give it a 4.5.

Meredith: 10!!!! That would be so awesome! Especially if the snow actually stuck to the ground. =D [I think Meredith would be freaking out in the good way! –ed.]

John: I love the snow. I'll be out making snowmen and having snowball fights.

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Specifically for out-of-towners:  What do you like about coming to work with TEMP?

Becky: TEMP has quite a few 'closet' stand up comedians. [This questionnaire proves that pretty well! – ed.] A great sense of humor in rehearsals is a blessing when you have a lot of music material to cover in a short amount of time. Specifically what I love about coming to work with TEMP for the December concerts is that I get my annual "fix" hearing Stephanie Prewett sing "Balooloo, my lammie." There is something exquisitely comforting about the way she sings it. At different times all through the year when I am having a tough day, the memory of her singing "Balooloo" will replay in my mind like being wrapped up in a warm blanket.

Abby: TEMP is awesome...no, really.  I get the chance to sing some amazing music with some of the most gorgeous voices I have ever heard.  Not only is the musicianship outstanding, but everyone is so NICE!  It is such an absolute honor to get to absorb some of this music and friendship even if only for a week per year.

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What is your favorite thing to do when you visit Austin?

Becky: Wheatsville Co-op, Instep (best shoe store in Texas, if not the world), and Blue Moon glassworks, Austin Flameworks, and Austin Art Glass to see the cool art glass and meet the wonderful artists.

Abby: Eat cheese enchiladas, hang out with friends, drink a margarita or three.

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Danny Johnson's Take on ‘El Mundo Nuevo’

Danny Johnson

Listen to Danny Johnson, founder and artistic director of the Texas Early Music Project, describe the music that TEMP will perform in the upcomingEl Mundo Nuevo: 18th Century Music from Latin America.  In this interview with Sara Hessel, Danny explains how this groundbreaking project—with pieces that have never before been played in Texas—came about with guest director Tom Zajac.

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[audio http://texasearlymusic.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/kmfa-sara-danny-interview-sept-11-2011.mp3]

This 6 minute, 11 second clip originally aired on KMFA’s Ancient Voices on September 11, 2011.

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TICKETS

for El Mundo Nuevo & other TEMP performances

‣ purchase online, ‣ by phone (512) 377-6961, ‣ or at the door.

See you there!

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ABOUT

El Mundo Nuevo: 18th Century Music from Latin America

‣ Saturday, September 17, 8 PM, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

‣ Sunday, September 18, 3 PM, First Presbyterian Church

In collaboration with early music luminary and virtuoso performer Tom Zajac, TEMP explores music from the New World: 17th & 18th century selections from Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico. The color, flavor, and joy of the music from the Trujillo del Peru manuscript are dynamic and exotic. A small vocal ensemble, string trio, guitars, and percussionists will perform selections for Christmas Eve in Trujillo, dances from the jungles, music in the extinct language of Mochica, and motets from the cathedral of Mexico City.

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Spotlight on TEMP’s presentation of ‘Nuevo Mundo’

Danny Johnson

Music from the New World is a subject of great interest to many early music performers and scholars. Viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall performed some of this repertoire in Austin in October 2010 with members of Hesperion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and soprano Montserrat Figueras.

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The following excerpt is from an interview with Jordi Savall, conducted by KMFA’s Sara Hessel.  This originally aired on KMFA’s Ancient Voices in October 2010.

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SH: Does this music [from the concert El Nuevo Mundo: The Route of the New World] have a special resonance with Latin-American audiences?

JS: This music is so perfect for this type of audience because it is so close to them. This music is on the roots of the Spanish and Mexican culture. At our last concert, I have seen all the people who looked like Latin Americans smiling and dancing… it was so wonderful to see how all those people reacted to this type of music.

SH: Will Latin Americans recognize some aspects of this music from their own living traditions?

JS: These are living traditions. And even the ancient songs, they are based many times on typical rhythmical structures, that they feel very modern. The mix of this Caribbean culture was the mix of African people, coming with Conquistadores, and then the sailors and the soldiers and the priests and the noble people. And then there was an encounter between African music, Indian native music, and the Spanish music. And this was like a bomb! [laughs]  Something fantastic! And what remains today is a living tradition maintained through oral tradition.

SH: What are your thoughts on why this music has such an immediate emotional impact on listeners?

JS: I think that characteristic of this music is the same characteristic that you have with Sephardic songs, that you have with Irish fiddle music, la musique Bretonne, music from Galicia: communities from cultures who have suffered. They have suffered in South America from the oppression, from the exploitation of the Spanish, the Conquistadores; in the same way, the Breton, they have suffered from the French, or the Irish people and Scottish people have suffered from the British power.

SH: And here we had the oppression of the African-Americans, and the tradition of spirituals arose out of that.

JS: Yes, it is the same. This is surviving music: helping people to survive. And this is why all this type of music has such a special emotional element. You feel immediately touched by- really something necessary for life.  The music was really the only possibility to be really happy for one moment, and be in some harmony. And they sing and they play together. And this was what sustained people: the hope, and to remember their roots.

SH: What else can you tell us about this music?

JS: I think this music comes immediately to your heart and your soul. It is such a dynamic music; it has such an intensity, a melancholy, a happiness, it has everything. It’s a mix of what makes this music so surprising. It’s very exuberant, but it has a certain element of melancholy. It’s very old, but because it has so much improvisation, it’s always new. And this is fantastic- the most beautiful repertories are when you are working with something where you remember your roots, but you can improvise and you can improve every day this music. It becomes every day something new and something of our time, too.

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