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

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TEMP is a performing ensemble and not a presenting organization or an agency. Please do not contact TEMP about hosting other early music groups.
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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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Explore more than 700 years of musical transformation

Filtering by Tag: Jordi Savall

12 Days of TEMP Christmas: Days 1 & 2

Danny Johnson

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Day 1 treat (Dec. 1, 2014):

This year’s Christmas concert will include an excerpt from the opening scenes of the 12th century “Play of Herod.” I can still recall the way I felt when I first performed it with the NY Ensemble for Early Music at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in 1988. The performance venue was a historically old church with little or no AC; it was a very hot day on our premiere, and with the stage lighting it was 109°F on stage. Add to that the layers of costuming we all had, and it was downright dangerously hot for the performers. They provided a little relief for subsequent performances. The other thing I recall is that, since we were supposed to perform the parts of shepherds as well as the ‘innocents’ to be massacred at the end of the show, I was instructed to shave my beard for the show, and so I did, for the first time in about 18 years. When I showed up in NY for the first rehearsal, they were all amazed that I had actually done it because—get this—I had to then wear a fake beard for the first part of the show when I was a shepherd.

TEMP audiences: don’t fear! We promise it won’t be 109°F in the venues for the concerts and we promise that no beards will be shaven for these performances.

Join us for An Early Christmas in Europe in 12 days!

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Day 2 treat (Dec. 2, 2014):

TEMP audiences who attended our Madrigal Mystery Tour concert might recall that we assiduously avoided ‘fa-la-la’ sections. The upcoming TEMP Christmas concert includes a piece that is about as close to a ‘fa-la-la’ as we’ll get this year. Falalalanlera is a 16th-c. Spanish piece that comes in two versions: a secular one that is *maybe* by Mateo Flecha and a sacred one that is *probably* by Bartomeo Cárceres. Both versions were published in different collections a few years apart, in the mid-16th century. *BUT* that’s not the important part: I was introduced to it by Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras at the Hesperion XX workshop in Austin in 1984—holy cow, that was 30 years ago—and I still recall Montserrat dancing in her chair while we students rehearsed it for the concert. The refrain is infectious and fun and she was not shy about letting us know that it made her happy and it made Jordi happy and, man, did that make us happy! Let us try it out on you!

Texas Early Music Project: An Early Christmas in Europe.
In 11 days!

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Danny Johnson's Takeaway: Holidays, Memories & Montserrat Figueras

Danny Johnson

December is but a few hours away so as I rush to finish this episode of the blog, I realize that I approach December, more than any other month, like a puzzle—a puzzle that provides much delight when finished properly but that is tricky to maneuver when in motion. And it’s in constant motion.

There are three Texas Early Music Project performances to rehearse and present; a variety of services and concerts at St. Mary Cathedral (including the famed “Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral”); the St. Cecilia Baroque Festival at First Presbyterian Church in which I am performing; and, if possible, I might even catch a concert presented by other friends.

As we enter the next phase of the TEMP Christmas performances (the phase in which the performers study their music in preparation for next week’s rehearsals), I can reflect on the pieces that I chose (while mentally writing the concert program notes) and think about the many pieces I opted not to include this time around. I also reflect on the performers I get to work with and the mentors who helped me get to this moment in time. One of the biggest influences on my artistic ventures passed away last week.

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Montserrat Figueras, married to viola da gamba master and conductor Jordi Savall for more than 40 years, was one of the most important figures in the “early music” movement in the 1970s and 80s. Because of her and others like her, early music hasn’t been a “movement” for quite some time; instead, it is a sophisticated, diverse, and lively art form, that transitioned from being a movement to being essential.

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Montserrat, Jordi and other members of their ensemble Hesperion XX were in Austin for two weeks in the summer of 1984 for a workshop masterminded by the late Dr. Robert Snow and Dr. Douglas Kirk. It was an exhausting experience, but Jordi and Montserrat were exquisite professionals: friendly but demanding, encouraging but not too-easily swayed. The attention they gave to the students was spontaneous, human, and life-changing for more than a few of the attendees. The touching thing was that it was also important for Jordi and Montserrat: they made a few lifelong friends through that workshop. Kit Robberson took them to Barton Springs for an afternoon in preparation for the second week of classes and they bubbled for days after that.

I don’t want to dwell on these memories too much, but through that experience I became more aware of the living energy of early music, the endless sources for inspiration, and the necessity of making it available for my generation and those that follow. One of my fondest memories is going to a chamber concert Jordi and Montserrat did in Oxford in 1986 or ’87; they were so surprised and thrilled to see two Texans in the audience they had a hard time suppressing smiles while they were performing. Afterwards, we talked outside the church (I had a train to catch) and they introduced me to their daughter, Arianna, and son, Ferran, who was still a baby. Arianna and Ferran are now both respected performers in Europe. It is difficult not to see or hear Montserrat in their timbres and gestures; in fact, it is reassuring.

Thank you, Montserrat.

And thank you for following along here—I hope to see you at our Christmas concerts! See early-music.org  for more info or just look at our blogspace here at texasearlymusic.wordpress.com.

Peace!

Danny

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