Archive for the Concerts Category

How we made our own Vespers

Posted in Concerts, Programs and repertoire on January 28, 2014 by armoniaceleste

HIP_Logo_2014date (1)Armonia Celeste is collaborating with the Duke Vespers Ensemble as part of the North Carolina HIP (Historically Informed Performance) Festival in the Raleigh-Durham Triangle Area. The Festival runs from January 21 to February 7, and features a wide variety of performances by well-known ensembles. Concerts range from  Handel’s opera Theodora, with the English Concert, to a new contemporary concerto for period instruments by Stephen Jaffe, and take place in various venues in Durham and Chapel Hill. See the complete listing at:

Our concert, “Roman Vespers in the Seventeenth Century,” will be performed in Durham on Friday, February 7, at 8:00 p.m. in the Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.

It has been an interesting challenge to find a program that would unite the forces of the Duke Vespers Ensemble and Armonia Celeste. The Duke Vespers Ensemble, directed by Brian Schmidt, provides service music for the Duke Chapel, and Armonia Celeste is primarily a group that is focused on Italian secular music for seventeenth-century Rome—slightly different focuses. Luckily, there was a logical link to be found in the seventeenth-century Vespers tradition, which unites the riches of the sacred music repertory for three sopranos with the seventeenth-century Vespers choral repertory. A concert based on this Vespers tradition provides the structure for a program that involves both this wonderful music and these two ensembles.

In the middle of the seventeenth century, Rome was a musical epicenter of festive, dramatic works of exceptional quality that often employed large performing forces. This style permeated operas, cantatas, masses, and concerti, but found its special focus in the great Sunday evening Vesper services, especially at St. Peter’s and other important churches. The greatest Roman composers often reserved their best works for these services. Five psalms—Dixit Dominus, Beatus Vir, Confitebor, Laudate Pueri, and Laudate Dominum—are commonly at the heart of the Vespers service. At major services, the psalms were sung polyphonically and were generally paired with a chant antiphon that changed daily. However, in the more festive services, these antiphons were frequently replaced with sacred concerti, performed by solo voices and sometimes accompanied by instruments. In the service, the psalms were always followed by the Magnificat, the Marian canticle found in the Gospel according to Luke. Other elements in the service, such as hymns, a Bible reading, and a homily or sermon were also often found. The service ended with a blessing.

It is this basic overall form that organizes our program. The five psalms are being sung using larger ensembles on four or five parts. The music of the sixteenth-century Roman composers, Felice Anerio (who followed Palestrina as the official composer for the papal choir) and Tomas Luis de Victoria, is included because their fame led to their music being performed for decades after their deaths, especially in Rome. (Victoria was engaged at the Pontifical Seminary and the Collegio Gemanico [see below] before returning to Spain.) These works were composed and performed in alternatim style, where the verses alternate between polyphony and chant. We have also included psalms of the most famous Venetian composers, Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Rovetta, whose music was performed though out Italy and certainly reached Rome.

The composer Giacomo Carissimi

The composer Giacomo Carissimi

Aside from these composers, the musical focus of our Vespers is on the works of the most important seventeenth-century Roman composers: Virgilio Mazzochi and Giacomo Carissimi. Mazzochi’s “Surge amica mea” will be performed as the opening hymn; Carissimi’s “Si linguis” will stand in as the antiphon/Bible reading, while his “Quo tam loetus” serves as the little sermon. The magnificent double choir setting of the Magnificat, one of Carissimi’s Vespers masterpieces, is the focus at end of the service, followed by his lovely blessing, “Benedictus Deus.” Instrumental pieces were sometimes included, and we are using the trio sonata “La Chorista” by Lelio Colista, a well-known Roman composer and lute player. Virgilio Mazzochi was one of the most important composers in the first half of the century; he was the maestro di cappella at St. Peter’s, and also had connections to the Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Probably the most famous composer in the middle of the century was Giacomo Carissimi, head of music at the Collegio Germanico, the Jesuit training facility for clergy from German-speaking countries that included music as a central part of the training.

Commemorative plaque on the 400th anniversary of the composer's birth. "Every note was a gem"

Commemorative plaque on the 400th anniversary of the composer’s birth. “Every note was a gem”

Much of his music, including the famous oratorios Jepthe and Jonas, was first performed at the Collegio. He also became the head of chamber music for the Swedish Queen Christina upon her abdication and move to Rome. When Carissimi died, the Collegio decreed that they would keep all of his music manuscripts and none were to be published—a tragic policy as it turns out, since his manuscripts were eventually given to nineteenth-century fishmongers for wrapping their wares. The original manuscripts disappeared forever. Luckily, much of his music was copied by students and others, and was widely distributed across Europe. Despite the great amount of music left to us, one wonders how much was lost to the world.

–Lyle and Patricia Nordstrom


September concert tour of the Midwest!

Posted in Concerts, Programs and repertoire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2012 by armoniaceleste

We are performing “Udite Amanti: Lovers, Beware! Music from the Seventeenth-Century Barberini Court,” our exciting program that has gotten audiences to their feet everywhere we’ve toured it. The concert explores the dangers of love in early baroque Italy, giving listeners a glimpse into a forgotten—yet strangely familiar—world.

In the Rome of the mid-1600s, the patronage of the powerful Barberini family engendered a period of great productivity within vocal chamber music and opera. The trios, duets, and solos—both instrumental and vocal—on this program represent the refinement of style that occurred in the Barberini court. Works of the Roman composers who were heard at this court or who served the Barberini family during the mid-seventeenth century are highlighted, with the music of Rossi, Carissimi, and Cesti (named by Perti in 1688 as “the three greatest lights of our profession”) serving as the centerpiece; other composers of the era such as Frescobaldi, Tenaglia, Marazzoli, and Pasqualini (one of the Barbarini castrati) are also represented.

To complete the historical picture, an exquisitely carved and gilded copy of the famous Barberini harp, made for this prestigious family ca. 1630, will be played for this program.

Further in-depth information on the composers and repertoire in this concert can be found here and here.

Please make sure you come back and say hello after the concert—we’d love to meet you!


Richmond, Indiana
Sunday, September 23, 2012  4:00 PM

Earlham College
Stout Meetinghouse
801 National Road West (US 40)
Richmond, IN 47374

Free admission


Cincinnati, Ohio
Tuesday, September 25, 2012   7:30 PM

Christ Church Cathedral
318 East Fourth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202-4299

$15 general admission; $5 students/seniors; free to children age 12 and under.
Tickets available at the door


Columbus, Ohio
Early Music in Columbus
Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:00 pm
Pre-concert lecture  7:30 pm

Mees Hall
Capital University
1 College and Main
Columbus, OH 43209

Tickets $27 Regular, $22 Seniors (age 62 and over), $12 Students
Buy tickets


Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Academy of Early Music
Saturday, September 29, 2012  8:00 PM
Pre-Concert Lecture at 7:00 PM

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
306 N. Division Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

$20 General/$17 Members and Seniors/$5 Students
Buy tickets


Rochester, Michigan
Sunday, September 30, 2012  7:00 PM

Varner Recital Hall
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan 48309

Tickets $14 general, $8 students
Buy tickets


Two concerts this weekend in Maryland!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings with tags , , , on June 5, 2012 by armoniaceleste

Armonia Celeste reprises their popular program “Udite Amanti–Lovers, Beware! Music from the 17th-Century Barberini Court” on the Penn Alps concert series in the Western Maryland mountains, and at An Die Musik in Baltimore. The music is a luscious selection from composers active at the Barberini court, which the ensemble recently recorded (expect the CD in late 2012 or early ’13), featuring gorgeous vocal solos, duets, and trios along with toe-tapping instrumental selections. Come see why audiences around the country consistently receive this program with an enthusiastic standing ovation–and be sure to stop by after the concert to meet the ensemble!

Saturday, June 9, 2012 – 7:30 p.m.
Udite Amanti ­– Lovers, Beware!”
Music at Penn Alps, 125 Casselman Rd., Grantsville, MD 21536

Sunday, June 10, 2012 – 5:00 p.m.
Udite Amanti ­– Lovers, Beware!”
An die Musik Live, 409 North Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201

What it was like recording our debut CD!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings, Up Close & Personal with tags , on January 24, 2012 by armoniaceleste

Three of the five AC members share their thoughts on what it was like to record their debut CD, and talk about the concert in Maryland last week.

Lyle and Malcolm discuss mic placement

Paula: Impressions of a whirlwind week

Armonia Celeste really packed in a huge workload during our visit to Cumberland, Maryland. We spent a day of rehearsal “remembering” our old repertoire and polishing some new additions to the CD we were about to record. Then it was off to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to spend three days recording. The people of St. Paul’s were so generous and welcoming in letting us use their beautiful space! Check out the photos!

Rebecca ponders her text

We were very fortunate to have two consummate professionals spearheading the recording project: Malcolm Bruno, our producer, came by plane, train, and automobile all the way from Wales (yes, as in the U.K.); Paul Vazquez, our recording engineer, made the drive from the NYC area. We marveled at the flattering sound they captured of the ensemble. Malcolm in particular is a genius in charmingly and diplomatically keeping our fatiguing selves moving smoothly forward on track, all the while helping us to find our best music-making. While it was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done (very long and intense days with few breaks, at maximum concentration, and all while propping up a very heavy huge Barberini harp—O, my aching back!), it was also some of the most rewarding work…and we said goodbye to Paul and Malcolm feeling the camaraderie that comes of having forged something special together.

Paula lays down a solo harp track

But no rest for the weary! We went from the super-intensity of recording to immediately preparing for our weekend concert with Mountainside Baroque. A last-minute substitution of the very game and sweet-voiced Josh Ruppenkamp as our tenor made everything fall into place. The church was nearly filled by a fabulously receptive audience. The program of sacred music was by turns powerful and joyful and spiritual…audience members (and your very own correspondent) reported getting chills at points during the music-making!  Our final chorus of “Plorate filii Israel” in Carissimi’s oratorio Jephte almost brought even the harpist to tears.  🙂  A wonderful conclusion to an astonishing week.


Sarah: Still Riding High after Armonia Celeste’s Week in Maryland!

What an amazing week in Maryland! I feel so uplifted by the music, the musicians, and the personalities we had the opportunity to work with, both in the three days of recording with Malcolm Bruno and Paul Vazquez, and in the concert with Mountainside Baroque where Armonia Celeste was joined by Ryan Mullaney, Josh Ruppenkamp, Les Anders, Pat Nordstrom, and Eric Kitchen.

Sarah and Dianna prepare to record a duet

I expected to feel a bit of a letdown after such an amazing week, but upon my return to Texas this week, I found many friends and colleagues (especially at Preston Hollow Presbyterian and Southeastern Oklahoma State University) anxious and excited to hear all about our week of recording and concerts. It is nice to be reminded that our fan base is so strong here in Texas, even when we are off performing in other parts of the country!  I already have a list of people anxiously awaiting the release of the CD.

At last! It's a wrap! (AC with Paul and Malcolm)

Now, even as I begin a new semester of teaching, I still have the music from last week following me from one task to the next.  At turns haunting and amusing, achingly beautiful and furious, there seems to be something to accompany my every mood!  I feel so blessed to have had this time, sharing amazing music with wonderful friends and colleagues, and I look forward to our upcoming concerts in June and beyond!


Lyle: Feedback on AC’s concert with Mountainside Baroque

It was a great week—confirmed my long-time feeling that the best music is made with the best musicians and the people you like and respect the best (all the people in Armonia).  The concert was also really, really fine.  The feedback has been very rewarding.  A few comments:

  • “Probably the best music that has been in that church since it was built!” (over 100 years ago)
  • “You certainly raised the bar for performance in Cumberland.  We’ve never heard anything that good.”
  • “I’m having Armonia withdrawal. Armonia was so special, the blend was fantastic!  When is the recording coming out?”
  • “So happy this is in Cumberland!”
  • “Could not believe you could get so many people from a small city out to a concert of music and composers that they have never heard.”
  • “I can’t wait for the next concert.”

    Lyle recording a theorbo solo

Fabulous audience in Cumberland, MD

Posted in Concerts, Up Close & Personal with tags on January 17, 2012 by armoniaceleste

A small city of 20,000 people in the mountains of Western Maryland turned out to be an ideal place for a chamber concert of baroque music.

Lutenist/theorbist Lyle Nordstrom after the concert

Armonia Celeste collaborated with Mountainside Baroque to perform Carissimi’s gorgeous oratorio “Jephte” as well as sacred music from the German college in Rome. The venue was the Shrine of Sts. Peter and Paul, a lovely Catholic church with a German heritage of its own, featuring intricate stained glass windows with German inscriptions.

Harpist Paula Fagerberg answers questions about her instrument

More than 150 people filled the church on a chilly afternoon although snow was predicted *and* a football game was scheduled. They gave the artists a warm standing ovation at concert’s end and flocked up to the performers with wonderful compliments and questions about the instruments. A reception followed with more mingling and friendly chat, making the whole afternoon a resounding success.

Guest artist Patricia Adams Nordstrom shows her viol to audience members

Armonia Celeste looks forward to coming back to the area in June 2012 to perform on the Penn Alps concert series. Watch this space for further details!

Our first CD finally underway!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings with tags , , , , , , on January 7, 2012 by armoniaceleste

We’re off to record our first CD, tentatively entitled “Udite Amanti–Lovers, Beware!: Music from the Seventeenth-Century Barberini Court.” This is the program that nearly won us the 2011 Early Music America/Naxos recording competition and which has been enthusiastically received with standing ovations everywhere we’ve played it–featuring emotional and exciting music by composers associated with the powerful Barberini family of Rome, including Carissimi, Marazzoli, and Rossi.

Armonia Celeste is thrilled to be working with the talented and experienced producer Malcolm Bruno on this recording, and we are confident and excited that we will have a very beautiful disc for your enjoyment later this year!

Attention Texas peeps!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings with tags , , , on September 9, 2011 by armoniaceleste

Next week (September 15-18) Armonia Celeste is undertaking a concert tour of Texas! The program, “Udite Amanti–Lovers, Beware! Music from the Courts of 17th-Century Rome,” features some rare muscological gems performed with the ensemble’s signature verve.

With a theme charting the perils and folly of the heart, the music for the program comes from composers under the patronage of the powerful Barberini family, or who were heard at the Barberini court during the mid-1600s,  especially Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi (who in 1688, along with Antonio Cesti, were named by G.A. Perti as “the three greatest lights of our profession”). Other composers on the program include Girolamo Frescobaldi, Antonio Francesco Tenaglia, Marco Marazzoli, and Marc’Antonio Pasqualini (one of the Barbarini castrati).

There is an especial tie-in with the harp in this program. Perhaps the most famous surviving harp from the Baroque era is the Barberini harp (pictured above), which was played by Marazzoli. Costanza de Ponte, the wife of Luigi Rossi, one of the project’s featured composers, was a famous harpist of the time as well. For some of the first instances in centuries, Paula will play their music on her baroque harps during these performances.

Lyle will also provide additional exciting rhythmic continuo on baroque guitar, on the plangent theorbo, and the charming lute, while the beautiful voices of Sarah, Rebecca, and Dianna will entwine in exquisite harmony above it all, in trios, duets, and solos–lamenting, exulting, and despairing over the ravishments and embattlements of love.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the ensemble perform this program live near you! Armonia Celeste and this program are currently finalists in the prestigious Naxos/Early Music America recording competition–if AC wins, you will eventually be able to purchase a recording of this program on the Naxos label!


Thursday, September 15,  7:00 pm
Emmanuel Hall, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church
9800 Preston Road, Dallas, Texas 75230
Suggested donation: $10

Friday, September 16,  7:30 pm
Trinity Presbyterian Church
2200 N. Bell, Denton, Texas 76209
$10 general $7 students

Sunday, September 18, 4:00 pm
Marvin United Methodist Church
300 W. Erwin Street, Tyler, Texas 75702

For more information, please see our website: Please be sure to come and say hello after the concert!

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