In 1998, instrumentalists from the Mannes Collegium Musicum in New York City sought to learn more about the art of continuo (improvising accompaniments from figured bass) in the music of the early Baroque. After just two informal meetings, the growing number of interested musicians revealed the need for formal coaching, necessitating the creation of the New York Continuo Collective. Open to all, regardless of their level of experience and expertise, we now number more than thirty active participants, including singers, and instrumentalists. A central tenet of the Collective is that singer and player form an equal partnership in the realization of the music. Through public performances the Continuo Collective hopes to bring the audience into that partnership.
Under the direction of Grant Herreid, Pat O'Brien, Paul Shipper, and Charlie Weaver, the Collective conducts weekly sessions in performance practice, in which we examine rhetoric of text, gesture, ornamentation, and phrasing to create a common language for realizing this highly improvised music. In addition, the Collective has offered a number of shorter, specialized classes, including continuo theory, a theorbo seminar, continuo theory and harmony for singers, the Caccini Project, and classes in grounds, dance forms and improvisation. Master classes have been given by Stephen Stubbs, Elizabeth Kenny, Paula Chateauneuf, Karl-Ernst Schroeder, Andrew Lawrence-King, Judith Malafronte, Xavier Diaz-Latorre, and Ellen Hargis.
While The New York Continuo Collective is not a performing group, per se, performance is an integral part of our mission. Past performances include appearances with ARTEK, under the direction of Gwendolyn Toth; the Mannes Collegium, under the direction of Tom Zajac; the vocal ensemble Polyhymnia; and a collaboration with the New York Historical Dance Company.
To provide a more intensive experience for its participants, the Collective presents a week-long Spring Baroque Opera Workshop, the subject of which also serves as the focus of that semester’s regular classes, and culminates in a staged or semi-staged production. In the Spring of 2002, the first workshop, "Accademia d’Amore," under the direction of Stephen Stubbs, Erin Headley, and commedia dell’arte expert Eleanora Fuser, used Cavalieri’s Il Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo as its focus. In 2003, we used settings of Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido. In Spring of 2004, we created "Triomphi," a program based on the poem-cycle of Petrarch, in celebration of the 700th anniversary of his birth. We reprised that performance as part of the New York Early Music Celebration in October 2004. Since 2003, it has become a tradition that when they coincide (every odd year), we also perform our Spring projects as concurrent events at the Boston Early Music Festival.
The Continuo Collective also produces the New York Early Music Series, a season of concerts presented in a warm and intimate setting. While some prestigious performers have appeared on the Series, it is meant primarily as a venue for young, local musicians to present their work. We hope to revive the series for the 2012-2013 season, the concerts to take place at St. Luke's Lutheran Church on West 46th Street in Manhattan.
For further information, contact:
The New York Continuo Collective
Tony Elitcher, Administrative Director
22 St. Marks Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217-2404