Regina’s baroque orchestra rocks


Per Sonatori opens new season

“Regina is a hot-bed for baroque musicians!” -Tara Semple / Daniel Paquet

“Regina is a hot-bed for baroque musicians!” -Tara Semple / Daniel Paquet

Per Sonatori, Regina’s baroque orchestra, is holding their 7th season launch in the common area outside of the Shu-Box Theatre on Nov. 18 from 12:00-1:00, and all are welcome to attend.

Per Sonatori is not your usual ensemble. The instruments these musicians play are the ones that would have been played in the court of Louis XIV. Tara Semple, Artistic Director of Per Sonatori, plays the wooden flute in the ensemble and admits the instrument presented quite a challenge when she first picked it up eight years ago.

“Probably, if I had realized at that time how much more difficult it was, I probably would have never done it,” SRegina’s baroque orchestra rockemple laughed. “We probably have 30 keys on [the modern flute] and it’s made of silver. The baroque flute has one key and six holes, so it is quite a bit different.”

The flute is not the only instrument that has radically changed in the last 400 years. The harpsichord has since been largely replaced by the piano, and the violin’s bow has been modernized, allowing violinists to, as Semple explained, “dig in and play this rich, huge sound.” As you can imagine, then, baroque music has quite a different sound than a regular orchestra; it is much softer.

I wondered if this music can be nearly as interesting as a beautiful, intense orchestra, but Semple assured me baroque music is just as much fun.

“I like the music we play in the orchestra – it’s big, it’s exciting,” Semple said. “I’m a piccolo player, so it’s fun because I get to play really big passages that have lots of volume and ride the sound of the orchestra, which is fantastic! But it’s also really interesting to historically go back and found out how the [baroque] style was.”

The style was certainly different. Played for dancing, baroque music has a swing quality comparable to jazz, Semple says. Historically, Louis XIV used a long stick and struck the ground with it to keep dancers and musicians in time – quite a different style of conducting than we are used to seeing.

Audience members will get a chance to try this style of conducting at the season launch.

“Our ensemble has prepared a few dance pieces, and then people who are watching can each take turns being the conductor of the baroque ensemble. We have a beautiful baroque jacket that they can put on to get in the mood, and then they [can] pick up the conducting stick and give it a pound and move it through the air so that then the ensemble will follow them,” Semple explained.

The show will be an easy-going, interactive, and educational experience. Per Sonatori is dedicated to exposing audiences to music of which most people are unfamiliar and likely wary. Semple explained that the small group likes to keep performances intimate and always interesting for the audience.

“One thing we really try to do at Per Sonatori is [to make sure] no two concerts are alike. You never know what you are going to expect. Sometimes we do full out costumes, sometimes we do opera, sometimes we do dance, [and] we’ve brought in choirs.”

Per Sonatori has three performances per season – not including the season launch. All eight musicians also play in the Regina Symphony Orchestra, so they are busy all year long mastering modern and historical instruments.

If you are interested in hearing baroque music or trying your hand at conducting, (while wearing a baroque jacket!) check out the Per Sonatori season launch. I imagine Semple is right in saying, “it will be really quite fun!”

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