Early Music on the Fringe And in the Future

By Janos Gereben Special to the Planet
Tuesday June 08, 2004

“Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry... When I take you out in the Fringe without a surrey” if you’re looking for early music in Berkeley this month. 

The Oklahoma! lyrics, somewhat modified, come to mind when contemplating the music scene. Until 2002, every other year, for a decade and a half, Cal Performances produced a major summer event, called the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition (BF&E). 

This year, lacking funds, the event has been canceled, but the Berkeley Fringe Festival is alive, kicking, and running, June 9-13. The Fringe, as the name implies, was an add-on, a variation on the theme. Now the theme is dead—either for the time being or indefinitely—but the low-budget, far more modest (but not less dedicated) Fringe is on. 

It will have some 40 public events, mostly concerts, but also master classes, a “great recorder play-in,” and other attractions. Performers include such luminaries as Chanticleer and members of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Jonathan Harris, of “Early Music News,” says the difference between academic/official and Fringe concerts is mostly in the ear of the beholder.  

“I have felt privileged to hear quite a few of the Main Stage events over the years, and some were indeed jaw-droppingly wonderful,” Harris said. “But so were some of those on the Fringe. At the 2000 Festival, for instance, my favorite show the entire week was a Fringe concert of 17th-century music by a young ensemble from Southern California called La Monica. There’s no better way to put it: they rocked!” 

There will be music performed on the recorder and the lute, various now-exotic and standard instruments, works by Bach, Purcell, Ockeghem, masters of the Italian and German Baroque, etc. Venues range from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, to St. Joseph of Arimathea Chapel, to the International House, and the First Congregational Church. Detailed information is available at www.sfems.org. 

Also, at the same time and intertwined with Fringe events and artists, Early Music America is holding a national conference in Berkeley, with a title that should get some kind of award: “The Future of Early Music in America.” 

The conference, say the organizers, is for “anyone who has a stake in the future of early music in America—performers (both professional and amateur); administrators, board members, and volunteers for early music organizations; educators (teachers, professors, workshop directors, collegium directors), and enthusiasts (all who love early music, attend concerts, or buy CDs).” It will take place in the Berkeley City Club, June 10-13. For information, visit www.earlymusic.org. 

Similarly to BF&E, Early Music America offers events and shows besides concerts, lectures and symposia. There will be an exhibition in the First Congregational Church during the three days of the conference, free to the public, and offering an “early-music marketplace,” including book stores and publishers, record stores and companies, instrument makers, national societies, presenters and agents.›