Arts & Events

Baroque Orchestra in Richmond Sunday

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 11, 2009 - 07:34:00 PM

Bay Area Baroque Orchestra, a group of Bay Area musicians led by conductor Frances Blaker, will play a program of Corelli, Bach and Lully at 4 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 15 in Richmond. 

The orchestra, which rehearses in Berkeley, began in 2008 as a one-day session meant to give local string and wind players an opportunity to work on orchestral music of the Baroque era. Frances Blaker, who plays with Ensemble Vermillion and the Farallon Recorder Quartet, talked about the orchestra’s beginning and ongoing programs: “I’m a recorder player. I teach a lot and hold workshops. One thing led to another and I decided to have a one day orchestra workshop, for musicians to learn more about playing Baroque style. I didn’t know there were enough amateur string players for an ongoing Baroque orchestra.  

“It was such a success we now have several sets a year. We just did a six-week set. There was another in August. It’s nice to have that many rehearsals, to get in depth like that.” 

The orchestra is “16 or 18 players—not huge, but certainly an orchestra, as opposed to being a little chamber ensemble.” Some of the players play on fine replicas of 18th-century instruments.  

This Sunday’s concert features “an entire concerto grosso by Corelli, the first movement of the Second Brandenberg Concerto—and the Lully, not a complete piece in itself, but four instrumental movements from different operas, kind of a little suite ... character pieces, like the march of a ceremony of theTurks—a little martial, a little exotic, with lots of flash.” 

In the Second Brandenberg Concerto, Blaker is substituting a recorder for the trumpet part. “There are, of course, recorders of different sizes. They can make a triumphant sound. Mix and match is what we do for each piece; take liberties. The Corelli is meant for all strings, but we put winds in there to keep all working. It’s very Baroque, that way of doing it. We try different things.” 

Of St. David of Wales Church, Blaker said, “My brother is the priest there, Father Blaker. We grew up making music together. He did sing; now, he’s too busy—a priest! They have a choir director there, Ondine Young, who’s a professional Baroque violinist as well. And their organist, Ed Teixeira. They naturally put together productions for certain times of year, like parts of Messiah, or Baroque music for their services, and some of our musicians participate. It’s nice to have a church where they love music. It gets the community interested as well.” 



4 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 15, at St. David of Wales Catholic Church, 5641 Esmond Ave., Richmond. A reception will follow the performance. Admission is free. For information, call 559-4670.