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BAROQUE SPECIAL

by CAROL XIONG

PHOTO : DANYLO BOBYK

14 NOVEMBER 2018
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BAROQUE SPECIAL

I
nfusion Baroque has it all: brilliant virtuosity, musical integrity
and a concert presence unlike any other. With their innovative and
often interactive performances, these musicians offer a progres-
sive and accessible approach that is rarely seen in the mostly-seri-
ous world of art music.

THE MANDATE BEHIND THE NAME


This multi-talented female quartet (Alexa Raine-Wright, baroque flute
and recorder; Sallynee Amawat, baroque violin; Andrea Stewart,
baroque cello; and Rona Nadler, harpsichord) draws inspiration from
anything and everything with a humourous sense of inquisitiveness.
Even its name resulted from an exercise in free association. Nadler re-
calls: “We knew we wanted something beyond the traditional concert
experience. In a manner of speaking, we wanted to ‘infuse’ our per-
formances with something special. We were talking about all this over
a pot of tea, and found the perfect name for our group.”
The quartet, whose members met as students at McGill, played as In-
fusion Baroque in 2013. Its flagship program was titled “The Art of
Corelli.” Even then, the group incorporated multimedia and interactive PHOTO : DANYLO BOBYK

elements into their performances. In the following year, Infusion


Baroque made its big break by winning the grand prize and audience
prize at the Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition. BEHIND THE SCENES ART AS INSPIRATION
Not only did the prestigious award give the ensemble a sizable cash prizeNadler explains how the group
but it also propelled Infusion Baroque to appear with major music pre- comes up with such novel pro- Tea might have inspired the
senters across North America. gramming: “Each idea comes dif- name of the group, but Infu-
ferently. Often one thing leads to sion Baroque refers to life
the next. For example, the idea for and other art forms to draw
the program Who Killed LeClair? musical inspiration. Nadler
arose when I was playing a concert explains: “I don’t do it as an
in a church that was kind of art form but I do love to
spooky. I remember thinking that dance. The important thing
this would be a great place to do a about dance is that there is al-
murder-mystery concert.” ways a rhythm, no matter the
Much later, when the quartet dis- speed. I look for this groove
covered that one of its favorite com- when I’m playing. This vis-
posers, Jean-Marie LeClair, was ceral element of music is
actually victim to a murder that was what makes it so interesting.”
never fully solved, it seemed only
fitting to present his music in a
murder-mystery format.
“We have two versions of Who
Killed LeClair?” Amawat explains. “One traditional program in which
PHOTO : DANYLO BOBYK we narrate the story for the audience with an interactive component at
the end. In the other, we do a full-on murder-mystery evening, com-
plete with costumes and beer. We always get a lot of laughs.”
OFF THE BEATEN PATH Laughter might raise a few eyebrows at a traditional music concert,
Their first recording, consisting of works by C.P.E. Bach – one of but this irreverence is part of what makes Infusion Baroque so suc-
Nadler’s favorite composers – was released to much acclaim last year. cessful at cultivating new and old audiences.
“He’s got one foot in the Baroque era and one foot in the Classical era,” Nadler adds: ”We get a lot of audiences who have never been to a
Nadler says of this most famous son of J.S. Bach. “His pieces are so classical concert before. The key is usually getting them through the
mercurial and sensitive. It’s refreshing because we don’t hear so much door and to show them the humanity behind all this music written so
of that in the mainstream Classical realm.” long ago. Once they stop feeling so daunted, the listeners just open up
As Infusion Baroque builds momentum, the group has been as ded- and respond to the music.”
icated as ever to bringing lesser-known works to the concert reper- Despite all this fun, the group always makes sure that the
toire. On Nov. 16 the group releases the world-premiere recording of biggest takeaway is the music itself. “In a typical performance, we
the Six Quintettos of Anton Jorg Kreusser. might play a piece or two and then talk about the piece or its com-
“Kreusser is a composer from the last quarter of the 18th cen- poser,” Nadler explains. “But we don’t dramatize the playing it-
tury whose name most people have never heard of,” Amawat says. self. Everything serves the integrity of the music. We always try to
“We came across him by accident and he’s become a favourite play the music as musically and authentically as possible. We let
among our group as his music is so unique and quirky. We love the music speak for itself.”
bringing this kind of originality to the public, because in a way, we
are playing new music.”

NOVEMBER 2018 15
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BAROQUE SPECIAL

PHOTO : DANYLO BOBYK

TRANSFORMATIVE TRAVELS In this vein, Infusion Baroque hopes to work on even more educa-
Many of the unforgettable Infusion Baroque moments have been in tional projects. “Ultimately, it’s about telling the stories of the real peo-
the context of bringing music to a new and unexpected audience. ple behind all this music,” Amawat says. “These stories, as told through
“One of our educational concerts in Houston was for around 150 our performances, are things everyone can relate to. We want to bring
students from kindergarten to second grade,” Amawat recalls. “For this chance to more and more people.”
most of the students, this was the first time that they heard Baroque Nadler adds: “I think one way we are so effective in bringing our music
music, even ‘classical’ music, for the matter. to our diverse audiences is that we are not afraid to be entertaining, or
“The connection we made was really moving. A few days after we to get laughs if the music calls for it. We try to bring back the human side
had left the school, we got notes from the kids saying that they ‘loved and make these ‘great composers’ a bit more relatable.” LSM
our songs’ or that we played their ‘favourite concert.’ It was really
touching to be able to share this music that is so close to us.” The world premiere recording of the Six Quintettos of Georg Anton Kreusser will be
Other highlights include working with high school students in Milwau- released on Nov. 16. Infusion Baroque performs instalments of the Virtuosa Project
kee and university students in Thailand. “It’s so invigorating to work with – an initiative on the subject of women in music – on Dec. 8, 2018, and Jan. 11,
people with such sensitivity and thirst for knowledge,” Amawat remarks. 2019 at the Clark Room of Notman House at 51 Sherbrooke St. W. in Montreal. Lec-
ture at 7:15, concert at 8. Look for a web series in 2019. They will tour to Quebec
City (Dec. 11), Ottawa (Jan. 12), Almonte (Jan. 13) & Toronto (Jan. 14).
www.infusionbaroque.com

16 NOVEMBER 2018

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