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Classical ensemble brings back baroque 

The Winchester Star,
 April 25 2015

 — The Barns of Rose Hill is presenting a rare opportunity to hear baroque music the way it sounded when it was composed.
The Corda Nova Baroque Ensemble will perform “Continental Confections: Music of 17th Century France and Germany” at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Barns. Musicians Edmond Chan, Amy Domingues and Anthony Harvey play, respectively, a baroque violin, a viola da gamba and a theorbo.
“We want our audiences to hear the music from the 17th-18th centuries as it would have been actually played,” Domingues said. “ Th at’s why we play on instruments that are copied from real instruments from that time period.”

The viola da gamba has six or seven strings and rests on the legs as it is played with a bow. The theorbo is a lute with a long neck extension “ to accommodate many low bass strings, which are plucked as single notes,” she said. The higher strings are played as chords, she added.

The baroque violin is played with gut strings and has a shorter fingerboard and a straight neck, compared to the slightly backwardleaning
 necks of violins today. It was played with a shorter bow “which allowed for increased agility and articulation,” D o mi n g ue s said.

Program director Morgan Morrison said many things were considered in selecting artists, but the unique aspects of Corda Nova were compelling.

“First, they’re all fantastic musicians, ” she said. “They have a unique program and adhere to the time period. They have unique instruments — each instrument is a precise reproduction of instruments which appeared back then.
 And they educate the audience about the music they’re playing. It’s a very unusual program.”

The concert will be upstairs in the Barns’ hall, which seats about 175 people.

Domingues said it’s “quite a different sort of venue for us.”

“ Corda Nova has mainly performed in churches, small theaters and even in private homes,” she said. “We look forward to playing our music in a venue which caters more to a traditional/folk and popular music audience.

“We feel very strongly that we
 are ambassadors of this very special music and look forward to sharing it with folks who may not have heard baroque music on baroque instruments before.”

The group talks and interacts with its audiences, so the program will be educational as well as musical. Domingues said they are happy to answer any questions about their instruments.

“String instruments have changed quite a bit, especially the violin family of instruments. The main difference in the sound is the use of gut strings. Musicians used strings made of sheep or beef gut
 up through the 20th century, even up through the 1950s or so. Modern string instruments use steel, aluminum, or silver strings which create a brighter, louder sound.”

Because of their instruments, the group can play compositions that are performed infrequently, if at all.

“Our instruments were used specifically during the time period of about 1600- 1750,” Domingues said. “ Much of the music of this time period is never performed, is still being discovered or is being performed on modern instruments, which sound very different.

“Obviously, the violin has survived to the modern age, but composers stopped writing music specifying the viola da gamba and theorbo because they are very quiet instruments, and when people started going to the opera and other public concerts in the beginning of the 18th century, louder instruments were favored.”

She said many people don’t know there are many composers from the era who have written beautiful pieces with instruments like the viola da gamba and theorbo.

“Audiences never hear these
 works because they are never programmed because of the very specific, rare instruments required. We’d like to change that. This music deserves to be heard.”

She said after graduating from James Madison University and doing freelance performing and teaching on modern cello, she saw the French film “ Tous les Matins du Monde,” or “ A ll the Mornings of the World,” a movie with Gerard Depardieu about Marin Marais, a composer and viola da gamba player in the court of King Louis XIV of France.

“I had been aware of the viola da gamba as an instrument that composers wrote for, but had never really heard what it sounded like,” Domingues said. “I knew I had to learn this beautiful instrument, and that led to learning more about early baroque music and how to perform it correctly when I did my graduate study at Peabody Conservatory.”

She met Harvey at the Peabody Conservatory, and he introduced her to his friend Chan. They decided to form Corda Nova in the spring of 2012 so they could enter the Early Music America Baroque Performers’ Competition for young ensembles.

“ We didn’t end up winning the EMA competition, but we did win in the sense that we found each other and wanted to continue to make music together,” Domingues said. “We’ve gotten very strong audience responses from folks who have never heard baroque chamber music before. We are a band just like any pop/ rock/ country group. Our goal is to bring this amazing music to audiences in an informative and nonstuffy way — and we hope you enjoy it.”

Domingues, of Arlington, per for ms with several groups including the Washington Bach Consort, the Folger Consort and the New York-based viol consort Sonnambula. She is a multiple recipient of the Peabody Career Development Grant and the Young Artist’s Grant of the Viola da Gamba Socie ty.

Chan, of Philadelphia, performs with many early music ensembles including the Washington Bach Consort, The Handel Choir of Baltimore and Tempesta di
 Mare. He has performed as a soloist at the St. Cecilia Baroque Music Festival in Austin, Texas, and has recorded works including a CD with Tempesta di Mare.

Harvey, of Middleburg, per for ms with several groups including the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra, Three Notch’d Road and the Washington Bach Consort. He is artistic director for Middleburg Musick and the AGAR Chamber Music Series, which presents early music concerts in Virginia, and he co- directs the Musicum Collegium at James Madison University.

Corda Nova has finished a recording that should be released soon. More information about the group is on its website at

The Corda Nova concert is the first in the Spring Classical Music Series. “It’s something new we’re trying,” said Executive Director Kelli Hart, who expects to be doing another classical series next spring.

Hart said the spring series was conceived after Morrison’s idea for the Bluegrass & BBQ Series became 
popular. “ I t’s an experiment,” Morrison said. “I think Bluegrass & BBQ picked up momentum. And people like consistency.” Next to come in the classical series is pianist Katie Mahan at4 p. m. May 17. The third performance is June 19, when classical guitarist Rafael Elizondo and concert pianist Eva Chavez will play at 7:30 p.m. Elizondo will follow up with a guitar workshop at 3 p.m. June 20. 

Tickets for the spring concerts can be purchased at or by calling the box office at 540-955-2004 Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance until 1 p.m. the day of the event and $ 20 at the door. Student tickets are $8 in advance and $ 10 at the door. Children 12 and under get in free when accompanied by an adult.