La Voce Meravigliosa: The Music of Luzzaschi, Monteverdi, and Strozzi

2:00 PM Sunday, June 1
LOPER CHAPEL, FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH – 2345 Channing Way (entrance at Dana and Durant)

Tickets available at the door. Price: $15.

In early seventeenth-century Italy, music for the solo voice emerged the pre-eminent musical genre. Composers developed new musical techniques to convey poetic texts, and opera emerged as a popular medium unifying poetry, drama, and music. Along with the birth of solo song, famous singers and voice teachers developed new standards for vocal performance. Singers cultivated broader ranges and the ability to perform highly virtuosic passages requiring a wide variety of colors and emotions. They employed ornamentation – the practice of elaborating melodic lines with complicated musical embellishments – to delight and move listeners.

This program features solo, duet, and trio settings of Italian poems that explore the act of communicating through speech or song. To bring these texts to life, composers Luzzasco Luzzaschi (c. 1545-1607), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), and Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) utilize highly complex, virtuosic musical writing that requires impeccable vocal technique, agility, and sensitivity. These pieces stretch the human voice to its limits, encouraging the audience to marvel at its capabilities. Music is interspersed with readings of ancient myths in which the human voice plays a pivotal role, including the stories of Apollo, Orpheus, Echo, and Odysseus.

View the complete program.

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About the Artists



Brooke Bryant, soprano
Cecilia Lam, mezzo-soprano
Jennifer Owen-Blackmon, soprano

Roy Whelden, viola da gamba
Gilbert Martinez, harpsichord

CHARITES is a female vocal trio committed to bringing the art of early composers to life through bold, expressive performances. The group draws on both historical and modern practices to create theatrical spectacles, combining virtuosic singing, movement, and poetry to involve, delight, and move listeners. Charites’ imaginative approach appeals to seasoned audiences, as well as those who are experiencing early music for the first time. Charites has performed at institutions such as Columbia University, Galapagos Art Space (Brooklyn), The Cathedral of St. John the Divine (NYC), Juilliard, Boston Early Music Festival (Fringe Concert Series), the University of Utah, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, and Manhattan College. The ensemble has collaborated with the Baroque dance/theater troupe Company XIV, performing Brooke Bryant’s original compositions and arrangements of pop and classical music in productions including Le Cirque Féerique and Snow White. Members live in both New York City and San Francisco. Charites ( Χ α ρ ι τ ε ς pronounced CAR-ee-tace) is the Greek term for the “Graces,” the three mythological daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. The Graces govern traits such as charm, beauty, and creativity, all of which we aim to transmit through our performances. For more information:

BROOKE BRYANT (soprano) received her PhD in Musicology from the CUNY Graduate Center and her BA from Wellesley College. A specialist in Baroque gesture, Brooke has staged several productions, including a performance of Bach’s Cantata 202 as part of a conference held at Columbia University’s Italian Academy and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Brooke has performed with esteemed ensembles such as Musica Nuova, Sendebar, Ensemble Chantarelle, Musique de la Reine, the Clarion Music Society, and CUNY’s Contemporary Ensemble, and regularly collaborates on Baroque duet repertoire with soprano Sally Sanford. She teaches voice classes at Daniel’s Music Foundation, a nonprofit offering free music classes to people with disabilities in NYC.

CECILIA LAM (mezzo-soprano) has carved a niche for herself in both early music and new music ensembles in San Francisco, where she lives. She currently sings with renowned San Francisco Symphony Chorus director Ragnar Bohlin’s ensemble, Cappella SF, and Robert Geary’s ASCAP award-winning new music ensemble, Volti. She has performed with Chalice Consort, Pacific Collegium, Schola Cantorum, and International Orange Chorale. In addition to singing in vocal ensembles, Cecilia has played piano since the age of four and currently enjoys sight-reading piano quartets. She holds an MS/MBA from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College, where she studied voice with Sally Sanford and piano with Jenny Tang.

JENNIFER OWEN-BLACKMON (soprano) is known for her purity of tone and sensitive interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque music. She has performed with numerous Bay Area ensembles including Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, AVE, Chalice Consort, San Francisco Choral Artists, Pacific Collegium, California Bach Society, Eya!, San Francisco Renaissance Voices, and the Harvest of Song project. For five years she served as soprano section leader for St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco, and was a featured soloist on their last European tour. Jenni’s last appearance at the Berkeley Festival was on the main stage in 2008, when she was honored to sing in the North American premiere of Alessandro Striggio’s epic Missa sopra “Ecco sì beato giorno” in cinque corri divisa. Jenni holds a Masters degree in Vocal Performance from Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, and a second Masters in Arts Administration from Indiana University- Bloomington, and she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Biology at Swarthmore College.

ROY WHELDEN (viola da gamba) has performed and recorded with many internationally known ensembles, including Sequentia (Cologne) and Ensemble Alcatraz (San Francisco).  As a composer, he has received commissions for diverse compositions — chamber music, songs cycles, choral works, incidental music for plays, etc. Early commissions include works for the Montreal viol duo Les Voix Humaines. Recent works include a St. Cecilia Ode for chorus and string orchestra commissioned by the Corona del Mar Baroque Festival and a string quartet On the Petaluma River (2014). Some of Whelden’s compositions involving viola da gamba have been recorded for the New Albion and the Innova labels. His work as a composer requires research into music theoretical topics and the results have seen publication in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the Indiana Theory Review and the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.

GILBERT MARTINEZ (harpsichord) is the Artistic Director of MusicSources, an organization serving Northern California’s thriving early music community. Mr. Martinez has studied harpsichord with Wm. Neil Roberts, Laurette Goldberg (at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music), and Alan Curtis. Mr. Martinez was assistant conductor to Alan Curtis in a critically acclaimed Berkeley/West Edge Opera production of Handel’s “SERSE.” In addition, he was responsible for a significant revival of “Delizie di Posilipo, Boscarecce e Maritime, 1620” in a co-production with the University of California at Santa Cruz and MusicSources. Last season, he conducted a new production of Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” with West Edge Opera. As a soloist, Mr. Martinez recently performed the complete harpsichord works of Jean- Philippe Rameau in concerts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Canada, as well as opening the International Gesualdo Festival in Copenhagen 2013. The San Francisco Examiner has praised his “jaw dropping technical mastery,” and he has been called “a formidable soloist” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

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