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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy New Comma Baroque will perform downtown Sunday at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza.

  • Courtesy Phillip W. Serna will play the viola da gamba at the "Flights of Fancy: Eclectic Flavors from 17th and 18th Century Europe" Sunday at the Allen County Public Library downtown.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 7:53 am

Baroque flavor returning to downtown library

Keiara Carr The Journal Gazette

It’s better to speak with Phillip Serna about baroque music after lunch. 

The way he describes the various flavors of music for the "Flight of Fancy" baroque concert Sunday, and the different ingredients local musicians infuse into his Chicago-based group, New Comma Baroque, it sounds like he’s describing more of a menu than a concert program.

"When you’re trying to represent a whole lot of different things with a similar combination of instruments, it’s nice to have something that gives it different flavors; I always think a great deal about music and food, which is probably a bad weakness to have," he says, laughing. 

"Flights of Fancy: Eclectic Flavors from 17th and 18th Century Europe" is, Serna says, a sampler platter of distinct French, German and Swedish influences from composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Johannes Schenck, Johann Pfeiffer and Johan Joachim Agrell.

"It’s kind of all-encompassing," he says. "It’s also about the idea of flight being an uplifting thing. I don’t know how bad the winter has been (in Fort Wayne), but usually you want something more uplifting because everything is so gray."

New Comma Baroque, which performed last year at the library, will be joined by baroque musicians from IPFW as well as local soloists. Serna will join local musician Russell Bookout in playing the viola da gamba – a relative of the violin. The chamber orchestra will also consist of a harpsichord, two baroque violins and a traverso, which is a baroque flute.

"When you get to collaborate with different groups and different people, it’s kind of – again with the food analogy – it’s like throwing in a lot of different ingredients," he says. "There’s a reason why a group like the Beatles didn’t stay together, and it’s because you can only work with the same group of people for so long before as a creative person, you spiritually need more influences to bounce ideas off of."

Serna says as far as chamber music goes, the auditorium in the public library downtown is an optimal venue for the concert. The concert takes full advantage with a brisk-tempo flute concerto by Agrell for the finale. 

"What’s nice is that the acoustics in there is as nice as you would expect from a much larger concert hall, but it has a wonderful intimacy to it," he says. "Sometimes when you do early music with choirs in a large church space, some of the diction and the articulation gets lost in a big space. (The auditorium) is large enough that it’s warm, but not so big that it’s kind of cavernous. It has the warmth of a large space and the clarity of space probably half of its size." 

Playing historic instruments that some in the audience may have never heard before, Serna envisions each song as another course. Even though certain things may sound odd, it’s about making the audience comfortable enough to try the next one.  

"Often when you’re doing concert programming, it’s really easy to say, ‘OK, let’s do an all-(Johann Sebastian) Bach program because while his music is extremely important to the period and there’s a whole great variety within his whole output, you have to think if it were a meal, it would be like having a whole plate of one dish – which can be very satisfying and very filling – or you could have a sampler with lots of different flavors," Serna says.

"I think between Telemann, Sweelinck, Schenck, Pfeiffer and Agrell, it’s going to be a really nice variety."

kcarr@jg.net