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Breathing Fresh Life into Old Music

Boise Baroque finishes season with Bach


Made up of musicians from the Boise Philharmonic, Boise State University, and outside community, the Boise Baroque is the valley's only chamber orchestra specializing in Baroque music. The ensemble is now well into its sixth season, and its fourth year working under the baton of Daniel Stern.

Preparing and performing Baroque music can be an arduous task. Understanding exactly how music from hundreds of years ago was intended to be played presents some difficulties. From small stylistic nuances, to basic facts like what instruments were used, some speculation is inevitable. In many cases, the musical instruments of today have become exaggerations of their early ancestors for whom the music was written. This makes creating authentic performances of the music troublesome.

"It's difficult" said Stern "but we always strive to preserve the essence of the music, even if it can't be reproduced exactly as performed hundreds of years ago."

In preparation for concerts, Stern and the ensemble approach each piece of music as though it were a painting at an art gallery. With each musical work perfected, he takes the audience through an aural "museum" showcasing some of the finest musical literature of the 17th and 18th century. These performances help keep this music alive, continuing a long tradition of musical celebration.

Despite the orchestra's name though, not all their repertoire comes from the Baroque period. One of the exceptions is Jim Cockey's "Concerto Grosso," a piece written especially for the Boise Baroque which they performed earlier this season. This open-armed approach to new music is explained in Stern's philosophy behind the ensemble.

"I believe [part of] our role in the community is to inspire new chamber works from local composers so that the art form continues to thrive."

In contrast with the Boise Philharmonic, whose repertoire mostly consists of large scale symphonic works, the Boise Baroque offers music from smaller sized chamber ensembles with repertoire stretching from hundreds of years ago, to the present.

Connecting with the music is important and Stern encourages a different approach to this music by audiences. In listening to Baroque music, he emphasizes the importance of subtlety.

"The Modes of expression are much more subtle and reserved in Baroque music," he said. "This includes improvisational and other ornamenting aspects of the music."

This weekend's concert features the Boise Baroque Chorus with members of the Boise Master Chorale performing

Bach's "The Passion According to St. John."

Saturday, April 11, 7:30 p.m., Jewett Auditorium, College of Idaho, 21112 Cleveland Blvd.; Sunday, April 12, 2 p.m., First United Methodist Church/Cathedral of the Rockies, corner of 11th and Hays streets. Tickets are $18 general, $14 students and seniors and are available at the door or by calling 208-385-9574. For more information, visit