San Francisco Early Music Society Announces 2018-19 Season

San Francisco Early Music Society Announces 2018-19 SeasonOne of the nation's leading organizations for the advancement of early music, the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) has announced its 2018-19 season featuring some of the most exciting early music practitioners here and abroad in nine wide-ranging programs. The season runs from October 12 through May 19, with concerts presented in Palo Alto, Berkeley and San Francisco.
Highlights of the season include performances by The Choir of New College Oxford at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and by British countertenor Iestyn Davies in concert with the brilliant young lutenist Thomas Dunford at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Those events will take place on April 8 and May 19, respectively. SFEMS is also proud to welcome back Musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival in an all-Brahms program featuring Boston-based contralto Emily Marvosh. This concert will take place on March 16 at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.

The concert by musicians from Valley of the Moon marks one end point of the historical spectrum represented this season. On the other end is Cut Circle, a choir founded in 2003 by Jesse Rodin. From February 8 - 10, the award-winning, Stanford-based ensemble will perform three concerts of late-medieval and Renaissance music by Du Fay, Ockeghem, Josquin and their contemporaries.

SFEMS' 2018-19 season is unusually rich with vocal music. In addition to programs by The Choir of New College Oxford, Iestyn Davies, Valley of the Moon and Cut Circle, SFEMS will present three concerts by Cappella SF under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin. Their program features Schütz's great Exequien and Magnificat, among other works.

Additional vocal music will be showcased in the program of El Mundo, which opens SFEMS' 2018-19 season with three concerts October 12 - 14. Director Richard Savino, has invited sopranos Jennifer Kampani and Nell Snaidas to join the ensemble in works from Spain and its viceroyalties of Naples, Peru and New Spain.

Concerts by Ars Lyrica Houston Chamber Players, Ensemble Caprice and Antic Faces round out the season. Bringing in the new year, January 11 - 13, Ars Lyrica Director Matthew Dirst will perform harpsichord alongside violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and viola da gambist Mary Springfels in sonatas by Buxtehude, Biber and J.S. Bach.

Ensemble Caprice celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and SFEMS is pleased to join in honoring the influential Montreal-based group on tour with a program of "Love Stories" featuring two centuries of music from five countries: works by J.S. Bach, Falconiero, Schmelzer and Vivaldi, among others.

Finally, Antic Faces is a new ensemble that premiered earlier this summer on the Berkeley Festival Fringe stage. The group includes well-known Bay Area artists Shira Kammen, violin; Mindy Rosenfeld, flute; David Morris, viola da gamba; John Lenti, theorbo; Julie Jeffrey, viola da gamba; and Peter Hallifax, viola da gamba. From May 10 - 12, they will perform repertoire of the English mixed consort: works by Dowland, Byrd, Morley, Phillips, Allison, Coperario and Gibbon.

In addition to its nine-concert season, SFEMS will also continue its partnership with the California Jazz Conservatory, presenting monthly Sunday afternoon concerts of early music with an eye to the improvisational common thread that links early music and jazz. For more information, visit

Individual tickets for SFEMS' 2018-19 season are $12 - $56, with discounts for seniors, students, SFEMS members and season subscribers. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call 510-528-1725. Detailed information about concert times and venues follows below. October 12 - 14 | EL MUNDO Directed by world-renowned guitarist and lutenist Richard Savino, El Mundo will take listeners on a musical journey from Castilian courts and cathedrals to Spanish-influenced Italian cities like Naples and on to the viceroyalties of Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala, where classical tradition blended with indigenous dances to create a unique Hispanic style that still exists today. Kingdoms of Castille will featuring works from El Mundo's Grammy-nominated disc of the same name as well as from their new recording of music from Guatemala City. (Video)

November 30 - December 2 | CAPPELLA SF Cappella SF has taken the choral world by storm in just four years, acclaimed both at home and abroad. Their program for SFEMS, Neither from Heaven nor from Earth, spans a period from Josquin's Miserere, through Allegri and Couperin, to Schütz's great Exequien and Magnificat. Conductor Ragnar Bohlin directs the chamber choir. His roots in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and in Swedish choral culture, including stints guest conducting with the Swedish Radio Choir, imbue Cappella SF's sound with "amber luster, clarity and magical artistry." (Video)

January 11 - 13 | ARS LYRICA HOUSTON CHAMBER PLAYERS Ars Lyrica Houston Chamber Players return to the Bay Area with a program exploring the "fantastical style" among German composers of the 17th and early 18th centuries, with extravagant works for violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. All three instruments are featured individually and in combination in sonatas by Dietrich Buxtehude and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, alongside free works by August Kerzinger, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, Johann Jakob Walther and J. S. Bach. Ars Lyrica is directed by Matthew Dirst, the first American to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition. He is joined by Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin, and Mary Springfels, viola da gamba.

February 8 - 10 | CUT CIRCLE Cut Circle recaptures the gritty, intense experience of singing early music. Founded in 2003 by Jesse Rodin, the ensemble specializes in late medieval and Renaissance choral music. In 2010 Cut Circle received the Noah Greenberg Award recognizing outstanding contributions to historical performance practices. Cut Circle has also received the Prix Olivier Messiaen, Editor's Choice (Gramophone) and a Diapason d'Or. SFEMS will present the group in a program featuring music of romantic and spiritual intensity by Du Fay, Ockeghem, Josquin and their contemporaries. (Video)

March 16 | MUSICIANS FROM VALLEY OF THE MOON MUSIC FESTIVAL As the first and only organization in the U.S. devoted exclusively to presenting the chamber music of the Classical and Romantic eras performed on period instruments, Valley of the Moon Music Festival aims to bring to light the radical difference of this repertoire when played on the instruments for which it was written. Following their stirring concerts at the 2018 Berkeley Festival, Musicians from Valley of the Moon Music Festival return next year in a program devoted to Brahms. Boston-based contralto Emily Marvosh will take the stage alongside violist Jodi Levitz and pianist Eric Zivian in Brahms' Two Songs for alto, viola and piano. Also on the program is Brahms' Horn Trio featuring Sadie Glass on the natural horn, Ian Swensen on violin and Zivian on fortepiano. The concert concludes with Brahms' Piano Quartet in G Minor with violinist Bettina Mussumeli joining Levitz, Tanya Tomkins on cello, and Zivian. (Video)

April 8 | THE CHOIR OF NEW COLLEGE OXFORD Founded in 1379, The Choir of New College Oxford is one of the world's most acclaimed choral ensembles featuring boy trebles and men. The Choir regularly performs in prestigious venues around the globe including St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Rome; St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice; Cadogan Hall, Royal Albert Hall and St. John's Smith Square in London; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the National Cathedral in Washington DC; Suntory Hall in Tokyo; and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. SFEMS is very proud to showcase The Choir for Bay Area audiences in a joint presentation with Grace Cathedral. Under the direction of Robert Quinney, The Choir will perform a program featuring works of Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Josquin des Prez, Francisco Guerrero, Walter Lamb, Nicholas Ludford, John Taverner, John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis. (Video)

April 12 - 14 | ENSEMBLE CAPRICE Celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, the Montreal-based Ensemble Caprice returns to the Bay Area in a program of "Love Stories" featuring two centuries of music from five countries. Works by Bach, Falconiero, Schmelzer and Vivaldi, among others, "demonstrate the drama, tenderness, joy, humor and melancholy of the music that makes us all love the Baroque." Under the direction of Matthias Maute, recorder, and Sophie Larivière, recorder and flute, Ensemble Caprice includes Susan Napper, cello; David Jacques, baroque guitar; and Ziya Tabassian, percussion. Ensemble Caprice has recorded 20 CDs, most recently Chaconne - Voices of Eternity, described as "a splendid celebration, a baroque party!" (CBC Radio-Canada). (Video)

May 10 - 12 | ANTIC FACES Antic Faces, a new ensemble that premiered earlier this summer on the Berkeley Festival Fringe stage, includes well-known Bay Area artists Shira Kammen, violin; Mindy Rosenfeld, flute; David Morris, viola da gamba; John Lenti, theorbo; Julie Jeffrey, viola da gamba; and Peter Hallifax, viola da gamba. Performing repertoire of the English mixed consort, Antic Faces takes pleasure in conjuring the courtly and theatrical entertainments of the Elizabethan world. Their program includes selections from Dowland, Byrd, Morley, Phillips, Allison, Coperario, as well as Orlando Gibbon's sonorous and sophisticated proto-sonatas, the Great Dooble Bass Fantasies.

May 19 | Iestyn Davies & THOMAS DUNFORD Iestyn Davies, one of England's greatest living countertenors, sings songs by three composers-John Dowland, Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel- all of whom were likened to Orpheus, the legendary musician from Greek mythology who could charm all humans, all animals and plants, and even stones with his music. For this program-alternately melancholy, tender and bawdy-Davies is joined by the brilliant young lutenist Thomas Dunford, who has been called the "Eric Clapton of the lute" (BBC Music Magazine). (Video)

Founded in 1975, SFEMS is one of the nation's leading organizations for the advancement of historically informed performance of early music. Through its concert series, publications, outreach activities, affiliate support and educational programs SFEMS encourages the development of amateurs, supports professionals, and increases public involvement and participation in early music. SFEMS is the lead presenter of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition of early music.

Among the hundreds of ensembles and solo artists SFEMS has supported over four-plus decades are many whose national or regional debuts occurred under its auspices: Anonymous 4, Benjamin Bagby, Frans Brüggen, Concerto Palatino, Fretwork, Laurette Goldberg, Hilliard Ensemble, John Holloway, Emma Kirkby & Anthony Rooley, Wieland Kuijken, Gustav Leonhardt, PAN, Joshua Rifkin, Jordi Savall, Max Van Egmond and Vox Luminis, to name a few.

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