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Lunchtime Respite in Back Bay


Every Thursday until February 7th, First Church in Boston will present a free concert during the noon hour. For the third year in a row, the concerts will run from 12:15-12:45. This year’s appellation is “Early Music Thursdays.”

“When I started the mid-day series in 2010, I focused on my primary instrument, the harpsichord,” said First Church Music Director Paul Cienniwa. “During that season, we had 21 different harpsichordists playing solo recitals. While most of the players were local, I was also very proud to offer the Boston debut of Paris-based harpsichordist Jory Vinikour.”

Harpsichordist, teacher, author and BMInt Staffer, Mark Kroll (file photo)

Last season, First Church diversified the series with concerts of contemporary music, vocal recitals, as well as some harpsichord recitals, but the inconsistent programming seemed to reduce the audience of regulars who had come for the previous season’s concentration solely on the harpsichord. Cienniwa quickly learned that his strength as a presenter was in the period closest to his heart: early music.

“Boston is known as an early music town,” said Cienniwa. “It was pivotal in the harpsichord revival of the early 20th century, and it continues to be a center of historical performance practice with major organizations such as the Boston Early Music Festival, Boston Baroque, and the Handel and Haydn Society. With so many musicians specializing in Baroque and pre-Baroque music, I felt very secure in building this season around very fine performers.”

Early Music Thursdays will feature a number of harpsichord recitals, including Boston-based international performing artist Mark Kroll on Oct. 25; Suzanne Cartreine, a recent DMA graduate of Boston University on Nov. 8; Canadian historical keyboardist and scholar Sonia Lee on Nov. 2;  Gavin Black, director of the Princeton Early Keyboard Center on Dec. 6, Clark University Professor of Mathematics Frederic Green on Dec. 20; Ian Watson, director of the Arcadia Players on Jan. 3; and, of course, Cienniwa himself, for the first and final harpsichord concert, on Sept. 27 and Jan. 31. Other performers include clavichordist Judith Conrad on Sept. 13, lutenist Timothy Burris on Oct. 4, recorder player Sarah Cantor on Oct. 11, Baroque cellist Nicholas Dinnerstein on Nov. 1, traverso player Mary Oleskiewicz with harpsichordist Andrus Madsen on Dec. 13, and, from Maine, Music’s Quill on Jan. 10. Several of Cienniwa’s regular collaborators will make repeat appearances: Baroque violinist Asako Takeuchi and viola da gamba player Andrew Arceci on Sept. 20 and Nov. 15 and recorder player Héloïse Degrugillier on Oct. 18, Jan. 17, and Feb. 7.

Early Music Thursdays began on September 6 with The Broken Consort in a program of music from the Italian Trencento, which BMInt reviewed here on a subsequent performance at another location. The season will continue through February 7, after which it takes a break to make way for Emmanuel Music’s noontime Lindsey Chapel Series. For more information on performers and programs, click here.  Be sure also to check BMInt’s “Upcoming Events for program details”

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