You might think you know hip, but you probably don’t know it in the 17th-century Baroque sense of the term. That’s where the Mallarme Chamber Players come in with the North Carolina H.I.P. Music Festival – in which the name stands for “Historically Informed Performance” of Baroque-era music on period instruments.
It’s a week-long series of concerts and workshops that kicks off Sunday, partly funded by a $10,000 “Challenge America Fast-Track” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Durham-based Mallarme is the host group, with Chapel Hill’s Baroque and Beyond, Vivaldi Project from Washington, D.C., and the music departments at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill among the other participants.
“For several years, Mallarme has been doing concerts called ‘Historical Bach’ with the music of Bach played on Baroque instruments,” said Mallarme artistic director Suzanne Rousso. “There’s this whole culture of Baroque-period players, some based in North Carolina and others elsewhere with ties here. I started learning Baroque viola, too, really enjoying it. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘it would be cool to do a whole festival of this.’ That’s kind of the origin of it.”
The schedule includes Baroque and Beyond performing German and Italian Baroque works at UNC’s Chapel of the Cross Sunday afternoon; a harpsichord and piano concert Tuesday night at Duke University’s Nelson Music Room; and workshop classes with artists including Vivaldi Project and counter-tenor Michael Maniaci. One aspect the program will explore is the fact that it’s not just Baroque music that’s different, but also the period’s instruments.
“My Baroque viola has no chin rest, the strings are gut, the tension is lower, and the neck is constructed differently,” Rousso said. “Baroque instruments were frankly not made to be as loud as the modern instrument, and the pitch is lower in general. Where a modern orchestra tunes to an A that is 440 Hz, the Baroque A is typically about 415. The timbre off Baroque playing is different because of that.”
If all goes according to plan, this won’t be the last such festival Mallarme oversees.
“We’re hoping there will be enough interest for this to become an annual event,” Rousso said. “There are some really fabulous Baroque players in this area, a whole culture of Baroque instrumentalists at the top of the field – and you’d never know it unless you were involved.”
Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat