Five College Early Music Ensembles

Early Music Ensemble
Early Music ensembles provide a wide variety of opportunities for singers and players to study and perform on many levels.

The Five College Early Music Program offers a variety of opportunities to engage with the rich and varied repertoire of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music in the European tradition.

For audition information, please visit the Auditions page and click on “Early Music.” If you have questions, please contact program director Michael Barrett at mrbarrett@mtholyoke.edu.

(Please note that not all ensembles and classes run every semester, depending on faculty availability, student enrollment, etc.)

Ensembles for Voices and Instruments

The Five College Early Music Collegium

The Five College Collegium is the flagship ensemble of the Five College Early Music program. The Collegium, made up of a core ensemble of singers and frequently supplemented by instrumentalists, rehearses and performs music from the vast and varied repertory of European-style polyphony of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Directed by Michael Barrett.

Euridice Ensembles

Euridice Ensembles are small chamber music groups (trios, quartets, quintets, etc.) that perform music from the Baroque period and earlier. Singers and players of keyboards, strings, and wind instruments (modern instruments welcome) are all invited to participate. Participants will be grouped by level and experience into small mixed ensembles to explore repertoire, historical performance practice, and chamber music skills. Ensembles will usually have opportunities to perform twice a year at the conclusion of each semester. Contact Alice Robbins.

17th-Century Song Seminar

This course is a repertory survey conducted in masterclass format. Participants will explore English lute ayres, French airs de cour, Italian monodies, and later music up to and including the works of Henry Purcell. Participants will prepare and sing/play selections in class, followed by class discussion and coaching with reference to historical sources. Singers are welcome as well as instrumentalists (lute, guitar, cello, viola da gamba, and keyboard) who will receive instruction in continuo accompaniment. Led by Meg Pash.

Medieval Ensemble

Depending upon interest, Medieval ensemble may focus on topics including Gregorian chant, 13th-century monophonic and polyphonic song, instrumental dances, 14th-century chanson, etc. Contact Catherine Bell.

Ensembles for Voices

Voces Feminae

Voces Feminae performs music from a wide variety of eras and cultures, centering on music written before 1750. This ensemble focuses primarily on literature that can be performed by treble voices. Directed by Catherine Bell.

Ensembles for Instruments

The Five College Baroque Orchestra

This chamber orchestral ensemble meets for two hours once a week to explore repertoire from the Baroque and early Classical periods. Co-led from the podium and by an instructor playing in the ensemble, rehearsals will be a mix of playing and instrumental coaching. Instruction will focus on historical performance practice and the playing techniques required to perform the music with appropriate style and skill. An audition is required, as a certain skill level is necessary to play this repertoire in a performing group. The orchestra is primarily a string ensemble, but woodwind, brass, and keyboard players are also welcome to audition, and appropriate repertoire will be chosen to fit the ensemble. Bows and some period instruments are available to borrow or rent. Contact Laurie Rabut.

Lute Ensemble

usiThis ensemble, open to both lutenists and guitarists, will play Renaissance dances, popular songs, and learn common chord progressions and tunes for improvisation, with a focus on technique and ensemble skills.  Beginners are welcome, as are players of modern guitar (any style). There are some instruments available to borrow, and additional instruments owned by the instructor available for rental. Led by Meg Pash

Recorder Ensembles

Although the recorder is often relegated to elementary-school ensembles today, in the era from approximately 1400-1750, the recorder was considered a serious instrument and was played by professional musicians across Europe. These ensembles focus on interpreting the music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras on recorders, with a focus on Renaissance polyphonic (multi-part) music. In this music, every part is of equal importance and is equally rewarding to play. Students will learn recorder technique, ensemble skills, and the history of various styles and composers of Renaissance and Baroque music. Participants will have opportunities to experience playing the four main sizes of recorders (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) in one of two small chamber ensembles (Intermediate and Advanced levels) of three to eight players. Some familiarity with the recorder or another woodwind instrument is helpful for the Intermediate ensemble. For the Advanced ensemble some previous recorder experience is required. Some instruments are available for rental. Contact Dan Meyers.

Renaissance Wind Band

During the Renaissance most cities and royal courts had an ensemble of professional wind instrument players to play outdoors for festivals and dances, and sometimes indoors for chamber concerts or church services. The primary instruments used were the shawm (ancestor of the modern oboe), dulcian (ancestor of the modern bassoon), sackbut (ancestor of the modern trombone), and cornetto (a hybrid instrument made of wood and combining a small brass-type mouthpiece with woodwind fingerings).  The Five Colleges Renaissance Wind Band ensembles (Intermediate and Advanced) focus on interpreting the music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras on these reed and brass instruments, with a focus on Renaissance polyphonic (multi-part) music. Participants will learn technique, ensemble skills, and the history and repertoire of Renaissance civic wind bands in ensembles of three to six players. For the Intermediate ensemble some previous woodwind or brass experience is required, and for the Advanced ensemble some experience with one of the historical wind instruments listed above is required.  Some instruments are available for rental. Contact Dan Meyers.

Viola da Gamba Consort Classes

Consorts will meet once per week for one hour to play music from viol consort repertoire from 16th through 18th century Europe. Players at any level are welcome and will be grouped into small consorts by experience. Instruments and bows are provided by the Five College Early Music Program. Intermediate and advanced groups have opportunities to perform twice a year, at the conclusion of each semester. Contact Alice Robbins.

Renaissance and Baroque Dance Band  

This band will explore the lively repertory of music for Renaissance and Baroque dance, including branles, almains, pavans, galliards, country dances, bourées, and minuets, with reference to historical dance sources and performance practice. Open to players of recorder, flute, violin, viola, cello, viola da gamba, lute, and guitar, this ensemble will have opportunities to play for the Renaissance and Baroque Dance class (see below). Led by Meg Pash

Dance

Renaissance and Baroque Dance I and II

This group class focuses on 15th-18th century European social dances, including balli, branles, almains, pavanes, galliards, English country dances, bourées, and minuets. There will be opportunities to dance to live music, courtesy of the Renaissance and Baroque Dance Band. Led by Nona Monahin and Meg Pash

Individual and Group Instruction

Individual and Group Lessons in Historical Instruments

Individual and ensemble lessons are available for players of modern or historical instruments, singers, and beginners who wish to learn a historical instrument. No prior experience is required. A variety of instruments is available to borrow or rent. Lessons are available in: