Classical music comprises all music developed, performed, and promoted in the Western World from the late 15th Century to the 20th Century. While it essentially involves western and non-western music, people usually refer to music developed and performed in the Western World when discussing Classical music. Western Classical music has its roots in the Christian Church during the Medieval times or Middle Ages until the late 15th Century, with a significant focus on chants and vocals. The Renaissance period of Classical music from the 15th Century to the early 17th Century later utilized and promoted instruments in music. However, the subsequent ‘common-practice period’ is the primary period characterizing Classical music and the period most people refer to when discussing Classical music. The ‘common-practice period’ started with the adoption of now-standard triadic harmony in the late 16th Century and continued until the rise of atonality in the early 20th Century.
The ‘common practice period’ comprises three significant phases or stylistic subcategories of Classical music, including the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods with some of the most prominent musicians and composers of all time. Many people remain unfamiliar with the categories, genres, and national styles, of the periods of Classical music. They may carelessly refer to all periods as ‘Classical music’ without understanding or realizing the prominent differences. Modern life may leave scant time for exposure to different categories and genres. But within Classical music, Baroque music may be the most interesting. Starting with a radical new view of the possibilities of music in Italy in 1600, the Baroque style spread rapidly through Europe to the British Isles and the New World colonies in the span of a century and a half, from 1600 to 1750. Baroque music is notable and unique for its stylistic diversity, drama, and grandeur. The Baroque period gave us several prominent composers in the early years, such as Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Purcell, and Jean-Baptiste Lully in the first generations, and celebrated geniuses like Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Domenico Scarlatti, and Jean-Philippe Rameau by the High Baroque. Musical groups and festivals like the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival are trying to revive and promote Baroque music among the masses.
The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival is an American organization located in Santa Cruz, California, which was established in 1973 by Linda Burman-Hall to promote Baroque music. The organization presents five concerts annually during its season, typically from February to late April or early May. The organization’s mission is to promote Baroque music to the public in its original form — using replica period instruments and historical performance practices. The organization uses extensive improvisation and produces a series revolving around different themes of the era. The talented master musicians under Burman-Hall’s leadership focus on artistic excellence while portraying the pleasant and joyful aspects of Baroque music. The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival attempts to take audiences on a time-travel journey to witness and experience Baroque music in its original sound and evocative original contexts.
The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, under the artistic direction of Linda Burman-Hall, presents an annual concert season to exhibit the uniqueness, diversity, and breadth of Baroque-era music from the celebrated courts, famous chapels, prominent cathedrals, and from all over the rustic countryside of Europe and the colonial Americas. The organization routinely features celebrated and world-renowned Baroque artists to familiarize people with the unique music style. The annual series highlights and showcases unique themes revolving around Baroque music and other early music forms in cultural contexts. The group features music from Southern and Northern Europe from the early to late Baroque periods. The group also showcases a unique interplay between formal and folk music from the French courts and countryside to the regions ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The concerts also feature music from Arab Spain (El Andaluz) to music from the lands ruled by the British Raj in Northern India.
The group regularly performs works from famous composers of the Baroque era, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, and Henry Purcell. Performing compositions of individual composers and highlighting music from a particular period within the Baroque style enables the organization to increase awareness among the public regarding famous musicians and their creative composition styles. Although the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival presents five concerts each season, they also perform at different venues for various occasions and events. The most recent example is the free park concerts for Santa Cruz City Arts featuring Jalisco harp and mariachi celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
Baroque music is unique from its precursors because it expanded the breadth of music by increasing the range and size of instruments in compositions. For example, Bach and Vivaldi are prominent composers of the Baroque era who significantly expanded the scope of Baroque music through their compositions. Their expertise and skills are unique and distinct from each other. Bach focused on Lutheran church music, including cantatas and organ compositions, and Vivaldi’s focused on the violin and other solo and group concertos. The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival highlights and represents the works of famous composers of the Baroque era to create awareness among people and may even present 21st-century premieres of works not heard in 300 years. The organization recently offered a pre-season two-fortepiano concert and lecture on 19th November, celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The concert featured prominent fortepiano soloist Nicholas Mathew of UC-Berkeley performing on an 1800 5-octave Schanz fortepiano and a 6-octave 1820 Graf fortepiano with noted soprano Christine Brandes.
It is highly unusual for any early music concert series or festival to survive and thrive outside a large metropolitan base like Berkeley, Boston, or Brussels. However, the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival beat the odds, growing and becoming known in a relatively small town for almost 50 years. The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival revives and promotes Baroque music by organizing concerts annually and highlighting the work of prominent composers. The organization also encourages and supports emerging artists and musicians by organizing the Youth Chamber Music Competition from a four-county area. The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival website features ‘See Things in Context,’ a 25-page guide to Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical music written by past President Charles Sutton in 2020. The website also offers videos of ‘emerging artists’ winning performances from the 2020 competition, where participants performed from remote locations due to the pandemic restrictions.
The organization has been informing and entertaining people through Baroque music for nearly 50 years. The 50th-anniversary celebrations are already underway. Artistic Director Linda Burman-Hall selected the “Powers of 4” theme for the golden jubilee celebrations to feature both popular and seldom-heard quartet and four-voice music from the Middle Ages to Mozart and Haydn in the 2023 concerts.