Baroque beat warmed up through Delaware

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A baroque styled musical group credits support from the Delaware arts community with helping bring their music to a wider audience.

Melomanie, the five-piece chamber ensemble known for provocative pairings of early and contemporary works, is celebrating the release of its latest CD “Excursions” with an excursion of its own.  The musicians are traveling to Rio de Janeiro where they have been invited to perform at the international four-day festival, Compositores de Hoje (Composers of Today) from November 18 -23.

“We’re the only U.S. group going so we’re really honored,” said co-founder and co-artistic director Tracy Richardson who plays harpsichord in the ensemble.  “We’re looking forward to that aspect and we’re trying to learn a little bit of Portuguese so that we can have a modicum of manners.”

The trip also marks the first time the ensemble will perform outside the U.S.  “We’ve all played outside the country as individuals, but this is the first time as an ensemble, as Melomanie,” said Richardson.

The festival will present music by 30 different composers from 13 countries, including “Trois Rivieres” by Delaware composer Mark Hagerty.

 The festival kicks off with a roundtable discussion on the challenges and achievements of contemporary music. Generating interest in contemporary music is a large part of what Melomanie does but the task is not always an easy one.  Competition for listeners’ attention is keen and contemporary composition is not always an easy listening experience.

“It might be challenging even to highly intelligent people,” said Richardson. “It doesn’t necessarily have a regular beat or melody but we find that when the listener gives us a chance, they like it.  There’s a lot to like and be fascinated by and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

In addition to “Trois Rivieres,” the ensemble will perform tracks from its CD “Excursions” which was released in September. The recording features modern musical language applied to Renaissance and Baroque dance and compositional forms.  All of the compositions were written for and premiered by Melomanie, including “Angico” by Brazilian composer and festival founder Sergio Roberto de Oliveira.

“It’s contemporary music done through the lens of a Baroque music group,” said Richardson.  “So we’re bringing the past into the present.”

Richardson says negotiations are underway to release the CD with a Portuguese-language cover and inserts.

Melomanie was invited to participate in last year’s inaugural festival but failed to obtain funding to support the travel.

 Richardson credits the efforts of the Delaware Division of the Arts with helping the group get the funding to make this year’s trip possible.  “They said to try this, this, this and this and one of the ‘ this’s’ worked out very nicely,” she said.  “They (the Delaware Division of the Arts) did their job which is to be a source for information and arts promotion.”

 Melomanie’s participation in the festival is being made possible in large part by funding from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.  Other local support is coming from the Delaware State International Trade Commission and The Music School of Delaware where Richardson and Melomanie violinist Christof Richter teach.

The trip to Rio is certainly a landmark event in Melomanie’s 21-year history—one that Richardson and co-founder and co-artistic director flautist Kimberly Reighley hoped for but thought might never happen. 

“We never dreamed of anything like this because you just think you’ll make music and play to an audience that will like it,” said Richardson.  “But when it happens, you start to open your mind to other possibilities.”

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