Baroque & Beyond Music Festival

by Bob Kelly

San Miguel, a product of the Baroque era, will be home to the second annual Baroque & Beyond Music Festival Feb. 15-23 when 16 international artists play music from 1600 to 1750 on period instruments.  Festival musicians also will perform in Queretaro Feb. 23 and Mexico City Feb. 25-26. 

The festival is a joint effort between the Camerata Ventapane in Houston and   San Miguel El Grande Pro Musica and will bring musicians from Mexico, France, Germany, Russia, Colombia and the U.S. for 10 concerts.  The musicians will play period instruments in the type of intimate settings for which Baroque music was created from 1600 to 1750, said artistic director Barrett Sills.

The performers will include six members of the Camerata Ventapane, of which Sills is cellist and artistic director; five from the Capella Guanajuatensis of Guanajuato, and five guest artists.

“We aim to transport the audiences to an age of elegance and nobility, making each concert a unique experience that contributes to making the whole festival an unforgettable week for all participants.” Sills said. 

“The Baroque era was the connection between the Renaissance and the Classical period and saw not only the flourishing of new musical forms that remain in use today, but also new ideas in architecture, literature, philosophy and science. The brilliant discoveries of Galileo, the physics of Newton the expositions of Descartes, Spinoza and Locke are products of this age.

“In Mexico, cities like San Miguel de Allende were designed and developed during this period, giving them the charm and nobility that still make them very attractive places to visit and live.  The music you will hear this week covers the era when San Miguel de Allende was being built and the murals of the Atotonilco Sanctuary were being painted.

“Plucked string instruments, such as the guitar, lute, theorbo and harpsichord were very popular during the Baroque period all over Europe and in Mexico. The old tradition of serenades, still alive in Mexico today, is often associated with the sounds of these instruments. For this year’s festival, we have chosen to bring to life music that includes plucked string instruments, from romantic love songs to dances like the fiery fandango.’
   The success of the first festival and the demand for tickets for this year’s event from the U.S. and Mexico have encouraged the organizers to plan to expand the concerts to other cities in Mexico in 2009, said festival directors Henry Kirby of Houston and Rodrigo Antonio Trevnio Lozano of San Miguel.

Festival artists also will perform two Mexico City concerts this year with the support of Hacienda, the Ministry of Finance.  “The cooperation between Hacienda and the festival will help expand the scope of the festival beyond San Miguel and is clear testimony of the high quality of the artists and programs being presented,” said Trevino.

The 2008 festival will include nine main chamber music concerts, a week long exhibit of Baroque instruments sponsored by the Escuela de Lauderia of Queretaro, a special movie viewing and presentation on Baroque dance with commentary by musicologist Dr. Yvonne Kendall, and a free family concert, “Music on the Dresden Court,” by German harpsichordist Sebastian Knebel.

Camerata Ventapane will play in Queretaro Feb. 23 and Knebel and Camerata Ventapane then will perform in Mexico City at libraries of the Ministry of Finance, which is a supporter of early music concerts.  Knebel will play a solo harpsichord recital at the Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library at 7 p.m., Monday, February 25.  The Camerata Ventapane will give a concert at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26, in the Antonio Ortiz Mena Library in the National Palace.

For festival concert and ticket details, consult