The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 17, 2006


Chamber music by candlelight at Union Hall

The Cambridge Society for Early Music (CSEM) will present its second Chamber Music by Candlelight concert of the season this Saturday night, February 18 at Union Hall at 8 p.m. The concert, titled "The Beautiful Strange Pearl," features Emlyn Ngai, baroque violin, and Jeannette Sorrell, harpsichord, playing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and some of his precursors.

For 25 seasons CSEM has been bringing world-class performers to the doorsteps of Carlisle and just a few other Massachusetts towns. It has always been a great privilege and pleasure to have performances of such quality so close to home.

CSEM was founded in 1952 by the German refugee musicologist Erwin Bodky. He introduced to the public the concept of hearing long forgotten works from before the 19th century. His efforts attracted sympathetic performers and listeners, setting off a sustained resurgence of interest in early music. At first the Society's own members performed in concerts mainly in Boston and Cambridge. Many performances were given in Sanders Theater in Cambridge. In 1980 CSEM initiated the Chamber Music by Candlelight concerts, using small halls in towns like Carlisle. These concerts usually featured small ensembles of world-renowned artists, from the United States and Europe, singers and musicians performing on a wide variety of period instruments. This practice has continued to this day.

Beginning in 1968 CSEM has sought out and recognized excellence in emerging young performers, encouraging them to pursue professional careers by awarding them the Erwin Bodky prize. More than 60 gifted individuals have received this award, and many have become star performers in the world of early music. Jeannette Sorrel, the harpsichordist who will perform Saturday night, won the prize in 1994.

The current president of the Society, James Nicolson, heads the board that selects the performers and organizes the concerts. Nicolson himself is recognized as one of the world's leading performers on the virginal, the oldest member of the harpsichord family. Here in Carlisle, we have enjoyed listening to him make beautiful music on this rarely heard instrument.

Chamber Music by Candlelight concerts almost always include dialogue between the performers and the audience wherein the musicians describe the works they are performing, and the audience has an opportunity to ask questions and to examine the instruments. A reception featuring wonderful treats follows the concert, and invites direct communication with the artists.

Those of us who are frequent attendees at these concerts enjoy them thoroughly and are always looking forward to what the next one will bring to town. (The next Carlisle performance is April 8, 8 p.m. at First Religious Society's Union Hall.) If you have not yet experienced excellent performances of early music here in Carlisle, you will be in for a treat at Union Hall this Saturday evening. Tickets will be available at the door — $25, seniors $20, students with ID $10, children 12 and under $5.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito