Spring Baroque Concert Promises New, Old Twist on Call to the Post

A bugler plays the call to the post to signal the beginning of the race, but Louisville’s Bourbon Baroque ensemble will end their season with an 18th-century interpretation of the iconic spring-time blast. Indiana University Early Music professor Kris Kwapis will play the baroque trumpet for Bourbon Baroque’s final season concert, which includes Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s choral piece “Te Deum.”

Like the bugle, a baroque trumpet lacks the valves of the modern trumpet. Vent fingering and the player’s embouchure (lips and mouth) do most of the work. More importantly, it creates a tone that more accurately represents the original 17th and 18th century performances of these works. 

“Particularly when we’re performing in spaces like a church with natural booming acoustics, it creates a sound exactly as you would have heard back then,” says artistic director John Austin Clark. “This is a sound that is evoking exactly what that composer had intended when he or she wrote that music back in the 18th century.” 

Clark says the program will be spring-like and bouncy, as befits the Derby season.

“There are movements in the ‘Te Deum‘ and in other works we’re performing this weekend that you can imagine, okay, this is how a call to the post would have been played back in the 18th century for a horse race,” he says. 

Joining Kwapis is an ensemble of 17 total instruments — brass, woodwinds, strings, an organ and harpsichord. And for the first time, Bourbon Baroque will perform with a chorus, under the direction of Peter Lovitt. 

Clark says adding a chorus that understands the baroque style of singing is one more way the ensemble stays faithful to the time baroque period. The chorus is small — 12 singers, with three on each part — but that’s a good size, he says, for the sound — clear-toned, transparent, sweeter than the vibrato-laden bigger sounds of later choral ensembles.

“But that size is very comparable to the sounds we will be emitting form the orchestra, so it balances really well. The sound we produce is softer, but the energy is more fine-tuned, because we’re taking the extra steps to make the sound as accurate as possible,” says Clark.  

“Te Deum” is, as expected, written in Latin. But the chorus will go one step further .

“We decided to perform this piece in French Latin, which is another step toward being accurate toward what you would have heard back then. So the ‘Te Deum’ text will be sung with a French accent,” says Clark.

“It’s so nerdy, it’s funny,” he adds with a laugh. “We’ve gone above and beyond being academic about this, but what we like to say is we prepare with academic in mind, but we like to make it fun for the audience.” 

The ensemble performs Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon at St. John United Church of Christ (637 E. Market St.) in Nulu. This weekend’s performance is a tribute to oboe professor and Bourbon Baroque mentor and collaborator Washington McClain, who passed away suddenly in February.

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