SAN ANSELMO, Calif. September 23, 2018
“Love, sex and the whole damn thing,” a concert program by Bay Area Baroque band Les Violettes, seamlessly blends Baroque songs with contemporary songs by well-known singer songwriters of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The Early Music ensemble is playing their innovative program in San Anselmo in a benefit concert for Marin Baroque, October 6th.
The program was designed for the group’s friends and family as an introduction to Baroque music.
“I’ve been singing this gorgeous repertoire for nearly two decades and I realized most of my friends and family didn’t understand it, or maybe were slightly intimidated by it,” says Les Violettes’ soprano, Corey Carleton, who grew up in San Anselmo in the same era as the pop songs in the program. “It was time to do something to help reframe how folks listen to this genre.”
Despite a gap of over 400 years, Baroque music is not a far stretch from today’s popular music. “A large body of Baroque music has rhythms based on the dances of the day and a repeating bassline with a catchy melody,” says Corey. “Even the meaning of the texts is relatable. In fact, I’d go so far as to say folks were much more effusive about sex back then, than we are in today’s lyrics.”
“Love, sex and the whole damn thing” pairs familiar pop songs with Baroque songs on similar topics to open the audience’s ears and minds to an unfamiliar genre. The song topics include texts about musical instruments, love of country and home, love songs, songs of spurned love and songs about faith. “Composers have been writing about the same topics for centuries,” says Violet Grgich, Les Violettes’ co-founder and harpsichordist. “Once we began playing these songs side by side, we found that great songwriting translates to any era.”
Les Violettes invites skeptics to hear for themselves what the pop songs on the program sound like when played by period instruments. Early Music instruments are earlier versions of classical instruments and have their own unique sound. “We were careful to choose modern songs with great melodies,” say Colin, the group’s viola da gamba player. “Once you pare a song down to its core – the bass line, basic harmony and the melody – what comes across is how strong it is on its own. The pop songs easily hold their own next to the Baroque songs, which goes to show you how timeless the music is.”
Les Violettes has been playing together for over 15 years in the East Bay and Napa. Normally a quartet (violinist David Wilson is their fourth), a few of their programs are played by a smaller version of the ensemble. Love, sex and the whole damn thing was first performed in Berkeley by Corey, Colin and Violet in 2017 at the California Jazz Conservatory’s Sunday Baroque series.
“David was booked somewhere else, and we had been thinking about this program for some time. I figured this was our chance to do it,” says Colin.
“It was our test kitchen. The audience was mostly friends and family, which was great because we were terrified,” laughs Corey. “Folks in Early Music don’t bend the genre like this – typically we are concerned about presenting historically informed performances – but the whole program went down really well, and we got fantastic feedback. When the opportunity to play it for Marin Baroque came, we jumped.”
Earlier this year Corey was browsing the internet and found Marin Baroque online. Excited to find a Baroque ensemble in her hometown of San Anselmo, she called them to arrange a meeting about a possible collaboration.
“Corey contacted us, and came up from Los Angeles to meet with me and several board members. The meeting went great, so I headed over to Berkeley where Les Violettes was playing a fringe concert in the Berkeley Early Music Festival. Once I heard them play, I knew I wanted them over here in Marin,” says Daniel Canosa, Music Director of Marin Baroque.
“Since Marin Baroque's launch in 2012, we have been spreading the word in Marin County about Baroque music through our concerts, outdoor operas and workshops, many of which took place at the First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo – a place we later found out has a special connection to Corey,” says Betsy Levine-Proctor, who is the Executive Director of Marin Baroque.
It turns out Marin Baroque’s home-base at the First Presbyterian Church is where Corey sang in the choir as a child. “So many positive musical memories happened in that church. To go back 30 years later and perform as an adult, singing repertoire I love, is just wonderful,” she says. “I can’t wait to sing in my hometown again.”
Les Violettes plays “Love, sex and the whole damn thing” at the First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo, located at 72 Kensington Road, on Saturday, October 6 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3608274
For over a decade Les Violettes has played in the Bay Area and Napa, championing the music of Buxtehude, Purcell and the French Baroque. Having met at Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, the ensemble performs regularly at Berkeley's Barefoot Chamber Concert series, the Berkeley Early Music Festival, the California Jazz Conservatory, Festival Napa Valley, Grgich Hills Estate, and the Lincoln Theater at the Napa Performing Arts Center. Follow Les Violettes on Facebook.
Marin Baroque, the premier ensemble of its kind in Marin County, California, has raised the bar for Baroque music concerts and fully staged Baroque operas in our community and throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area. A unique, exciting, ever growing musical tradition, Marin Baroque enriches the early music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area. http://www.marinbaroque.org
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