Kansas City Baroque Consortium: Pearls of the Baroque

Members of Kansas City Baroque Consortium L-R: Daniel S. Lee, violin; David Hays, violin; Nell French, viola; Tess Roberts, viola da gamba; Nicholas Good, harpsichord; and founder Trilla Ray Carter, cello, with guest artist Jay Carter, countertenor. Credit: Ron Ray.

Summer in Kansas City means lightning bugs, thunderstorms, and summer concert series. 

The Kansas City Baroque Consortium celebrated its 15th anniversary on Friday at a well attended concert at St. John’s United Methodist Church. The group was originally founded by Trilla Ray Carter in 2009 for the Jewell Early Music Festival. KC Baroque’s summer concert series started in 2017, though the group performs throughout the year and often collaborates with other ensembles.  

This season, KC Baroque celebrates the “Pearls of the Baroque,” with some of favorite works from the era (and a fun pun, too, as the origins for the term “baroque” are widely considered to mean “misshapen pearl”).

Friday’s concert was themed “The Italian Influencers,” with works by Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Caldara, Georg Frederic Handel, and Antonio Vivaldi. 

Baroque music is perfect for hazy summer day, with the seemingly effortless unspooling of melody and satisfying harmonic movement, exemplified in Corelli’s Trio Sonata in G Major, Op. 4, No. 10, featuring Daniel Lee and David Hays on violin, Tess Roberts on viola da gamba, and Nicholas Good on harpsichord. There was some issue with tuning in this piece and throughout the performance, an unfortunate but not wholly unanticipated issue, given the finicky nature of period instruments and the day’s 70% humidity. 

The guest artist for this concert was the exemplary home-grown countertenor Jay Carter, a product of William Jewell College and UMKC Conservatory. Though his home base is in Liberty, his vocal talents regularly take him around the world, so this was an excellent opportunity for long-time fans to hear this beloved performer. 

Countertenor Jay Carter.

He performed Caldara’s “Vicino a un rivoletto (Near the Stream)” with KC Baroque. Caldara combines the vocal and instrumental parts in a pleasant synthesis, the violin in the instrumental interlude like the water falling over a brook, then echoing the vocal part. 

Carter not only brings a sweet tone and delicate ornaments to the line, but has a thorough and sophisticated emotional palette, shifting in a beat. 

For the second Caldara recitative and aria, the ensemble switched out violin for cello, bringing Trilla Ray Carter into the mix. A far more sombre piece than its companion, “Ma, O Ciel! / Ahimè sento il mio core” was a journey of heartbreak, Carter lingering on each mention of “languendo (languish)” with notable sincerity, against a steadily measured basso continuo. 

There were still some tuning conflict as the instrumentalists launched into Handel’s Trio Sonata in G Major, Op.5, No.2. Though Handel was born in Germany and spent most of his life and career in England, he spent some of his early career in Italy and was influenced by Italian composers, like Corelli, and wrote much of his music in the Italian style. This piece was a stately example of the genre, and the central movement was particularly joyous and intricate. 

Vivaldi’s “Cessata, omai cessate,” Cantata RV 684, brought back Carter and added Nell French on viola. The aria “Ah, ah ch’infelice sempre” had a ringing intensity to it, from the precise, clock-like instrumental introduction; Carter quite heroic in the role of agonizing, abandoned lover. The careful instrumental accompaniment broke into dramatic moments periodically, supporting the text, which Carter shaped expertly. 

The intensity of aria “Nell’ orrido albergo ricetto di pene” seemed shot out of a cannon, with chasing lines in the strings and dramatic sforzandi. 

The piece, listed as last in the program, received a standing ovation, but they had one more work to share, with an arrangement of Henry Purcell’s “Music for a While,” based on text by John Dryden. This version was arranged by Sebastian Gottschick, and beautifully performed by Carter and KC Baroque. The opening bass line was given an interesting timbre with cello bowing and viola da gamba pizzicato. Carter, of course, had a delicate and captivating delivery. The final emotional swell elicited an audible sigh from the audience, and another standing ovation, before the assembly headed for the fellowship hall for a slice of anniversary cake.

Reviewed Friday, June 28, 2024. Kansas City Baroque Consortium continues its summer concert series on Friday, July 19 and Friday, August 16. For more information visit www.kcbaroque.org.

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. She maintains the culture bog "Proust Eats a Sandwich."

Leave a Reply