Romantic BaroqueMelodies Put Concert Crowd In Mood
Raises Funds To Help ‘Eliminate’ Tetanus
Enchanting music written more than 300 years ago in France and performed by a baroque music quartet based in Brooklyn touched the hearts of attendees at a concert at Fresh Pond Crematory in Middle Village last Tuesday night, Feb. 8.
Titled “Timeless Valentine Tales: Love, Longing and Triumph in the French Cantata,” members of BaroQue Across the River put listeners in a romantic mood prior to Valentine’s Day with their version of compositions created during the 18th century which told the stories of loves lost and found.
Organized by the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth, the concert also sought to promote a love of humanity by raising funds for The Eliminate Project, a joint effort by Kiwanis International and UNICEF to eradicate maternal/ neonatal tetanus (MNT) around the globe. The disease—which remains active in 40 countries in Africa and southern and eastern Asia—kills an estimated 60,000 newborns and women annually, even though a vaccine is available.
In all, five French baroque pieces were performed by the quartet comprised of soprano singer Michele Eaton, Kathy McDonald on the baroque flute, Lisa Terry on the viola da gamba and Dongsok Shin on the harpsichord.
BaroQue Across the River (the capital letters in its name represent subway lines which run through Brooklyn) was formed in 2000 with the mission of educating the public on the masterpieces of the 18th century, which are generally overlooked in comparison to the classical com- positions of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, among others. They have performed in a variety of venues including museums, churches, community centers and various musical festivals in New York City and across the country.
Two of the works the group performed were love stories with a mythological theme. Europe, composed by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair told the story of the ancient Roman king of the gods Jupiter and his love for the Phonecian woman Europa. Another work by Montéclair, Ariane et Bachus, tells the story of a scorned lover who finds redemption and favor with the help of Bachus, the god of the vine.
Using voice, woodwind and string, the quartet captured the airy, sweet melodies captured in music during the Baroque era between 1600 and 1750. The introduction of new instruments and music notation methods brought with it more melodious and complex pieces that became popular in royal courts, churches and houses of nobility.
But baroque became passé after 1750 soon after Mozart arrived on the scene and ushered in the classical era featuring even more elaborate compositions and the introduction of the piano.
“It’s music that went out of taste at the time of Mozart,” said Terry, wife of Maspeth Kiwanis Past President Michael Terry, noting that even some of the instruments used during the baroque periods went by the wayside along with the style of music.
Describing the viola da gamba which she used, Terry stated that the six-stringed instrument—which, to the untrained eye, seems to closely resemble the cello—is similar to the guitar in having curved ridges and a fret. Played with a bow (underhanded and cradled between the legs by the player, the viola da gamba has a slightly higher, yet softer tone that the cello and can match six octaves of the human voice, she added.
The wooden baroque flute, Mc- Donald described, has a warmer sound than silver concert flute used by modern orchestras but requires complex movement of the fingers.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the instruments used was the harpsichord, an elaborately decorated instrument which closely resembles a small piano. Unlike the piano—in which hammers inside the instrument strike wire when keys are hit—the harpsichord keys are attached to long wooden fingers that pluck strings, Shin stated.
As previously noted, the concert was the first in a series of fund-raisers scheduled by the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth for The Eliminate Project to make sure that families in disadvantaged countries have access to the life-saving tetanus vaccine.
“It’s a five year, $110 million project to go to these countries, educate the people and get them the shots,” said J.P. DiTroia, past president of Maspeth Kiwanis who currently serves as fund-raising chair for the Queens West division of the Eliminate Project. “Our club is one of the first Kiwanis clubs to take part in this project.”
The Maspeth Kiwanis has a personal goal of contributing $1,000 as an organization to the project. The organization plans on holding additional fund-raising events over the course of the next year.
Babies and newborn mothers contract tetanus when coming into contact with bacterial spores found in soil or drinking water. Infants who acquire the illness suffer excruciating symptoms including convulsions and extreme sensitivity to light and touch, often dying within days of their birth.
The tetanus vaccine was first developed in the 1920s, but it remains unavailable in parts of 40 countries around the world for a variety of reasons including difficult travel to remote areas, conflict or little access to health care. DiTroia noted that each vaccine generally costs less than $1 to administer.
The Eliminate Project, as described, seeks to inoculate the more than 120 million women and children currently at risk in these countries, eventually leading to the eradication of tetanus. Safe birthing kits will also be purchased and delivered to remote locations to further reduce the chances of infection for babies and their mothers.
For more information on the project or to make a donation, visit www.theeliminateproject.org.
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