Utah has a new group of musicians who play old music.
The Wasatch Baroque Players, formed in 1997, specialize in performing 17th- and 18th-century music played on instruments authentic to that time period. The unique sound will be showcased in a concert featuring music of Johann Sebastian Bach, to be held in the Temple Square Assembly Hall on Saturday, Feb. 28.The founder of the ensemble is Douglas R. Bush, a professor of organ studies at Brigham Young University. He will perform on harpsichord during the concert and will also be heard on the Assembly Hall's fine pipe organ. He said in a recent interview that audiences seem to be quite taken with the period instruments used by the group.
One of these is the theorbo, a bass member of the lute family. The lute was a very popular instrument during the Renaissance and baroque periods and bears a resemblance to the modern guitar. According to Bush, "people are intrigued by the size of the theorbo. The neck of the instrument is five feet long, making it sort of a giraffe among instruments. It has a wonderful, gentle resonance, especially in the low notes."
Playing the theorbo, and also recorder, will be founding member Herald R. Clark, an early music devotee - and also a Salt Lake dentist. Bush indicated that the group has brought together a "varied spectrum of talent" as he referred to Clark's "infectious enthusiasm for this music."
Another staple instrument of the ensemble is the voila da gamba, a large string instrument played with a bow. Bush spoke of the instrument's rich range and straightforward, unforced sound, adding that the gamba possesses "a plaintive quality, which modern instruments do not have."
Gambist for the Wasatch Baroque Players is Frances von Seggern Bach, a Bountiful resident with an impressive list of credentials in early music performance. Bush characterizes her as "a sensitive musician who plays with great musical understanding and feeling." She will be joined on gamba for this concert by Elizabeth Dixon.
The other instrumentalist listed as a founding member of the ensemble is Nathan J. Jasinski, an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University who shows great promise as a cellist - and as a performer on baroque cello, which he will play in Saturday's concert. Bush complimented his "fresh outlook on this music," saying he has "the desire to listen carefully and the ability to cast aside more romantic traditions and re-evaluate the music on its own terms."
The all-Bach program designed for the concert includes several instrumental pieces and a cantata: "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," BWV 106, which includes a vocal quartet. Bush is quick to admit that he is "a confirmed Bach-aholic" who feels that his ensemble will have truly "cut its teeth" after this concert. His love of Bach's music goes back to his youth, when he heard a performance of the composer's great B Minor Mass in a Swiss cathedral while serving an LDS mission.
"The music simply took me to another world. I wasn't prepared for what I was given, but heaven blessed me with a sensitivity to what I was experiencing. I couldn't explain it, but I could sense the majesty and power and beauty of that music, and I felt that I would be coming back to it many times. Perhaps this concert is a bit of a selfish undertaking, because nothing moves my spirit so much as the music of Bach. I simply adore it."
The Wasatch Baroque Players will perform in the Temple Square Assembly Hall on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. Douglas Bush, keyboards; Frances Bach, viola da gamba; Herald Clark, theorbo and recorder; and Nathan Jasinski, baroque cello, will be joined by Elizabeth Dixon, viola da gamba; Elizabeth Farnsworth, recorder; Ryan May, baroque violin and vocalists Thomas Glenn, Darrell Babidge, Joni Jensen and Tiffany Call. The concert is free to the public but limited to those 8 years of age and older.