And why not? A Baroque chamber orchestra, in the modern era, is tasked with taking music all but relegated to a museum and breathing new life into it. This is what the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, which makes its home in the northern suburb of Roswell, Georgia, can do. While the musicians draw on years of academic research and scholarship to restore the music to its original, authentic style, they never lose sight of how much fun it is, what a joyful and spiritual experience playing it should be. It swings. It grooves. It rocks. No, it gigues.
This is immediately obvious when Artistic Director Julie Andrijeski strikes up the ensemble. The orchestra comes to life with irrepressible vitality and joie de vivre. The musicians move, meaningfully. In the audience, heads bob. Toes tap (softly). Handel, Corelli, Bach, Scarlatti, Vivaldi: whether it’s instrumental suites and concertos, vocal and choral cantatas, or the occasional solo or smaller-ensemble chamber works, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra distinguishes itself by making the music breathe, dance, soar.
- Allons y!
Julie Andrijeski is one of the most dynamic and exciting violin soloists in the international early music scene. She’s also a Baroque dancer and choreographer, bringing a unique rhythmic vitality to everything the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra plays. In the authentic Baroque practice, she is conductor and concertmaster (first violinist) at the same time. Her presence is transformative: in rehearsal, she has been observed jumping around and pumping her fist in the air like a cheerleader, urging the orchestra to greater heights of energy and passion.
Professor and lecturer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Andrijeski also performs with other leading Baroque ensembles throughout the United States, and teaches music and dance in festivals across the continent.
The Orchestra is composed of top-notch artists adept not only at ensemble playing but also often emerging as soloists within the group. Much of the repertoire requires such talent from all of its members due to small performance forces (typically not more than sixteen musicians). In lieu of a conductor, the group performs as one organism, each player contributing to the whole that is suggestively steered by lead violinist Julie Andrijeski.
The Orchestra often supplements its strong base with the finest soloists specializing in Baroque historically-informed performance from all over the country.
In addition to its intimate yet powerful performing forces, the Orchestra’s venues are cozy compared to typical concert halls. This close proximity helps to break down the barrier between musicians and their audiences, creating a sense of cooperative interaction.
Members perform on instruments made in the Baroque era, about 1600-1750, restored to their original setups, or on authentic replicas. The string instruments are fitted with gut rather than steel strings and are played with bows of an earlier design that allow tones and articulations that differ from those suitable to “modern” instruments. Horns and trumpets have no valves. Flutes are made of wood. The harpsichord, lute, and a portable pipe organ stand in for the modern piano and guitar. The tuning is different. Most importantly, there is ample room for improvisation and a great deal more individual expression than that tolerated in the conventional symphony orchestra.
The first and longest-running professional Baroque chamber orchestra in the Southeastern United States, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra has been performing continuously since 1998, and remains preeminent in the early music movement. Musicians also perform within a large network of other early music groups throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world. (see our Links page.)
Guest artists have included: violinists Stanley Ritchie, Monica Huggett, Sergiu Luca, and Dana Maiben; Paul O’Dette, lute; Aldo Abreu, recorder; sopranos Julianne Baird, Arietha Lockhart, and Judith Overcash; countertenor Stephen Rickards; the late oboist Matthew Peaceman; and Baroque dancers Paige Whitley-Bauguess and Thomas Baird.
The Orchestra was founded by director and lutenist Lyle Nordstrom, then on the faculty at Clayton State University, together with a core group of faculty from several university music schools from Atlanta and throughout surrounding states. August early music pioneer John Hsu was the second artistic director, from 2006 through 2008, and Atlanta’s Daniel Pyle served as Resident Director until Julie Andrijeski’s arrival in 2011.
Signatory achievements of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra include the first performances in Atlanta on period instruments of:
- Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in September, 1998
- J. S. Bach’s Passion according to St. John in November, 2000
- Handel’s Messiah in November, 2002
- Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum in November, 2001, using a new orchestration completed by musicologist Charles Brewer
The Orchestra frequently partners with choirs, including those of Roswell Presbyterian, the Emory University Concert Choir, the Georgia Tech Chorale, Schola Cantorum of Atlanta, Clayton State Collegiate Chorale, DeKalb Choral Guild, the Westminster Choir, Chandler Choraliers, and choirs from Peachtree Road United Methodist Church and Independent Presbyterian Church (Birmingham, Alabama).
In 2010 the Orchestra moved from Buckhead, near the center of the city of Atlanta, to the northern suburban city of Roswell, Georgia. With Roswell Presbyterian Church as its home base, the Orchestra is now a stalwart of the burgeoning North Atlanta and North Fulton County performing arts scene. The Roswell Presbyterian sanctuary affords an ideal natural acoustic environment for the Orchestra’s performances.
The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization as recognized by the State of Georgia and the United States of America. All donations are tax-deductible.