Baroquelyn Concert Debuts To a Packed Upper Hall

We’ve heard of Brokelyn and Crooklyn, but this is the first we’re hearing of Baroquelyn. And it’s truly something to hear.

The baroque-themed concert — complete with violins as well as an oboe, trumpet, cello, bassoon, recorder, and even a countertenor — is the brainchild of our music director, Aleeza Meir; the project’s first concert, on Sunday, November 12, was performed in the Upper Hall and drew a full house.

Baroque music (Portuguese for “misshapen pearl”) was mostly composed between 1600 and 1750, by such notable composers as Johann Sebastian Bach. Its most recognizable instrument is the harpsichord (which Aleeza played during the concert), on which pressing the keys causes a quill to pluck the strings. The musical style had a brief resurgence in pop music in the 1960s (think of The Beatles’ piano solo bridge played by George Harrison on “In My Life”).

“I find baroque music to be some of the most beautiful music around,” Aleeza says. “There are pieces that have been on my radar for ages, and this was a chance for me to pull some of my favorite ones and find the players who matched.”

Those matches were a rousing success. Superb musicians traveled to Old First from all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, and from as far as Boston (recorder player Martin Bernstein) to perform for the event.

“These players perform all over the world and play at places like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center,” Aleeza says. “These folks are coming to join me and play in Baroquelyn in our Upper Hall because Brooklyn is in some way home for them and they’ve made this connection with me — and with us here at Old First in this beautiful space — and they want to make some great music together.”

Nancy Ranger, oboe and Jeffrey Mandelbaum, countertenor. Photo by Vera Nieuwenhuis

Adding to the uniqueness of Baroquelyn was our own favorite countertenor, Jeffrey Mandelbaum. He performed the concert’s sole vocals, and was impressed with Aleeza’s personal arranging of Sonata in C Major and Trio Sonata in G Major.

“Aleeza did a great job of arranging the first piece,” he says. “It had a more modern sensibility, which surprised me. Usually, I’m kind of a purist about baroque music — that everything should be period instruments and follow the composer’s directions. But actually I think she made it very interesting.

It really worked well. I just thought [the entire event] was a very compelling program. And I think the architecture of it — with the vocal piece in the middle — was perfect.  I look forward to seeing what else she wants to do.”

Recorder player Martin Bernstein is a native of Park Slope, but he’s currently studying in Boston. However, he returned to the nabe specifically to perform in the Baroquelyn concert.

“Baroque music is meant for small spaces,” he says, “and for communication with each other and with the audience. The crowd and the space were perfect for that. I’m just really happy to play here.”

Pastor Daniel Meeter, who introduced the performance, says that the concert was nothing short of a revelation. He says that when we usually think of a concert, we think of a large orchestra with a big sound.

“Here, though, there are not very many instruments,” he says. “It’s kind of intimate, but with such energy and texture, back and forth, talking to each other, one instrument talking to another instrument. So much conversation going on. And far more people than we expected. So this is telling us that people want this.”

The success of the first Baroquelyn concert seems to be paving the way for future events.

“I was delighted to see all of these people,” Aleeza says of the enthusiastic and receptive crowd. “I’m already planning the next one.”

Click to read more about Aleeza and Baroquelyn.

Also click to read more about Aleeza’s work at Old First, and about countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum.

Aleeza Meir, director and harpsichord. Photo by Vera Nieuwenhuis

Eddy Malave, viola and Martin Bernstein, recorder. Photo by Vera Nieuwenhuis