I recently learned about The Albany Consort while attempting to gather information on musical groups in the Bay Area that are “off the beaten path” and may be less well known. Jonathan Salzedo shares the fascinating story of how this group came to be and why it is in the Bay Area.
It was 1973 in England, (where I l grew up). My girlfriend and I, along with my harpsichord and a whole lot of other very good student musicians, were spending the summer on the coast, putting on a Gilbert and Sullivan show. None of us had any money, but what we really wanted to do was to start the next big thing in early music. The next year, it happened, not quite so big, not quite as planned. We found a church on Albany Street, London that was willing to host us and started The Albany Consort. Over the next few years I was determined to perform the repertoire of Bach, Handel, Monteverdi, Telemann, and totally unknown music just waiting for liberation from museum libraries. It was important to us not to follow the classical music status quo. We didn’t wear somber black and white uniforms. We were sometimes a 70-piece group and had no conductor telling us how the music should go. We played in some unusual places – pubs, outdoor restaurants, shopping centers, any space willing to host us. No real money, though. We quickly figured that this was no way to get rich.
Turning 30, I became interested in technology, moved from England to California, and thought I had left music behind. But I found out that you don’t necessarily get to choose. Stanford University’s Music Department needed a harpsichordist willing to schlep an instrument, tune it, and perform in faculty and student concerts. I married Albany Consort co-founder Marion Rubinstein. We had kids – that slowed us down a bit. But we revamped our group idea – a new Albany Consort. Ten years older, our lives didn’t allow the luxury of dropping everything and doing long tours. But we found our place in the Bay Area’s loose Freeway Philharmonic collective, musicians willing to navigate the sometimes clogged afternoon traffic and fill the need for high quality music.
Looking back over 45 years of doing this, what drives us has become clearer. Nothing has really changed – we mix young and old, seek out enthusiasm, create opportunities, and keep the experiment alive. Our daughter, violinist Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo, performs with us whenever I can find a hole in her busy schedule, and likes to bring her friends into the mix. So far she has not usurped her parents, and approves of some of my older musician choices. We like music to be live and gritty, not perfect and canned, so we don’t make commercial recordings. We find places where audiences can get close enough to be drawn into what we are doing, or a little further away and snacking on some munchies, their choice, not the formal concert hall setup.
While The Albany Consort has never set foot in a recording studio, we do have a stash of live recordings online at www.albcons.live. And we have a generously sponsored shrink-wrapped recording of a live concert that turned out rather well – we give it away or use for promotions.
In defiance of the conventional wisdom that you need a plan to succeed, we don’t know where we will be even four months from now. While I can still wield my own harpsichords, it is likely that we will be in some interesting spaces that can house a harpsichord and some friends. Meanwhile, we will be in Los Altos on March 13, livestreamed via www.jsbach.live, San Francisco on May 2, Redwood City on May 3, at the Berkeley Festival June 8-12, and San Jose on June 27.
The Albany Consort presents The Musical Dialogue
17th and 18th century music is all about dialog. In performance, it begins with the way a soloist and an accompanist work together. But the dialog exists everywhere. The performer and the composer (yes, the performer has a lot of say in how the music is done, sometimes as much or even more than the composer). Two voices or two instruments working together weaving a whole. Two accompanists dividing and alternating.
Duo singers Rita Lilly and Ryan Matos with duo instrumentalists Marion Rubinstein and Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo explore the rich repertoire of musical dialog from Monteverdi’s miniature dramas to a scene from a Handel opera to Bach’s glorious Hunting Cantata. Aided and abetted by Jonathan Salzedo and Roy Whelden, the group recreates the rich textures of these timeless masterpieces.
Albany Consort concerts get you close to the action, never any dull moments. And you don’t have to sit still or even stay sitting; walking about and getting a bite to eat is also fine. Kids always welcome. Ticket prices are suggestions – no one turned away for lack of funds. Two chances to hear the program – Music In Los Altos on Friday March 13, Berkeley performance on Saturday March 14.
Photos: Courtesy of Jonathan Salzedo
When and Where:
Friday March 13 at 7pm in Los Altos
Music In Los Altos at Los Altos Lutheran, 460 S El Monte at Cuesta
Livestreamed via www.jsbach.live (link will be live from just before the concert begins to 7 days after the event)
Saturday March 14 Berkeley concert cancelled
Tickets at the door, or online via www.albanyconsort.org/next-concert
General $30, Los Altos Lutheran church members $20, Family maximum $80
Jonathan Salzedo harpsichord
Marion Rubinstein recorder/organ
Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo violin
Rita Lilly soprano
Ryan Matos tenor
Roy Whelden viola da gamba
Monteverdi – Zefiro torna, Bel pastor dal cui bel guardo
Handel – A scene from Act 3 of Adiodante
Bach – Selections from The Hunting Cantata
Salamone Rossi, Marco Uccellini – sonatas