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Tradition key for Victoria Baroque ensemble

Playing 18th-century music on similar-era instruments keeps things interesting for local musicians
Baroque Concert RH
Baroque musicians Mieka Michaux

When Soile Stratkauskas takes the stage on Sept. 18, she’ll bring her wooden flute.

Unlike modern metal flutes, her instrument – styled after those produced in the 18th century – has holes rather than keys.

The resulting sound is softer and more mellow, said Stratkauskas, who studied early music.

She and five other musicians formed the Victoria Baroque Players this year, with the aim of performing high-quality Baroque music using local talent.

They first performed in April and are now launching a series of concerts themed around Bach’s cantatas and concertos.

The initial performance takes place Sunday (Sept. 18) at St. John the Divine Anglican church on Quadra Street.

“We are really privileged to have soloist (and Victoria resident) Nancy Argenta singing with us – (she) is really internationally known,” Stratkauskas said. “And (we’re) lucky to have (Toronto-based) harpsichordist Christopher Bagan come and play with us. He is an excellent musician and is probably going to go quite far.”

The church is a fitting venue, said Stratkauskas.

“I really enjoy playing Bach in a church, because these contatas were written to be performed in a church service.”

All members of the ensemble will play instruments either styled after, or actually manufactured during the Baroque period – a roughly 150-year span between 1600 and 1750.

The stringed instruments, as an example, feature gut strings rather the more modern nylon material.

The overall musical experience is more like speech and notes take on more shape, Stratkauskas said.

“On a Baroque flute, each note is slightly different. You can’t blow as strongly for all the notes … so you have to be really sensitive to the instrument.

“The composers were really aware of this. Bach, for instance, knew what the notes sound like and he would use that to his advantage. If he wanted a particular colour, then he would write in a particular key.”

While the difference between B major and B flat major is minimal on a modern flute, it’s significant on the more primitive wooden flute, she said.

“It’s kind of my love, the sound of the wooden flute.”

Mark your calendar

• Concert by the Victoria Baroque Players: Bach and Argenta

• Date: Sunday Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.

• Venue: St John the Divine Anglican Church, 1611 Quadra St.

• More information:

• Tickets: $20 for adults, $5 for students and children.