Weekly Newsletter 

January 11, 2020 — The Bay Area Early Music Digest 
This week in Early Music: 

A Note From Us

Get an inside look at SFEMS each week!

It seems that at the start of 2021, we remain in "unprecedented times." As students of early music, and therefore history, we know there is nothing new under the sun.

If we are to draw an analogy with early music, we could say that history repeating itself is like a ground bass. For a pessimist, this may be akin to improvising upon the folia: We drive ourselves into a melodic frenzy, but cannot escape.

An optimist, though, may point to something more along the lines of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations. Though the work is anchored by a 32-bar ground, Bach's endless rhythmic, harmonic and melodic inventiveness over 30 variations reminds us that repetition is not synonymous with inevitability. When the opening aria returns at the end, note-for-note, we know we are in a different place altogether.

If history must repeat itself, which route will we choose in 2021?

Derek Tam, Executive Director

Spring Classes Start Saturday—Something for All Levels!

Our new roster of exciting classes start this week! These classes will have something for everybody, from lectures and demonstrations to play-along sessions.

Listen, practice, dance, ask questions, and interact directly with our faculty members—there's something for everyone!

Enroll at

Early Music Freelancers' Relief Fund—Ninth Round Now Open

Relief fund grant recipients may apply for a ninth grant one month after the date they turned in their eighth grant applications. If you have continuing need, please resubmit your application. However, there is no need to submit documentation of recently lost work, given the paucity of gigs.

First-time grant applicants, as well as repeat applicants who have received fewer than eight grants, will receive priority. (You may file for a continuing grants one month after the day you turned in your previous application.)

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks an unprecedented financial toll on the world economy, our local early music freelancers have been particularly hit hard. Months of work have dried up in days, leaving many musicians on the brink of financial ruin.

In an effort to help our musicians, the SFEMS board has taken the lead in setting up a short-term relief fund for local early music freelancers. Since then, we have received over $60,000 in donations. This fund will provide one-time, first-come, first-served $250 grants to musicians in need, and will do so until funds run out.

UPDATED January 6, 2021: Because of your generosity, SFEMS is more than equipped to continue providing grants for the foreseeable future! We are temporarily suspending the ability to donate to the relief fund, but hope you will considering support SFEMS’s programming.

Need a Tax Letter from SFEMS?

If you need a duplicate copy of your donation acknowledgment for your 2020 tax return, please contact SFEMS Administrator, Stacey Helley, at

You should have received both an email immediately after making your donation fro
m "", and a mailed letter the following month.

NOW OPEN: Local Livestream Concert Proposals for Spring 2021

Since the beginning of the pandemic, SFEMS has remained committed to serving the Bay Area early music community.

As we continue to provide virtual musical events to our community through this time, SFEMS is issuing a call for proposals for live-streamed or pre-recorded programs by local (i.e. Bay Area resident) artists and ensembles for the spring of 2021.

Unless there is a drastic shift in restrictions and the course of the pandemic, we do not expect to present concerts with live audiences.

Learn How to Renew Your SFEMS Membership Step-By-Step

Excited about becoming a member or renewing your membership? SFEMS Marketing Communications Manager Lorena Zapata will guide you step-by-step through the process online!
If your membership renewal is due in the next several months but you are encountering financial difficulties, please contact administrator Stacey Helley at No membership will lapse during the current crisis if we are informed that you would like to continue being a SFEMS member.

To find out your membership status online, log in on our membership page. (N.B. If you use a different login email address than previously on record, please note that it will create a new, separate profile for you that will not have any membership data.)

You will then be prompted to update your contact information. If there is no change, please click "save and continue."

On the next screen, you will be able to see your membership level and expiration date if you are a current member. You may renew a membership within 30 days prior to the expiration date.

Still not sure? Watch this handy video!

Early Music Corner: Music From Another Pandemic

Explore a different facet of the early music world each week!
The manuscript of Media vita in morte sumus has not survived. Fortunately, five of the six parts survive in a copy made in the 1570s.
We know remarkably little about English Renaissance composer John Sheppard (c. 1515–1558). But his cantus firmus setting of Media vita in morte sumus ("In the midst of life we are in death") has become a cult favorite of early music lovers worldwide. Learn more about this mammoth work, most likely written shortly before Sheppard fell victim to plague, in this New York Times article!

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This Week's Events

Want your early music event featured on the SFEMS Weekly Calendar? Contact us here and online at

For events, email SFEMS's Marketing Communications Manager, Lorena Zapata at Please submit listings no later than the Tuesday before the Monday publication.
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