Weekly Newsletter 

 October 12, 2020 — The Bay Area Early Music Digest 
This week in Early Music: 

A Note From Us

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For music lovers out there, this week brought the upsetting news not only of rock idol Eddie Van Halen's death, but also the passing of Mohammad Reza Shajarian, an Iranian singer whose voice was regarded as a national treasure.

What do Van Halen and Shajarian have to do with early music? For one thing, Van Halen's virtuosity hearkens back to devilish tales about those legendary violinists, Tartini and Paganini. But equally as important, Van Halen improvisations provide textbook examples of rhetoric, that essential framework for performing late Renaissance and Baroque music. If you've never heard Van Halen before, I encourage you to start with "Eruption," that quintessential solo heard in teenagers' garages in the late 70s and early 80s. At the very least, it quotes a Kreutzer etude (banes of budding violinists everywhere)!

While many of us have never heard of Shajarian—I had not, admittedly, before reading his obituary—when I listened to his rendition of the Rabbana, a sung prayer that signaled it was time for observant Muslims in Iran to break their daily fast during Ramadan, I was enraptured. His masterful high tenor voice reminded me of how a singer of the late Renaissance might have enthralled audiences with her dimunitions. More importantly, though, was how Sharjarian used the classical Persian tradition subversively to advocate for political change and freedom in Iran. When the state finally caught on and silenced his singing in Iran (though he continued to perform abroad), it was too late. His death in Tehran on Thursday inspired a giant protest, as the crowds sang in unison a line from one of his most famous songs: “Bird of freedom, sing for me, renew my grief."

Wishing you and yours health and safety,

Derek Tam, Executive Director

Severall Friends presents
Le Roman de Fauvel on Oct. 24

Saturday, October 24 at 4:00 p.m. PT
High-definition Vimeo livestream with purchase.
Available on-demand through November 14.

How does a horse become the ruler of his master’s house? Delve into the strange and satirical world of Le Roman de Fauvel, a biting criticism of the intrigues of church and state in 14th-century France that resounds still today.

Join early music legend Mary Springfels and Severall Friends on a musical excursion into a poem that illuminates all-too-human foibles and vices.

Tracy Cowart, harp and voice; Shira Kammen, Medieval fiddle; Drew Minter, voice and harp; Mark Rimple, citole and gittern; Mary Springfels, citole and vielle; Spiff Wiegand, hurdy-gurdy and percussion
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Fall Virtual Classes Are Now in Session!

Percussionist extraordinaire and SFEMS faculty member Peter Maund welcomes musicians of all ages and levels to check out the 2020 fall virtual classes!
Come enjoy SFEMS's patented mix of
playing, scholarship, and community! 

We're taking a deeper dive into the world of early music with our world-class faculty as we build upon our summer virtual sessions by presenting several mini-series, each consisting of of five classes, as well as some one-offs that follow up on the summer's topics.

You may choose just one or all five in a series.

Individual mini-series classes are $25 each. If you purchase all five classes for ONE mini-series, you will receive a $15 discount for that mini-series.

We will also offer time for casual gathering and community with our popular (and free) sherry hours from 4:15 to 4:45PM on Sundays.
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"Pressing Play in the Pause"—Join Us for Our 2020–21 Virtual Season

In these extraordinary times, the power of music to transcend the vicissitudes of fortune has become more vital than ever. Though our lives remain on hold, music must move forward.

Join us for our 44th season of extraordinary music-making! Press play in the pause with us as we share an ongoing series of unique online concerts, starting with three presentations this fall.

With your household ticket purchase, you will receive a unique link to our high-definition livestream. Each presentation will feature pre-recorded and live material, as well as a special opportunity to interact with our artists through our live chat.

Concerts will also be available on demand for a limited time after the initial livestream. Our first concert with Agave Baroque on October 3 is still available on demand (scroll below).

Our remaining presentations include:

October 24: Severall Friends presents Le Roman de Fauvel
November 21: Tabea Debus and Alon Sariel present Ohrwurm

Savor great music—period.

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NEW: Watch Agave Baroque On Demand Through Oct. 24!

A high-definition Vimeo stream of our Oct. 3 concert presentation, "American Originals", is available with $15 purchase.
It will be available on-demand through October 24.
Incomparable countertenor Reginald L. Mobley joins Agave Baroque to celebrate Black and Latino composers from North and South America, centering on the United States with stops in Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.

Among the many treasures of this repertoire are an unexpected and sentimental side of Scott Joplin, a song by Black American guitar virtuoso Justin Holland, two works by the earliest known Cuban classical composer, and a set of songs by the extraordinary Florence B. Price, who seamlessly blended Romantic art song and spirituals into a sound all her own.

Recorded Saturday, October 3 at 4:00 p.m. PT

Early Music Freelancers' Relief Fund: Sixth Round Now Open

Relief fund grant recipients may apply for a sixth grant one month after the date they turned in their fifth grant applications. If you have continuing need, please resubmit your application with documentation demonstrating your continuing need.

First-, second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-time grant applicants 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 $50,000 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.

If You're Looking to Renew Your Membership, Watch This Video

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!
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!

Early Music Corner: In Memoriam: Martha Bixler

Explore a different facet of the early music world each week!
For many of her 93 years, Martha Bixler was a pioneer on the American early music scene. From her days performing with the legendary New York Pro Musica, to her tireless work with the American Recorder Society, she left an incredible legacy with her passing on October 7. To learn more about Martha in her own words, please read this 2014 memoir.

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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 Thursday before the Monday publication.
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