Tracy Cowart (voice, harp, percussion)
David McCormick (vielle, percussion)
Elena Mullins (voice, percussion)
Sian Ricketts (voice, douçaines, recorders)
Niccolo Seligmann (vielles, gittern, scheitholt)
MIRRORING THE OTHER: REFLECTING JEWISH EXPERIENCE IN MEDIEVAL GERMANY
Alkemie looks at the Jewish experience in medieval Germany through newly-composed musical settings of Jewish texts and transcriptions of extant chant, monophonic (one voice) & polyphonic (multiple-voice) works. Stories are drawn from Yiddish epic tales and the Codex Manesse, as well as secular songs, religious poems, liturgical texts, and contemporary chronicles. Delight in the antics of an early Purimshpil and the onomatopoeic sounds of medieval life as well as the sheer beauty of the earliest Jewish chants that survive in Western notation.
Alkemie exists to explore and share the life-affirming and alternative perspectives to be experienced in the sounds of centuries past. Comprised of singer-performers playing over a dozen instruments (including vieles, harps, psaltery, recorders, douçaines, and percussion), the ensemble has a particular interest in the porous boundaries between the court and folk music of the medieval period. Grounded in historical performance practice and fed by a love of experimentation, Alkemie’s performance on the Indianapolis Early Music Festival in June 2018 was lauded as “enchanting” and “indicating [the] future health” of the field of early music.”
Founded in 2013 and incorporated as non-profit since 2018, Alkemie is based in Brooklyn and also performs nationally. In 2018-2019, Alkemie inaugurated an ongoing partnership with the Medieval Studies program at Fordham University, and made their debut on the Music Before 1800 concert series in New York. Alkemie has also appeared at the Amherst Early Music Festival (New London, CT), Amherst Glebe Arts Response (AGAR – Amherst, VA), Beacon Hill Concert Series (Stroudsburg, PA), the Capitol Early Music Series (Washington, DC), Gotham Early Music Scene (GEMS – New York City), and the War Memorial Arts Initiative (Baltimore). In 2019-2020, Alkemie and Elliot Cole premiered a new setting of the fourteenth-century Morte Arthur on the Five Boroughs Music Series (New York). was also featured on the Cambridge Society for Early Music series (MA). Alkemie presented “Sweet Friendship” (a new program of late 15th-century French and Italian songs, dances, and poetry, including period dancing) at Fordham University in January 2020. In 2020-2021 Alkemie looks forward to premiering new programs featuring medieval German Jewish repertoire and the music of Hildegard von Bingen, as well as to the launch of the NYC-based initiative “Alkemie & Friends.”
Alkemie’s members are also committed to the lively teaching of medieval and Renaissance performance practice and history. Alkemie was in residence at Fairmont State University in 2016-2017, and has presented workshops and educational outreach programs at the Capitol Early Music Series (VA), Ramaz High School (NY), and at Fordham University (NY). Alkemie members teach collegiate and amateur students at Case Western Reserve University (OH), Fordham University (NY), the Strathmore Arts Center (MD), Amherst Early Music Festival (CT), the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin (OH) and through the Early Music Access Project (VA).
Tracy Cowart (voice, gothic harp) enjoys a wide range of vocal interests, from twelfth-century polyphony to contemporary art music. Praised by the New York Times as “the real attraction” with a voice that is “light and lithe,” Tracy has performed with Apollo’s Fire, Musica Pacifica, Opera Lafayette, the Newberry Consort, Rose of the Compass, Seven Times Salt, Severall Friends, Tenet, Three Notch’d Road, the Vox Vocal Ensemble, and the Washington Bach Consort. Also known for her interpretations of new music, Tracy has performed with the Great Noise Ensemble, sung cabaret with the Richmond Festival of Music, and toured Weird Uncle, an experimental group that fuses medieval modes, jug band, and electronica. Tracy received her M.M. in Early Music from the Longy School of Music and her D.M.A. in Historical Performance Practice from Case Western Reserve University; she is faculty with the Amherst Early Music Festival, and has been a guest-artist/lecturer at Pennsylvania State University, Fairmont State University, Bucknell University, and the Society for Seventeenth Century Music. She is a proud collaborator with the Charlottesville-based Early Music Access Project, and co-directs the early music Collegium at Fordham University with Sian Ricketts. When she is not performing, she is an enthusiastic forager and member of the New York Mycological Society.
David McCormick (viele) performs regularly on both violin and viele (medieval fiddle) and is in demand as an educator and arts leader. He is the founding Artistic Director of Early Music Access Project (EMAP), a rotating group of musicians bringing a wide range of early music to Charlottesville and surrounding communities. Through EMAP, David has been awarded a 2020 Fellowship with the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, culminating in a series of concerts exploring Thomas Jefferson’s extensive music library. David is Executive Director of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, where he appeared as featured violin soloist for the opening concert of the 25th Anniversary Season. David has recently performed with Washington Bach Consort, Mountainside Baroque, North Carolina Baroque Orchestra, and as featured guest artist for the Bach-Handel Festival at Shenandoah University. His degrees in music education and performance from Shenandoah University and Case Western Reserve University include specialized training in chamber music and historical performance. He is a 2017 recipient of Shenandoah Conservatory’s Rising Stars Alumni Award.
Praised for her “alluring” performances and “easy virtuosity” (Cleveland Classical), early music specialist Elena Mullins (voice, percussion) is equally at home singing 16th-century lute songs, adding percussion to 13th-century estampies, and breaking down 18th-century baroque dance patterns. She takes a scholarly interest in the performance practices of early repertoires, and is co-founder of two medieval ensembles, Alkemie and Trobár. Elena has performed with a number of period music ensembles, including Les Délices, The Newberry Consort, Apollo’s Fire, Three Notch’d Road, and Quire Cleveland. She received her B.A. from the Eastman School of Music, and her D.M.A. from Case Western Reserve University. She returned to CWRU in 2016 where she teaches medieval and Renaissance notation, medieval music history, and baroque dance, and conducts the Early Music Singers.
Sian Ricketts (voice, recorders, douçaines) enjoys a multi-faceted career as a singer and period woodwinds specialist. She performs medieval, Renaissance and baroque chamber music and orchestral repertoire with ensembles such as Alkemie (NY), Bach Collegium Fort Wayne (IN), Apollo’s Fire (OH), Dallas Bach Society, Piffaro (PA), Forgotten Clefs, and Labyrinth Baroque (NY). In addition to her interest in early music, Sian also regularly performs 21st-century repertoire as both an instrumentalist and singer, and has collaborated with composers such as Jonathan Dawe, Gregory Spears, Elliot Cole, and Mark Nowakowski. Sian was a Visiting Medieval Fellow at Fordham University for 2019-2020, and is also co-director of Fordham University’s Collegium ensemble. Sian holds a D. M. A. in historical performance practice from Case Western Reserve University with concentrations in voice and baroque oboe.
Multi-instrumentalist Niccolo Seligmann (vieles, percussion) is an improviser, composer, arranger, producer, and educator with a special focus on performing historical and traditional music. He plays over twenty acoustic instruments from around the world and designs his own software instruments. You can hear him perform on viola da gamba, medieval fiddle, and more on the soundtracks of the video game Civilization VI and the 2017 feature film Papillon. Niccolo is a member of ensembles Alkemie, The Broken Consort, Hesperus, and others. He was a 2019-2020 Artist in Residence at Strathmore Music Center, and has toured across North America and Europe, including performances at the Kennedy Center, in a bustling plaza in Nogales, Mexico, and inside a 2000-year-old Northern Californian redwood tree. Niccolo co-directed the UCLA Early Music Ensemble from 2016-2018, and continues a bicoastal private teaching studio. He holds a degree in viola da gamba performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and enjoys spending time playing Irish and Swedish tunes as a member of his husband’s family band, Wherligig.