Alkemie & Friends
Tracy Cowart, dancer, voice & harp
Ben Matus, dancer, voice, winds, lute & percussion
Elena Mullins, dancer, voice & percussion
Sian Ricketts, voice & winds
Niccolo Seligmann, composer, vielles, viola a chiavi, lute, lirone & percussion
Alyssa Weathersby, dancer & voice
Sweet Friendship: Courtly Songs & Dances from 15th-century France & Italy
Notes on the Program
This program includes adaptations of three lively balli and a stately bassadanza choreographed by the fifteenth-century dancing master Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro. In the case of the balli, thechoreographies and music (both attributed to Guglielmo) are preserved in his treatise De pratica seu arte tripudii, and we drew other pieces of dance music from the treatises of Guglielmo’s predecessor Domenico da Piacenza. The vocal music was drawn from a group of beautifully illuminated fifteenth- century songbooks known as the Loire Valley chansonniers. We’ve selected two pieces by the great Burgundian composer Antoine Busnois as well as a variety of equally compelling songs by lesser known and anonymous composers.
Le grant pena
Anon., Amiens MS 162 D
Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro (c. 1420-c. 1484)
Le joly tetin
Anon.,Copenhagen no. 17
O Dieu d’amour
Delahaye (fl. 1465)
Anon., Brussels MS
Domenico da Piacenza (c. 1400-c. 1470)
A la longue
Fede (fl. 1450)
Domenico da Piacenza
Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro
A vous sans aultre
La casoulle nouvelle
Anon., Toulouze MS
(Improvisation by Niccolo Seligmann)
Domenico da Piacenza
Voltate in ça Rosina/Poi che’l ciel e la fortuna
Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro
Anon.,Frottole libro VII (Ottaviano Petrucci)
Premiere 7:00 PM ET Nov 7, 2021
OnDemand Nov 7-14, 2021
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 vielles, harps, psaltery, gittern, 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, Alkemie is based in Brooklyn and also performs nationally; since 2018 they have maintained a partnership with the Medieval Studies program at Fordham University. In addition to growing a series in NYC, Alkemie has appeared at the Amherst Early Music Festival (New London, CT), Amherst Glebe Arts Response (AGAR – Amherst, VA), Beacon Hill Concert Series (Stroudsburg, PA), the Cambridge Society for Early Music (Cambridge, MA), the Capitol Early Music Series (Washington, DC), Five Boroughs Music Series (NYC) Gotham Early Music Scene (NYC), Music Before 1800 series (NYC), and the War Memorial Arts Initiative (Baltimore).
In 2020-2021, Alkemie debuted a recorded program of Medieval Ashkenazi and German music(“Mirroring the Other”), early American and English ballads and Renaissance consort repertoire(“Blood, Booze, and Betrayal”), and “Florilegium,” all of which featured new works from ensemble members and collaborators. With the support of the Arizona Early Music Society, Capitol Early Music, and the Amherst Early Music Festival, Alkemie also produced two recorded programs (“Sweet Friendship” and “Love to My Liking”); and a livestreamed concert of the music of Hildegard von Bingen in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanities & Health and Fordham University.
Later this season, Alkemie looks forward to a collaboration with Grammy-nominated duo Chapter House featuring music inspired by the fables of Marie de France and a reprise of their “Verdant Medicine: Hildegard’s Resonant Apothecary” program with pre-eminent vielle player and composer Shira Kammen.
Alkemie’s members are also committed to the lively teaching of medieval and Renaissanceperformance practice and history. Alkemie has presented workshops and educational outreachprograms at the Capitol Early Music Series (VA), Ramaz High School (NY), and at FordhamUniversity (NY), and Alkemie members teach collegiate and amateur students at Case WesternReserve University (OH), Fordham University (NY), the Strathmore Arts Center (MD), AmherstEarly 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.
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.
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.
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.
Artist in Residence, Ben Matus enjoys a varied career in music: he brings music to life regardless of whether it was written in the Middle Ages or yesterday. Based in NYC, Ben performs with many early music groups on various bassoons and dulcians along the East Coast—including Early Music New York, New York Baroque Incorporated, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, The Clarion Society, Opera Lafayette, The Handel and Haydn Society, and more. In addition to his performances in concert halls, Ben plays and sings for the Chivalrous Crickets, a band focused on the folk traditions of the British Isles, America, and their early music roots. Ben began his musical training as a boy soprano in a church choir in Bucks County, PA and continued on to receive a BM from the Eastman School of Music and a MM from the Juilliard School. His latest passion project is self-accompanying medieval songs and stories on bagpipes. In his spare time Ben can be found attending his friends’ concerts (pandemic permitting), rereading books by Tolkien, or recording birds deep in the woods.
Alyssa Weathersby is a dynamic and versatile director, choreographer, performer, and teacher. Based in both New York and Boston, Alyssa integrates her deep understanding of dance, classical voice, and theatre into a distinct style that has been seen in her work across the country. Alyssa recently completed an apprentice directorship with Opera NEO in San Diego, California, where she directed scenes in the NEO Cabaret, including the infamous Cell Block Tango from Chicago, with “aptly aggressive” choreography, and “Per piacere alla signora” from Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia, which was praised for its “cleverly designed” staging. A dynamic cross-over performer with both operatic and musical theatre credits, Alyssa’s portrayal of the glamorously antagonistic Blanche Ingram in Jane Eyre was called “ an embarrassments of riches….Alyssa Weathersby, as Blanche, makes it easy for you to hiss at the character, every bit the mean girl, with a strong soprano voice.” Other favorite roles include Tess Goode (The Sisters Rosensweig), Blondchen (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Skokànek (Příhody lišky Bystroušky), First Priestess (Iphigénie en Tauride), Cunegonde (u/s, Candide), Fire (u/s) and Nightingale (L’enfent et les Sortilèges), Clorinda (Cinderella), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte), Woman 1 (Songs for a New World), and Sarah Brown (Guys & Dolls). Alyssa holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston and a Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy from the New England Conservatory of Music.