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Early Music Ensembles: What’s in a Name?

A reflection on ensemble names in Early Music and what they represent.

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Photo: Kirrily Robert

Ensemble names are very important in early music.

Early music ensembles, like their counterparts in later repertoires, choose their names for a host of reasons. And, depending on certain factors, it can either help or hurt the ensemble in its promotion efforts. Professional groups seek to be known for what they do and to earn a living from it.

A recent humorous blog post by Daniel J. Wakin (nytimes.com) points out that some names may give a different impression than the ensemble originally intended. Focusing on Early Music America’s ensemble touring roster, he found that a few of the names were definitely open to interpretation.

On the NY Times Arts Beats Blog, Wakin writes:

Some, certainly, sound venerable and staid: the Handel and Haydn Society and the Tudor Choir. But then there are Les Délices (a dessert?), the Catacoustic Consort (a really disastrous spouse?)…the Ensemble Caprice (a bevy of Chevys?).

This brings up a good point. What’s in a name? Are they important?

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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  • http://www.marklackey.net/ Mark

    Continuing the fun, the following names work well enough for insiders, but to the average music lover I suspect that:
    - Capilla Flamenca is presumed to be a Spanish hair salon,
    - Zefiro Torna conjures an airline of dirigibles, and
    - Florilegium sounds like one of the dangers of contaminated drinking water….

  • http://www.marklackey.net/ Mark

    Continuing the fun, the following names work well enough for insiders, but to the average music lover I suspect that:
    - Capilla Flamenca is presumed to be a Spanish hair salon,
    - Zefiro Torna conjures an airline of dirigibles, and
    - Florilegium sounds like one of the dangers of contaminated drinking water….

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