August Denhard is executive director of the Early Music Guild of Seattle, one of the few prominent concert series in North America devoted to Early Music. August is also a professional lutenist with a number of fascinating projects.
Tell us about the Early Music Guild of Seattle?
The Early Music Guild (EMG) has been in existence since 1977.
As professional musicians devoted to early music settled here in the late 70s, there was a desire to form an organization to present concerts and also bring in the world’s best performers for a regular concert series.
During the last three decades, our International Series has developed into one of the most highly respected early music series in the US. We have a fantastic audience that is both devoted and knowledgeable (between 600 and 720 people attend each concert).
In 2002, EMG started producing and presenting baroque opera, which has helped us tap into Seattle’s opera audience, already developed by Seattle Opera. This new opera program has been a big success, and has allowed us to partner with some fantastic theatre companies.
Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was our last production. We look forward to mounting another in 2011.
EMG has other programs that support the local early music scene; we have Early Music Discovery concerts for seniors and families; a “First Tuesdays” series every month for Seattle-based artists; a School Program for elementary schools; and periodic workshops for amateur and semi- professional workshops.
We also run a community collegiums program that consists of a baroque orchestra directed by Ingrid Matthews, a Renaissance choir directed by Gary Cannon, and an ensemble for solo voices and continuo directed by myself and Bill McJohn.
Finally, our Professional Affiliate program has provided startup support for many of Seattle’s other early music organizations, including Seattle Baroque directed by Ingrid Matthews, the Medieval Women’s Choir directed by Margriet Tindemans, Pacific Operaworks directed by Stephen Stubbs, Baroque Northwest directed by Kim Pineda, and others.
You are the Executive Director of the Guild. What are some of your responsibilities?
In previous years I was very active in program development, especially the baroque opera program (in the beginning), but now I find much of my time is devoted to fund-raising.
EMG has some fantastic programs, and we need to work hard to maintain and develop them.
What kind of Early Music scene does Seattle have?
Seattle has a fantastic scene, due in large measure to EMG’s commitment to develop it through its Professional Affiliate program. We have created our own competition, in a sense, but the result has been good for the scene at large.
Seattle has a baroque orchestra, a baroque dance troupe, a baroque opera company, various choirs devoted to early music, and a constantly changing array of early chamber music concerts.
From September to June, there are usually several early music concerts per weekend, with many weekends providing multiple options audiences.
You are also a professional lutenist. What are some of your current projects?
Because of my responsibilities with EMG, I don’t do as much freelancing as I used to. I now do best with projects with specific players with whom I’ve worked over many years.
I have been part of the Baroque Northwest Quartet with baroque flutist Kim Pineda since 2000; I have an active lute song duo with tenor Eric Mentzel; and I work with the udist/composer Münir Beken in a program of medieval music influenced by Ottoman classical music.
I also have a solo CD called Cusp of the Baroque, and Münir and I are just finishing a CD that should be ready by next summer.