Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Liaison - San Francisco's Freshest Baroque Ensemble

Photo by Natalie Perez
(From right to left)
Susie Fong, harpsichord
Danielle Reutter-Harrah, mezzo
Hallie Pridham, cello/gamba
Katy Olsen, soprano
San Francisco, one of top tourist destinations in the world and the second most densely-populated city in the U.S. Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, and Harry Callahan, the, sadly, fictional .44 Magnum-wielding policeman made famous by Clint Eastwood in Don Siegel's cult flick 'Dirty Harry'.

Some on this side of the continent may not be aware of this, but San Fran is also host to two(!) HIP (Historically Informed Performance) Orchestre, the American Bach Soloists and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; and a thriving chamber music scene. The San Francisco Conservatory, one of the most important, if not the most; conservatories on the west coast, runs a baroque ensemble as well as a masterclass series with help from the American Bach Soloists, who also run an academy there in the summer.

Recently, the garden that is the Bay Area's music scene has become that much richer. Four fruits of the San Francisco Conservatory's labour have bunched together to become Liaison, an early-music ensemble which hopes to better engage local audiences. "We hope for our concerts to have a feel more accustomed to a local pop concert," says Susie, Liaison's harpsichordist; "where audiences there feel that they have a personal connection with the musicians more-so than at a concert of classical music."

Although there are challenges ahead, as with most brand new ensembles, Liaison has youth on its side. The four 20-somethings hope to cultivate an audience of both usual early-music concert-goers as well as under-35s by creating a more social atmosphere, presenting more dramatic material, and performing in 'non-traditional' venues. Although a perfect venue springs to mind, Danielle noted that, due to possible culture shock, "we couldn't just walk into a bar and play [baroque] music."

An encouraging prospect is the group's commitment to success. Before their first appearance in public, Liaison already had 3 engagements booked for the first half of 2012. What's their secret? Katy, enlightened me: "We're all responsible for networking, getting gigs and we split tasks among us. I organised the photo shoot, for example." Susie, responsible for creating the group's Facebook page, had a life in arts marketing before completing her masters this past spring, having worked with the San Francisco Symphony as well as the San Francisco Jazz Festival, and her skills have been put to good use. Interestingly enough, a top priority for the ensemble is the development of a press kit.

Liaison's main interest is the music of the French baroque, though they don't limit themselves to that. Displaying a range of styles in their inaugural concert, the quartet performed in a very intimate setting at the Starlite Vineyards, just north of San Pablo Bay.
Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).