Here at the Convent, we love surprising audiences with a diverse range of musicians at our annual Music in the Round. This year, baroque trio Latitude 37 will add their unique flavour to the mix, delighting audiences on baroque violin, viola de gamba and harpsichord. We chat with Laura from the trio to talk baroque music, rare instruments and what’s in store for their Music in the Round performance.
Latitude 37 were drawn together by their passion for baroque music of the 17th and 18th century. When and how did you become engaged with music from this time period?
Each member of our trio has had their own journey towards specialising in music from the Baroque era. I was drawn to the viola da gamba after hearing recordings of it as a youngster, and baroque repertoire goes with the territory when playing that instrument, as it had disappeared into obscurity by the mid-1700s. Donald was originally a pianist and composition student in Wellington, but through a quirk of fate ended up with a harpsichord in his family home and got hooked that way. Julia fell in love with the sound of the baroque violin on recordings while studying modern violin at the VCA. We all ended up meeting each other at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, which is where we specialised in these instruments and repertoire.
The group’s bio describes baroque music as a genre intended to charm and enchant its audience. What do you enjoy most about performing this style of music?
We all find a lot of the repertoire that we perform very moving and beautiful, but probably one thing that we all enjoy the most is the level of personal freedom we have in our interpretations. Baroque music is much closer to the performance practices of jazz than more modern classical music – this is really fun and allows us to keep every performance fresh and spontaneous.
Congratulations on Latitude 37’s 10th anniversary. How has the group grown and changed over this time?
We have been privileged to work together over the last ten years, which has enabled us to delve into a huge range of baroque repertoire. We have all evolved and matured as musicians over a decade, but still really enjoy performing together. After all these years, the musical nuts and bolts of new pieces click very quickly, which means we can spend most of our rehearsal time on more refined musical interpretative points (and drinking tea with Tim Tams!). The fun thing is that we are still continually finding new repertoire to play.
This is your first time performing at Music in the Round. What are you most looking forward to about performing at the Convent?
We are thrilled to be a part of such a long-running event that has showcased so many of Australia’s finest musicians. The Convent is also a wonderful venue to play, and one that particularly suits the timbres of our instruments, so that combined with the chance to have a chat with some of our audience members at lunch is something we are really looking forward to.
Tell us about the compositions you have chosen for your Music in the Round performance. Why did you choose these pieces, and what do you hope the audience will take away from your performance?
This Music in the Round program is a great example of the different sorts of music that we’ve been able to explore over the last ten years playing together, from traditional Moldavian folk tunes to deeply rhetorical sonatas from 17th century Germany, in two quite different styles. We hope that the audience enjoys the combination of vitality and refinement combined with the unique timbres of baroque violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord.
As part of your Music in the Round performance, you will be presenting traditional music from Moldova. How did you discover these pieces, and do you know much about the history and stories behind them?
We first started looking at music from Eastern Europe a number of years back, when we were exploring the musical soundscape of Europe around the borders of the Ottoman and Holy Roman empires in the 17th century. We discovered that many traditional tunes have origins going back hundreds of years and being able to treat them as they may have been played back then has been a joyful musical experience for us.
You are one of the few players of the rare lirone. What drew you to this instrument?
It’s an instrument that is a kind of older cousin to the viola da gamba, and it is so exotic that it’s quite irresistible. It was used as an accompanying chordal instrument to accompany singers or other melodic instruments in 17th century (mostly) Italian music. You can’t bow on any fewer than 3 or 4 strings at one time. It has a unique sound that is like a mobile consort of viols crossed with some kind of celestial harmonium!
All three members of Latitude 37 studied at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague in the Netherlands. How do you think your European musical education has influenced your love for this genre?
The most striking aspect of working and studying in Europe is the variety of experiences that are available. We are blessed here in Australia with a surprisingly high-quality core of professional musicians, but as it’s such a small country the pool is quite small. Spending time in Europe has allowed us to play with so many different musicians, all with their own interpretative ideas about style, in a variety of musical situations. It’s given all of us a much richer background in developing our own sense of style.
What’s next for Latitude 37?
So far 2018 has been a very busy year, as we’ve been celebrating our 10th anniversary. Coming up on 23 October 2018 is our next concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, a feast of French baroque gorgeousness. A little later in the year we’ll be launching our super exciting new vinyl record “X”, full of some of our all-time favourite pieces. Early 2019 is also set to get off to an amazing start with a tour called Breathtaking with incredible international artists Bruce Dickey (cornetto) and Hana Blažíková (soprano). Join our mailing list or keep an eye on our website www.latitude37baroque.com to stay up to date.