Ars Antiqua
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Ars Antiqua

Reston, Virginia, United States

Reston, Virginia, United States
Band Classical World


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The 4CD Set includes more than 5 hours of listening with 81 different tracks of music covering 6 centuries. The selections were deliberately not arranged chronologically in order to give the listener the most attractive and varied experience. Also included with set is a full-color brochure giving historical and photographic background.



The unexpected rediscovery in 2003 of excellent audiotape recordings, stored and almost forgotten for over 40 years, and their highly successful remastering onto CD's, using modern sound and computer-editing techniques, made it possible to release, in October 2005, a remarkable and historic 4-CD Set with a beautiful, full-color, illustrated brochure, called "An Ars Antiqua Renaissance". It is especially exciting that these superb recordings of an extensive variety of pre-1750 music, recorded live on nonprofessional Tandberg reel-to-reel equipment during actual Ars Antiqua public performances, still exhibit the same immediacy, presence, good-hearted entertainment, and well-performed, robust, non-mannered music-making, that had so greatly delighted Ars Antiqua's original audiences in the 1960's.

In 1957, in Rochester, NY, Dorothy Purdy Amarandos, cellist and viola da gambist, founded a professional group called Ars Antiqua specializing in then-unique performances of musical theatre incorporating greatly diverse music from the six centuries prior to 1750. These were among the earliest such programs then available in America, offering a unique synthesis of the history and arts of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Soon after its earliest beginnings as a small instrumental and vocal ensemble, Ars Antiqua was fortunate in developing an association with the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. The Gallery's majestic and beautiful Fountain Court provided a large, elegant, and resonant performing space, and, particularly from 1960-1965, helped to draw large, enthusiastic, and loyal audiences. Rochester is the home city of the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, and Ars Antiqua was fortunate in being able to draw upon the many talents of the highly skilled, professional, musical and theatrical performers living in and around the city, most of whom had Eastman or University of Rochester affiliations. During the later years, Dorothy Amarandos was assisted in historical research by musicologist and violinist Dorothy Packer. Together they mined the riches of Eastman's Sibley Music Library and its vast world-class treasure trove of collections of early music and rare historical books. Ms. Packer also researched the Library of Congress, finding and transcribing all-but-forgotten compositions such as the comedy ballets of the "Querelle of the Theatres", a marionette opera revived by Ars Antiqua in its program, "Theatre de la Foire". Unfortunately, most of the later programs of Dr. Packer's research were not recorded because the company was, by then, performing in Kilbourn Hall.

Performances were enhanced with colorful period costuming, interpretive sets, and impressive illustrated printed programs providing background information about Ars Antiqua, the composers, the performers, and the chosen historical period of the day -- beautiful programs which were, in themselves, collectable masterpieces of original art and design. The aim was to immerse listeners in the sights and sounds, even tastes, of the day's chosen period. Authentic banquets were often provided for Ars Antiqua audience members at a local restaurant between afternoon and evening performances.

Each production represented an important historical idea, tradition, development, time in history, or the cross currents of society and culture of a particular period. In the 22 different Ars Antiqua productions offered over those years, unifying ideas from the 12th to the 18th centuries ranged from Medieval church dramas like "Herod" and the "Legends of St Nicholas", to recreations from the court lives of Italy's Lorenzo di Medici, England's Elizabeth I, France's Louis XIV, and Portugal's Ferdinand and Isabella, to troubadour and lute songs, English masques, and hilarious theatrical court entertainments. The very history of musical evolution itself and its relationships to the social and political influences and great writers of the times such as Dante, Shakespeare, and Moliere served as inspiration for Ars Antiqua productions. Such recreations have become popular over more recent years. But in the early 1960's, Ars Antiqua's productions were path-breaking, offering a renaissance of all-but-forgotten treasures of early music and theatre, some silenced for nearly 200 years because of changing fashions, lack of awareness, or unavailability of authentic period instruments.

Ars Antiqua was one of the earlier groups to perform on instruments authentic to the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Dorothy Amarandos played a six-string bass viola da gamba. Other strings included the five-string violino pomposo, the seven-string viola d'amore (with seven sympathetic strings), six-string treble and tenor viols, the lute, and the psalter.

Wind instruments included various recorders, the rauchenfife and sordune, hand horns without valves, double-reed hautbois and crumhorns, and the trombone-like sackbut. A small harpsichord