On June 15, 2018, Renaissance & Baroque and Chatham Baroque officially merged under the umbrella of Chatham Baroque, Inc. Don’t worry; neither group is slowing down. In fact, each group will retain its unique artistic identity and programming, while Renaissance & Baroque will also expand their community outreach and educational work. Full seasons of both Renaissance & Baroque and Chatham Baroque are about to start with season subscriptions still available for each individual group, or for both groups, thanks to a new combined subscription option.
Chatham Baroque, Inc. is the corporate entity that has always managed the Chatham Baroque performing ensemble’s local concerts, tours, musical collaborations, and recordings, as well as their Peanut Butter & Jam Sessions for preschool children. Marking their 28th season this year, Chatham Baroque’s trio of artistic directors and core ensemble members, Andrew Fouts (baroque violin), founding member Patricia Halverson (viola da gamba), and Scott Pauley (theorbo and baroque guitar) will continue to specialize in seventeenth- and eighteen-century music played on instruments of the period. Their first concerts of the season will be Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on Friday, September 21 at Westminster Presbyterian in Upper St. Clair, Saturday, September 22 at Synod Hall in Oakland, and Sunday, September 23 at Chatham University. Guest artists include Cynthia Black and Alice Culin-Ellison (violins), Kristen Linfante (viola), J. Tracy Mortimore (double bass), and Justin Wallace (harpsichord).
You can see Chatham Baroque for free at their all-ages concert scheduled for Saturday, September 29, 2018, at 2:00 pm at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shady Side as part of RADical Days. Guest artist Alan Lewis will be playing the harpsichord, along with the core trio.
Whereas Chatham Baroque has always been a performing and self-producing entity, Renaissance & Baroque is strictly a presenting organization, bringing touring groups from around the world to perform in Pittsburgh. Renaissance & Baroque concerts have historically specialized in medieval to early classical musical works. The first offering of their 50th anniversary season, The Rose Ensemble’s Land of the Three Faiths: Voices of Ancient Mediterranean Jews, Christians, and Muslims is set for Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 8:00 pm at Synod Hall, Oakland. The performance will feature an appearance by Pittsburgh’s Temple Sinai Choir, and there will be a pre-concert discussion with Rose Ensemble’s Artistic and Executive Director, Jordan Sramek, from 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm. This is the Rose Ensemble’s final season, and thus, the last time Pittsburgh will have a chance to experience their work first hand. In addition to their concert, and as part of the expanded educational offerings of Renaissance & Baroque, Rose Ensemble members will be working with music students at CAPA during their tenure in the city.
The complementary musical interests of Chatham Baroque and Renaissance & Baroque have often lead to cooperation and collaboration between the two groups in the past. They have performed together and have shared office space. Thus, the administrative merger was a natural progression. Chatham Baroque, Inc.’s Executive Director, Donna Goyak, expounds, “Any merger can be difficult, but because of the mission alignment of the two companies, our established relationship, and the fact that Renaissance & Baroque always had the best way to sustain and expand their mission as their guiding force throughout – the process went very well.”
The merger is the result of almost a year of planning. Donna Goyak explains, “Renaissance & Baroque had been looking at ways to enter into some sort of strategic alliance.” Informal discussions between the two organizations began last fall, and during those discussions, Renaissance & Baroque’s then executive director resigned to pursue another position. That accelerated discussions, since it left Renaissance & Baroque without any staff. “Instead of hiring an interim director, Renaissance & Baroque turned to Chatham Baroque, Inc., and we entered into a contract to manage the rest of their season.” This lead to the decision to merge. “It made the most sense,” Ms. Goyak iterates. “We already have the capacity, the expertise, and the confidence of the funders. It seemed like a natural conclusion.”
The complexities of the merger were navigated pro bono by the law firm of K&L Gates. And community support for the merger was felt in the form of an anonymous donation and a Connections Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) to “address one-time costs, such as equipment, staff, website updates, database mergers.”
To accommodate the merger, Chatham Baroque, Inc.’s existing board of directors, led by Board President William Semins, has welcomed on three of the retiring Renaissance & Baroque board members. Ms. Goyak points out that the two organizations often had crossovers between board members previously anyway. In addition, Chatham Baroque, Inc. will begin a search for full-time operations and finance manager in October. The rest of the existing Chatham Baroque, Inc. staff will remain the same; these include the three artistic directors/resident musicians, the executive director, and a marketing manager/development associate.
Chatham Baroque, Inc.’s mission statement has been expanded to “include the breadth of early music,” from “Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and Early Classical periods through vivid and compelling performances and educational experiences.” Ms. Goyak expects this change to “broaden our impact locally. We expect to reach more people. It also allows us to deliver programming that isn’t reliant on our three artistic directors,” who already have a full schedule of performing, recording, touring, and collaboration with other musicians.
Ms. Goyak reports, “The most difficult part of [the merger] was trying to manage two separate organizations and manage the merger at the same time. And being able to launch [both seasons on time] was nothing short of heroic. That was pretty extraordinary.”
Now that the merger is complete, “it’s just a matter of getting ourselves organized,” states Ms. Goyak, whose staff is still busy working to merge databases and websites and social media accounts and ticketing systems. Ms. Goyak reports the ticketing and subscription systems for Chatham Baroque and Renaissance & Baroque were different on multiple levels, not least of which was Renaissance & Baroque’s reserved seating versus Chatham Baroque’s open seating policy. Chatham Baroque, Inc. worked out a way for longstanding Renaissance & Baroque subscribers to maintain their chosen seats this season while opening up the rest of the subscriptions to open seating.
Renaissance & Baroque and Chatham Baroque have shared some of the same subscribers in the past, though not as many as one might think. Donna Goyak was surprised to find there was only “about a 45% crossover between our audiences.” So, the merger has offered a real opportunity to expand the audiences for both entities, and Ms. Goyak was pleased to introduce the dual subscription option in this first season of merged operations. “I am very excited about the response we are getting…A lot of people have opted for the dual subscription.”
Pittsburgh can look forward to many more years of amazing early music performances created and presented by Chatham Baroque and Renaissance & Baroque. All programming and ticket sales for both groups can be found on the Chatham Baroque, Inc. website at www.chathambaroque.org.
Photos courtesy of Chatham Baroque, Inc