Chatham Baroque, Inc.

Early Music Guide

Early Music is the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and Early Classical periods (roughly 1200 to 1800). It’s a different kind of classical music experience. Unlike modern orchestras, the musicians usually don’t need a conductor to perform. The concerts are intimate, and the ensembles are small enough that anyone can become musically acquainted with each performer just by listening closely. After several concerts, you might become familiar with rare and strange instruments and discover your fandom of obscure geniuses from centuries ago.

The musicians perform on period instruments or replicas of instruments from the past that the music was originally intended for. This means that trumpets don’t have valves, and strings are usually made out of the gut. If you’d like to learn a little more about the surprising natural materials used to recreate these instruments, we recommend this article by Jeremy Reynolds. Case Western Reserve University has a great online Early Music instrument database that can be found here. The musicians also strive to recreate the same techniques as used by musicians in the past. For instance, a singer specializing in Early Music repertoire would sound different than a modern opera singer because the Early Music singer would be drawing upon an older style of singing from 16th or 17th-century manuals. On the other hand, some elements of the music are left solely to the performer to realize. In Baroque Music, players would have to follow an unspecific set of instructions for their parts, similar jazz musician improvising using a lead sheet. The musicians are also permitted to add or change certain things about the written music, like adding improvised ornaments or dynamic changes.

We invite you to explore the past with us, and in so doing, gain some insight into the world which inspires the performers and performances on our series.


The Eras of Early Music:

The Medieval period

The Renaissance period

The Baroque period

Famous Composers from before 1750:

Claudio Monteverdi

Henry Purcell

Jean Baptiste Lully

Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger

Dietrich Buxtehude

Antonio Vivaldi

G. F. Handel

J. S. Bach

Featured Composers

These are composers who are less well known in the present day, but still wrote some incredible music that will be featured in an upcoming Chatham Baroque or Renaissance and Baroque performance:

Antonio Bertali

H.I.F. Biber

William Lawes