A new Neo-Baroque ensemble made up of young local musicians will perform in Orange County early next year.
Kontrapunktus’ Feb. 10 concert at Mission Basilica Catholic Church in San Juan Capistrano will feature a performance of Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day by George Frideric Handel. On March 9, the group will perform the works of lesser known Baroque composers such as Domenico Scarlatti, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Giuseppe Tartinini at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.
The young group, which has performed two concerts to date, owes its existence to executive director Raymond Jacobs.
Jacobs isn’t a musician himself — he works for a criminal defense attorney and a CPA firm. But his own form of art and true passion is poetry. For many years, Baroque music has served as the soundtrack fueling his poetic works.
In 2015, while searching for a Baroque composer to provide music to accompany an audio book of an epic poem he wrote, Jacobs, 47, of Long Beach connected through Craigslist with local composer Mark Moya.
Inspired by his work, Jacobs decided to alter his goal and formed a group of 21 musicians to record an album with Moya’s compositions.
When the album, “A Neo-Baroque Introduction,” was finished, the group disbanded.
But because of the heightened interest in the album, Jacobs decided last year to form a permanent Baroque group, Kontrapunktus, with 10 of the original members. The group’s name is Latin for counterpoint, the musical structure that Baroque composers used.
As an ensemble, it consists of six violins, a viola, cello, bass and harpsichord, a necessity in the Baroque style.
Although it’s unusual, there is no traditional conductor, but Etienne Gara is the group’s concert master, acting as a hybrid conductor while playing the violin.
Gara, 33, immigrated to Los Angeles from Paris six years ago.
He began playing music at age 5, and Gara now performs with the Los Angeles Opera and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
He has worked with violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman, Grammy Award-winning violaist Kim Kashkashian and famed cellist János Starker, among other notable performers.
Gara plays a variety of music, but he especially enjoys performing the Baroque style with Kontrapunktus, which he calls a close-knit group.
“Baroque music is really accessible,” Gara said. “It’s extremely lively. People connect immediately with it. There’s a direct line between musicians and the audience.”
Jacobs believes Baroque music is the most animated and spontaneous form of classical music, yet it hasn’t necessarily fared well in the public relations department. He considers it to be an under-recognized form.
While great works like Handel’s “Messiah” and most everything Bach composed are known by many, there are a host of other important Baroque composers that go unnoticed by the general populace.
Jacobs hopes his group can help elevate these composers in the public conscious, and in the process, reintroduce people to what he considers the most spirited form of classical music.
“There’s a wealth of music out there from other composers,” Jacobs said. “The other angle that makes us unique is that we are trying to place a spotlight on other composers from that period that are less known but have music that is just as rich in texture and just as vibrant as Bach.
“We want to be able to make it an adventure for people when they come to our show. I think they are going to be taken by surprise at how vibrant and alive the music is when they witness it in person.”
Kontrapunktus will perform with the De Angelis Vocal Ensemble at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 at Mission Basilica Catholic Church at 31520 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Tickets may be purchased at https://deangelisensemble.org/calendar/.
The group will perform at 8 p.m. March 9 at St. Mark Presbyterian Church at 2200 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Newport Beach. Tickets may be purchased at www.kontrapunktus.com.