April 28, 2019: We teamed up with artist Victor Varnado, cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine to present Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s cantata, “Le Sommeil d’Ulisse” (“Slumber of Ulysses”).

Who the heck was Ulisses? There were the ancient Greek myths, with their own roster of gods, and then the ancient Romans with THEIR roster. So the Greeks had Zeus and Hera, and the Romans had Jupiter and Juno, Athena (get it ATHENS / Athena) became the Roman Minerva, and Odysseus became Ulysses (you say “poh-tay-toe” and I say “poh-tah-toe”)

Synopsis: Frat boy Ulysses & his men, hijinks on the open sea, blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus (son of the god, Neptune). Neptune is pissed off, and sends a tempest. Cut to commercial, the goddess Minerva intervenes and puts Ulysses into a magical sleep, where he dreams about his glorious future. Et voilà ! an HEA (Happily Ever After). Susan Graham, flute; Claire Bermingham, violin; Ana Kim, cello; Nancy Kito, harpsichord; Christina Kay, soprano; artist Victor Varnado (cartoonist, the New Yorker).

Watch the tempest scene here:

Ensemble Leonarda is pleased this season to feature concerts with “Friends”, guest musicians from VA, PA, and Montreal, Canada.

First up is Curt C. Christensen, former principal trumpeter of the U.S. Air Force Concert Band. Nancy Kito recounts their first meeting.

NANCY: I first met Curt when he was 19 and a student at Juilliard. I was organist for a small Lutheran church in Astoria, Queens, & you know, these little churches have a little extra $$ for special music at Christmas and Easter. I booked Curt through the Juilliard Placement Office, and we were to meet at Juilliard in the lobby. Now, this is before the Internet, smartphones, and Facebook. We were actually standing about 3 feet apart next to each other, looking out for each other, till I finally noticed his instrument case and asked, “Hey, are you Curt?”

Curt C. Christensen, trumpet

The piece was the Telemann Concerto in D Major, and so we started rehearsing. After the first run-through, I said, “Wow, that’s awesome, but do you think we could slow down the first movement?” and we did. Then I asked for it even slower, because “You know, I have this recording stuck in my head and I really liked the interpretation.” Finally, Curt put down his instrument and asked, “So, can I ask which recording you have?” and I said, “Oh, it’s by some French guy named Maurice André”.

Curt almost passed out [for those of you unfamiliar, Maurice André is the trumpet god, he’s like the Jordi Savall, the Itzhak Perlman, the Yo-Yo Ma of trumpeters]. We never did play it that slowly! (but we were a success nonetheless). I lost track of him but then by chance the USAF Concert Band was playing a concert at the Tilles Center where I was the House Manager, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

We’re pleased to be reprising the Telemann Concerto as well as a Torelli, concerto, and a piece I’d not heard of before, “Aria di Postiglione” from the Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother - BWV 992 (an early work) by J.S. Bach.

Concert: T3 [Telemann, Torelli, & Trumpet]. Sun. Dec. 2, 2018 at 4:00pm at St. Michael’s Church, 225 W. 99th Street, NYC. Info: bit.ly/1VHLOJe 

AuthorEnsemble Leonarda
Categoriesclassical music

Ensemble Leonarda, along with Adam Grannick & his Filmelodic, was pleased to be part of GroupMuse MassiveMuse on May 24, at MayDay Space in Brooklyn.  It was a three-peat of our joint live music + film project (the film being "La Folia").

Filmelodic is an award-winning collective that makes short, narrative films to accompany beloved works of classical music to give the crowd an immersive, multi-sensual experience.   that takes you in so close to this music. 

The program also featured Johan Halvorsen’s Sarabande with Variations, accompanied by Brooklyn-based visual artist Lila Nadelmann creating original art live to the music. Followed by JS Bach’s beloved Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major. The finale was Filmelodic's award-winning short film La Folia, set to a Concerto Grosso in D minor by Francesco Geminiani, performed live along side the film, which has been screened all over the country.

AuthorEnsemble Leonarda

On Nov. 2, 2017 at The National Opera Center, Ensemble Leonarda presented a concert in collaboration with Adam Grannick's Filmelodic "La Folia" project.  A 12-minute visual anthology of 24 vignettes, featuring live music of Francesco Geminiani.  The concert also featured works by some of the 150 other baroque composers who wrote works on the theme.

AuthorEnsemble Leonarda

Last year, the New York Philharmonic Community Engagement Department invited our baroque band to participate in their New World Initiative Project.  In 1893, Antonín Dvořák was commissioned by the NY Philharmonic to write the "New World" Symphony; and during the 2016-17 season, different diverse ensembles were invited to participate by performing all or part of the New World Symphony. The resulting videotaped performances would be part of the NY Philharmonic Digital Archives.  Our concert was Feb. 16, 2017 at 7pm at the National Opera Center, and the Deputy Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York, Karel Smékal, attended.

April 12, 2015 concert.   L-R:  Marika Holmqvist, Nancy Kito, Rob Paravonian, Claire Smith.

YouTube comedic sensation Rob Paravonian guest starred on our April 12, 2015 concert.  Having mutually followed each other on Twitter, we asked if he'd play a movement from a Corelli trio sonata, which had the same bass line as the Pachelbel Canon in D Major (subject of Rob's "Pachelbel Rant") 

A comedian rants about how much it sucks to play Pachelbel's Canon in D on a cello. Recorded live at Penn State, this piece by comedian/musician Rob Paravonian has been a favorite on the Dr. Demento Show. Visit Rob at: http://RobPRocks.com, http://fb.com/RobPRocks, or http://twitter.com/RobPRocks

Rob agreed to play, but I kept it from our other members.  

"So how do you know Nancy?" "Ummm, she came to one of my concerts..."


Rob Paravonian (of "Pachelbel Rant" fame) reveals his true identity to Ensemble Leonarda and audience.

Ensemble Leonarda (Marika Holmqvist, violin; Nancy Kito, harpsichord; Rob Paravonian, guitar; Claire Smith, violin), channeling Corelli.


The period instrument group Ensemble Leonarda will be performing at St. John-St. Matthew-Emanuel Lutheran Church (283 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn) on Sunday, May 17 at 4:00pm.  Pianist and freelance journalist Casey Ann Reinke interviews harpsichordist Nancy Kito.

For those readers who are not musicians, what is baroque music?
Briefly put, it's music composed 1685-1750.

Why play in Brooklyn? I mean, if you say Brooklyn, it conjures up images of hipsters and good food and the Museum and Grand Army Plaza and Coney Island, not necessarily classical baroque music!
Ensemble Leonarda is a sponsored project of the service organization Fractured Atlas and every year we do 1 outreach concert (somewhere that isn't Manhattan), to places that don't usually get to hear that kind of music.  Last year we were in Hoboken, NJ, and this year we're playing at Brooklyn’s historic St. JME Lutheran church, 3 churches that merged, the oldest of which was founded in 1859. 

How is this concert different from other classical music concerts, and why should people want to go?
We try and present good music in a non-stuffy way that engages everyone, musicians and non-musicians alike.  Look, I'm a conservatory graduate and sometimes I go to my friends' concerts, and even I would be afraid to ask a question!  It’s hard to strike a balance between oversimplifying (in which case any musicians in the audience are bored) and having a “traditional” concert (where people are too intimidated to actually enjoy it).   We explain things like: “If it’s a trio sonata, why are 4 people playing?” and “Why do organists wear funny shoes?” 

The trend nowadays is to have a “theme”.  Our theme is “A Baroque Band in Brooklyn!”, which is going to sound more interesting to the average Joe than “Glorious Wonders of the Transalpine Baroque Cantata”.  We’re musicians playing pieces which move us, and hopefully the audience will want to go home afterwards and Google keywords to learn more about the music that we played.

On this concert, there's literally something for everybody. The church's organ is in front, so you can see it, instead of it being hidden in the back up in the loft.  I’ll be doing a brief speech/demo about organs and you can actually see it up close.  Most people have seen a piano before, but an organ and what makes it tick?  There's a soprano, and both a cello AND a viola da gamba. Plus Brooklynite Rob Paravonian on guitar.  (Seriously!)



AuthorEnsemble Leonarda