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Performer Focus: Oliver John Ruthven

One of the founding members of Musica Poetica, Oliver John Ruthven tells us more about his musical life and career…

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your instrument and your training to date?

My musical life started with the violin, and until I was at University, my heart was set on becoming a professional violinist – but this wasn’t to be. At the age of 7 I became a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and this was really the catalyst for what I do now – the training at the Abbey was of the highest standard, and, even at a very young age, I was expected to deliver professional performances on a daily basis. It was the rigour and discipline of this early training which has enabled me to become a professional musician.

I first encountered the harpsichord when I was in my teens which I studied alongside the violin as my second study. By the time I reached the end of my time at Manchester University, I realised that I was also passionate about conducting, particularly in the field of early music.

On returning to London as a freelance musician I became Musical Director of Hampstead Garden Opera. During a production of Blow’s ‘Venus & Adonis’, one of the cast asked me to accompany her for a coaching session with John Eliot Gardiner. John Eliot subsequently asked me if I’d be interested in the Monteverdi Choir Apprenticeship. For a year in 2010, I was their keyboards apprentice playing harpsichord and chamber organ in the English Baroque Soloists. Without a doubt, this was the most challenging and exciting experience of my musical life.

Oliver John Ruthven

What other music ensembles/orchestras are you currently involved with?

I continue to work with John Eliot Gardiner and as a member of English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir. I also played continuo with His Majesty’s Sackbuts & Cornetts, the Little Baroque Company, the London Mozart Players and the Orpheus Sinfonia. I’m very excited to be playing continuo with Stile Antico in 2017, including a concert at the Wigmore Hall in May.

Tell us about some of your more memorable performing experiences…
This has to be during my first time at the BBC Proms in 2010. I was playing harpsichord and chamber organ in the Monteverdi Vespers with John Eliot and the EBS and it was televised and broadcast on the radio. All was going well until I had to leave the stage to climb up the many stairs to the top of the Albert Hall. Up there was placed a small chamber organ and the boys choir of Cardinal Vaughan School. This was for one verse of the Ave Maris Stella, a matter of seconds, but the small organ was to be the only instrument accompanying the boys choir – my presence up there was fairly crucial!

Having got to the allotted door with plenty of time to spare, and went to open it and found that it had been locked. After a lot of frantic searching, I managed to find an open door on the opposite side of the circular gallery. Taking off my noisy wooden heeled shoes so as not to disrupt the performance, I raced around the gallery and made it to th
e organ in the nick of time. There were some bemused faces amongst the Prommers in the gallery as I weaved my way through them in my tails and socks!


And finally, what are some of your ambitions in the musical world?

I am delighted with the progress Musica Poetica has made over the last couple of years. My ambition is that we establish ourselves as an early music ensemble of renown and quality, which stands the test of time. It is a great inspiration to see several superb early music groups making great waves in the musical world – I hope we can do the same.


Hear Oliver John Ruthven and Simon Lloyd perform music for keyboards from the early Baroque as part of Tunder World 2017 on Thursday 27 April at 1.10pm

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Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns

In the next free concert in the 2017 series the Musica Poetica Consort present a beautiful programme of a cappella vocal music. Join us at 1.10pm  on Thursday 30 March in the tranquil setting of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the heart of the city of London. 

Crown of Thorns

Music by two exact contemporaries will be showcased in this event: the all-but-forgotten Johann Christoph Demantius and the never-to-be-forgotten Claudio Monteverdi, both composers living from 1567 to 1643. 

Demantius’ music represents a transitional phase in German Lutheran music from the Renaissance to the Early Baroque. His St John Passion is a fascinating example of the German “motet Passion”, and his motet for six voices Und wie Moses in der Wüsten (And like Moses in the desert) nods to the Italianate style which so inspired Tunder.

In contrast, Monteverdi’s immense output and musical influence through his instrumental and vocal works have placed him as a towering transitional figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque in the annals of musical history.

Nowhere is this transition from the older polyphonic style to the new concertante style displayed more clearly than in his glorious Missa in illo tempore for six voices. Dating from 1610, this was dedicated to Pope Paul V. 

Join Musica Poetica and six of the UK’s best consort singers for this atmospheric Lenten programme as part of the Tunder World 2017 series.

EVENT DETAILS

By the Waters of Babylon

By the Waters of Babylon

Join the Voices and Viols of Musica Poetica on Thursday 23 February at 1.10pm for the next free concert in the 2017 series in the tranquil setting of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the heart of the city of London. 

This month’s celebration of the music of the 17th century composer Franz Tunder and his contemporaries introduces some of his work for solo voices and viol consort. The music is both virtuosic and deeply prayerful, with an eye constantly on the rhetorical quality of the text – a hallmark of the Musica Poetica style – and An Wasserflüssen Babylon is an exquisite example of Tunder’s genius, weaving the familiar chorale melody with beautiful, daring chromatic harmony. 

Matthias Weckmann was a direct contemporary of Tunder. He sang as a chorister under the great Heinrich Schütz, and his writing for voices and viols echoes that of his fellows of the North German School (including Tunder): music which so influenced JS Bach a generation later.

Praised for its “constantly upbeat brilliance and dynamism”, Musica Poetica is quickly gaining a reputation for energetic and communicative interpretations of repertoire from Monteverdi to Mozart, performed on period instruments.

Originally formed as a quartet at the Royal Academy of Music in 2010, the ensemble has given concerts in settings ranging from Cadogan Hall to Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and appeared at the Brighton Early Music Festival under the 2012-13 Early Music Live! scheme.

PROGRAMME

Franz Tunder

An Wasserflussen Babylon
Ach Herr, lass deine liebe Engelein
Wachet auf
Ein kleines Kindelein
Da mihi Domine

Matthias Weckmann
Kommet her zu mir alle – Matthias Weckmann

EVENT DETAILS

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Musica Poetica’s free central London lunchtime recitals

Following the success of their 2016 Highgate concert series, Musica Poetica will be relocating to central London. They will be based at the historic  location of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn for a series of nine free lunchtime concerts throughout 2017 entitled Tunder’s World.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

In this series, the focus of the concerts will be to explore the magical world of Franz Tunder – a composer from 17th century Germany who lived and thrived through a period of great musical change – and he even has an asteroid named after him!

Franz Tunder 1614-1667

Franz Tunder 1614-1667

During his lifetime opera had recently been developed in Venice by Monteverdi, choral singing was becoming more engaging and complex, the organ was fast becoming the dominant instrument in church music and surrounding all this was the flowering of the German Baroque style of architecture.

Schloss Charlottenburg near Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg near Berlin

Tunder’s world saw the development of a unique German Baroque musical style which paved the way for the music of JS Bach. Tunder’s complete vocal works will be performed in this concert series alongside music by his contemporaries and those he influenced including Claudio Monteverdi, Dieterich Buxtehude and JS Bach.

Here’s a sample of what will be on offer with Tunder’s Ach Herr, lass deine liebe Engelein (O lord, let Thy dear angels) performed here by Lucy Knight and Oliver John Ruthven from Musica Poetica. 75 years later Bach was to rework this text for the closing chorale of his St. John Passion. In a partner project Musica Poetica will be recording Tunder’s complete vocal works in Autumn 2017.


26 January 2017 will see the launch concert in this series of free one-hour lunchtime recitals opening with a sequence of miniature cantatas for the bass voice including Salve coelestis pater by Franz Tunder and his near contemporaries Nicholaus Bruhns and Dieterich Buxtehude.

A musical journey of discovery with The 250 Mile Walk

Bach and Buxtehude

This Saturday, Musica Poetica takes us on a musical journey of discovery in the magical setting of St Michael’s Highgate with The 250 Mile Walk.

The 250 Mile Walk

In 1705 the composer J S Bach walked 150 miles from his home church in Arnstadt to see the greatest organ composer in the world in LübeckDietrich Buxtehude. 

File Marienkirche Lübeck
The story is told through a fascinating exploration of the music of both composers. Buxtehude was 68, and Bach just 20, yet the experience of this musical pilgrimage was to affect Bach’s work for the rest of life – and was to be a turning point in musical history

Buxtehude & Bach

This fascinating programme will be presented by Kate Conway on viola da gamba and Simon Lloyd on harpsichord, two of the most important instruments of the early baroque.

Kate Conway

Kate is one the UK’s most accomplished viola da gamba and baroque cello players. She has performed with Fretwork, Oxford Baroque, Ludus Baroque and the Feinstein Ensemble, and is a member of Royal Baroque, who reached the finals of the 2015 York International Young Artists Competition. Other recent projects have included education workshops with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Simon Lloyd

Simon is a conductor, keyboardist and currently Organist & Director of Music at the Carmelite Priory, Kensington where he is responsible for restoring the church’s tradition of professional music. Simon enjoys the exacting work of typsetting Gregorian Chant, exploring historical tuning temperaments, and single malt Scotch whiskies, sometimes in combination!

Musica Poetica presents The 250 Mile Walk at 7pm this Saturday 15 October at St Michael’s Church, Highgate.

Tickets for this fascinating and engaging concert are just £15 including a glass of Prosecco, and available on the door.

Musica Poetica launches new website, lunchtime recitals and late night concerts

Musica Poetica

Musica Poetica is delighted to launch its new website ahead of an exciting years for the group.

Praised for its “constantly upbeat brilliance and dynamism”, Musica Poetica is quickly gaining a reputation for energetic and communicative interpretations of repertoire from Monteverdi to Mozart, performed on period instruments.

Originally formed as a quartet at the Royal Academy of Music in 2010, the ensemble has given concerts in settings ranging from Cadogan Hall to Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and appeared at the Brighton Early Music Festival under the 2012-13 Early Music Live! scheme.

They have enjoyed masterclasses and coaching sessions with Rachel Podger, James Johnstone, Pavlo Beznosiuk and Laurence Cummings.

Musica Poetica is going from strength to strength as it now embarks on a series of lunchtime recitals in the heart of the City of London and launches a new series of innovative late night concerts bringing early music and Baroque-themed cocktails to a new audience.

View the full list of events, read about our Baroque Tales nights or check out our Tunder World lunchtime recitals.