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Montana Early Music Festival

An early music festival? In Montana?!? So began a dream shared by Katherine Skinner and Dan Comstock in the late 1990s. That dream was soon embraced by many of their friends who shared their passion for early music.

The first emergence into the public light came in 2001 in the form of a single concert by Montana Cappella of Voices and Instruments, with J. S. Bach's Cantata No. 106 and a complement of Baroque instrumental chamber works.

Gregorian chant seminars led by Dr. Robert Fowells, concerts by Renaissance choral ensemble Cantanti Missoula, period instrument ensemble Mostly Baroque and the Backyard Recorder Consort joined together in subsequent years to offer several days of concerts that could be truly billed as a Festival.

In 2004, Maestra Kerry Krebill's ensemble, Musikanten (Bethesda, Maryland) emerged in Helena as Musikanten Montana. Skinner met Krebill under the cloak of Monteverdi in that summer's Helena Choral Week and the die was cast.

April 2005 saw the first collaboration of Helena and Missoula musicians with guest soloists from coast to coast. Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 was performed in both communities, as well as a concert by the Brandhout Ensemble. The Vespers honoring the Virgin Mary was particularly significant as Pope John Paul II died the day before the first performance; the concerts were dedicated to his memory.

J. S. Bach's monumental Mass in b minor was the following year's centerpiece. MEMF-V (2007) was a celebration of the renewed organs at St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral in Helena and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Missoula, with concerts featuring the Queen of Instruments, with lots of Bach and friends.

The 2008 MEMF featured J. S. Bach's sublime setting of the Passion According to St. John, the dramatic re-enactment of Jesus' last day on Earth.

In 2009, the annual celebration of early music presented 17th and 18th century oratorios, cantatas, concerti, a suite, a Stabat Mater and a Mass-certainly something for everyone. Go for Baroque!!! CLICK HERE for a copy of the Go for Baroque flier. CLICK HERE for a Go for Baroque program.

In 2010, we landed our first Montana Cultural Trust grant to help produce "Music Before 1800" in Montana! The 8th Annual Montana Early Music Festival "Five Evenings of Vintage Music" featured Handel's action-packed oratorio Israel in Egypt. CLICK HERE for more information.

The 2011 9th Annual Montana Early Music Festival brought our Baroque music to a new community, with an April 10 performance of "Monteverdi the Master" at Anaconda's historic Washoe Theatre. CLICK HERE for more information.

Our 2012 Montana Early Music Festival featured "A Venetian Coronation - 1595" as the festival showcase concert, with Kerry Krebill conducting soloists, Gregorian chant schola, the festival chorus, orchestra and organ in a recreation of the April 1595 Mass celebrating the election of Mario Grimani as Doge of the Venetian Republic. Music was by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli; our new venue was the historic Immaculate Conception church in Butte. CLICK HERE for more information.

In 2013, the 11th Annual Montana Early Music Festival, we presented a Venetian Vespers with music of Francesco Cavalli, successor to the brilliant Claudio Monteverdi as Maestro di Capella at San Marco in Venice, the most important church in 17th-centuy Italy. CLICK HERE for more information. For the 2014 festival, we returned to our "roots," reprising the iconic Monteverdi "Vespers of 1610." CLICK HERE for more information.

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