Area’s Dutch heritage paves way to concerts by Musicians of Ma’alwyck

Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz on violin, Norman Thibodeau on flute, Andre O’Neill on baroque cello and Al Fedak on harpsichord at the Crailo Historic Site in Rensselaer. (Photo provided)

Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz on violin, Norman Thibodeau on flute, Andre O’Neill on baroque cello and Al Fedak on harpsichord at the Crailo Historic Site in Rensselaer. (Photo provided)

Most music organizations spend a lot of time looking for funding opportunities, but Musicians of Ma’alwyck found an unusual source: the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The connection proved a whirlwind that brought the group two virtual concerts – November 13 and November 20, which will also include substantial historical presentations from site directors each from the concert locations: the Crailo House in Rensselaer and the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.

“From the time we applied July 22, we got our program and the discussions about Dutch culture approved in August, and we began filming in September,” said MOM artistic director Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz.

All this came about through a chance notice of a Discover Albany announcement in July that Dutch Culture USA was looking for organizations that featured the Dutch culture in the Hudson Valley. This led to MOM applying for the $6,000 matching grant. Dutch Culture USA is the cultural division of the Netherlands that looks to sponsor up to 2,000 events annually that share the Dutch heritage in this country.

“They were very interested,” Barker Schwartz said.

The area is rich in Dutch connections. It was Henry Hudson who claimed the area for the Dutch in 1609. By 1614, Fort Nassau, a fur trading post had been settled. The area grew by 1624 with Fort Orange, an additional trading post, and the village of Beverwijck. Forty years later, the English arrived and in 1664 renamed what by then was a town, calling it Albany, after the then-Duke of Albany, the future James II of England. In 1686, Albany was chartered as a city, one of the oldest surviving settlements from the original Thirteen Colonies.

One concert will take place in the Crailo State Historic Site, currently the museum of the Colonial Dutch in the Hudson Valley. Once part of a vast landholding by Henrik van Rensselaer’s family and built in the early 18th century, it was named after their estate in the Netherlands. Crailo means “crows’ wood.”

The other concert is at the Schuyler Mansion, home to Philip Schuyler, a fourth generation of Dutch heritage, and built in 1763. In those days, people in either house could see each other’s house across the Hudson River, Barker Schwartz said.

While there is an historical component to the grant and each concert comes with a downloadable program, the repertoire will be almost entirely written by Dutch composers.

“Dutch music is more than the early Baroque,” Barker Schwartz said. “They were actively composing – Amsterdam was a hotbed of culture, but they were overshadowed by the German tradition and Mozart and Beethoven.”

At Crailo, the program includes: Willem deFesch’s “Six English Songs,” Pietro Locatelli’s Trio Sonata and a Sonata for Flute. Locatelli was Italian but spent most of his professional life in Amsterdam and is buried there. DeFesch relocated to London, played in Handel’s orchestra, became the director of the Marylebone Pleasure Garden Orchestra and wrote these songs in 1743.

“He had a surprisingly good grasp of the English and we tried to be authentic with the embellishments,” she said.

The performers include flutist Norman Thibodeau; Barker Schwartz on violin; baroque cellist Andre O’Neil; harpsichordist Alfred Fedak; and mezzo-soprano Tess McCarthy.

At the Schuyler Mansion the program is: Christian Ernst Graaf’s Flute Quartet in D minor; Johannes Colizzi’s Viola Sonata; and his set of variations on a melody from Stephen Storace’s opera “The Haunted Tower”; Josephus Fodor’s Variations for Viola and Violin; and the American premiere of Pieter Hellendaal’s pastoral cantata, “Strephon and Myrtilla.” Violist Andrew Snow and tenor Timothy Reno join the other musicians.

The Hellendaal proved an adventure.

“I knew it existed but couldn’t find the music,” Barker Schwartz said. “So I told the Dutch consulate and they got right on it and found it in the rare manuscript collection of the Utrecht Library. They scanned it for me. Hellendaal had gone to London and worked with Handel. It’s written in English but there were no instrumental parts. The score is badly handwritten.”

She turned it all over to Thibodeau and O’Neil who realized the work and enhanced the text, which proved very bawdy.

“It’s hysterical,” Barker Schwartz said.

Each concert is free and will be available indefinitely once it airs on its date. Dutch Culture USA has not pre-screened either show and is thrilled with all this coverage, she said. Access the concerts through MOM’s website, which has a YouTube link.

Musicians of Ma’alwcyk

WHEN: 3p.m.; Nov. 13 and Nov. 20



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