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Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - Early Music from the World Stage at OU
by Gillian Ellis

The upcoming fall semester will offer two opportunities for our students and audiences to experience and enjoy early music. Some of the genre’s finest and most celebrated exponents will be here to perform. On September 30, Lyle Nordstrom will appear with Armonia Celeste, and on October 14, we are delighted to be hosting bass singer and lutenist Joel Frederiksen. The internationally renowned Mr. Frederiksen also happens to be an OU alumnus, and he has recently added this year’s OU Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award to his numerous honors.

For those readers who are wondering, we are defining early music as anything written before 1800 and performed on original styles of instruments. Most often this means music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, but it can also include medieval and some early classical music.

Early music used to be more frequently heard at OU. Lyle Nordstom taught here for 23 years and during that time he mentored many students who went on to become active in the field. Among those Mr. Nordstrom lists are Ellen Hargis (B.S. Music ’78) and David Douglass (B.S. Music ’75) who are world famous performers of early music, as well as Michael Lynn (B.S. Music ’75) who is a Baroque flute and recorder teacher and now a dean at Oberlin, Robert (B.A. Music ’77) and Anne Burns (B.A. Music ’82) who reside in the Detroit area and perform as A Reasonable Facsimile, Claudia Dart (B.A. Music ’76) who plays lute in the San Francisco area, David Barnett, (B.A. Music ’76) a recorder and early clarinet player, also in the Bay Area, Tom Coard who teaches recorder in a Swiss conservatory, John Robison (B.S. Music Education ’71) who is collegium director at the University of South Florida, and Laura Buch (B.A. Music and English ’78) who is an editor of the Complete Works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Nordstrom also taught Joel Frederiksen, as did our most senior music professor, voice teacher John-Paul White. Joel completed his master’s degree here in 1990 and went on to study at Salzburg‘s Mozarteum with Helena Lazarska, and in New York, with independent studies at New York University and private study in the studios of William Schuman and Myron McPherson. Since launching his professional career as a bass singer Joel has made appearances in opera, oratorio, and in concert on stages around the world. He has also released four successful and very well-reviewed CDs. Read the reviews for his most recent CD, "Requiem for a Pink Moon" here.

Joel’s October OU concert will be “Orpheus, I Am” featuring repertoire from the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Read more details about the program here.

Armonia Celeste will be here in September as part of a Midwest tour. They have just recorded their first CD, "Udite Amanti – Lovers Beware," songs from which will be featured in the concert at OU. Read more about the program here. The members of the group, all professionals now, are former students of Lyle Nordstrom’s and he says he was honored when they asked him to join them. Now retired from his final academic job at the University of North Texas (UNT), freed from committees and reports, Lyle has more time for touring, although he always maintained a performing career, even when teaching. He toured for years with the group The Musicians of Swanne Alley, appearing at early music festivals in the U.S. and Europe, recording CDs and providing music for the movie Rob Roy.

Asked about what first ignited his lifelong dedication to early music, Lyle said, “I became hooked on this music when I was a freshman in college and sang Bach’s B minor mass with the Macalester Choir and the Minnesota symphony, Dorati conducting.” When it came time for him to retire from UNT in May 2010, colleagues, students and former students from around the country, and beyond, gathered for his final concert – the B minor Mass once again, “to complete the bookends,” as Lyle says. Among those traveling to Texas to sing in the Bach Mass was Joel Frederiksen, who made the trip from his home in Germany to help his former OU teacher celebrate a lifetime of scholarship and musicianship.

Joel grew up in a musical family and was drawn to folk guitar at an early age. He sang with the choir in high school and with the madrigal singers. He also played football and remembers trying to avoid his teammates while dressed in Renaissance costume. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, Joel taught high school music for four years in the Bronx and on Long Island. It was after college, while studying folk music as an intern at the Library of Congress, that he first heard a lute recital. He fell in love with the instrument, bought one for himself and began to take lessons, adapting his guitar technique as needed.

It was his desire to study with Lyle Nordstom, whose reputation as a lutenist and early music scholar was known throughout the country, that brought Joel to OU for his graduate studies. While here, he began to truly develop his voice with Professor John-Paul White and after graduation continued his vocal studies with William Schuman in New York. His voice type, he is a true basso profondo, is well suited to the repertoire of the early period. Joel believes that the music written during those centuries is some of the most interesting ever written for the bass voice.

We invite you to experience the music of the Renaissance and Baroque for yourself at one or both of these concerts. Tickets will go on sale beginning September 18. Ticket information is available here. Contact us at on our homepage to receive a season brochure or for more online information.

Photo: Upper, Joel Frederiksen, photo by Thomas Zwillinger
Lower, The members of Armonia Celeste, photo by Les Wollam