Group is all women and all musicians Music: Ensemble Galilei's makeup was accidental, but not its proficiency.

December 06, 1997|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

It was serendipity that made the all-female instrumental group Ensemble Galilei into what it is today -- all-female.

The group, best-known for medieval, Celtic and traditional folk music, had been together since 1990, but in different incarnations, says group member and spokeswoman Carolyn Anderson Surrick.

"We've had men in the group," Surrick says. "It was maybe three years ago when one guy had to cancel at the last minute. So we were all women there, and the response was fantastic." The idea being "don't mess with success," Ensemble Galilei has remained all-female.

"What is nice is that we are women in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s," Surrick says. "So it is not like you're looking at all babes. We represent a wide range."

But you are looking at a group of accomplished musicians, whose focus is on music by or about women.

The six women of Ensemble Galilei are Rockville's Sue Richards, a Celtic harp player who has won prizes for her performances on the Scottish harp; Nancy Karpeles, who plays percussion and is from Annapolis; Sarah Weiner, an oboe player from Takoma Park; Deborah Nuse, a Scottish-small-pipe player from New York; Andrea Hoag, a fiddle player from Takoma Park; and, of course, Surrick, who plays the viola da gamba and lives in Annapolis.

"The viola da gamba is an instrument that is a cross between a guitar and a cello," explains Surrick, who picked it up when she was 16. It was popular in the 18th century.

Ensemble Galilei takes its name from Vincenzo Galilei, a composer who lived some 400 years ago. The group's music is influenced by traditional Irish music and is rounded out with Scottish tunes, Renaissance period pieces and folk selections.

You can hear the musicians' unique musical blend tomorrow at the Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall. They will be performing selections from their new CD, "The Mystic and the Muse: Celebrating 600 Years of Women in Music," which was co-produced by Dorian Recordings and NPR Classics. It is the group's fourth CD and the first one co-produced by National Public Radio.

The group has had a long affiliation with National Public Radio, says NPR senior producer Ben Roe. "We've had Ensemble Galilei do Christmas concerts as part of our programming for the past five years," he says. "And we've had them here playing live. I like the spirit and the style of the music. It is certainly unique, especially when it comes to classical music."

Besides, Roe says, the mission for those in public broadcasting is to find viable financial partners. NPR will receive a portion of the proceeds from each CD sold. "This seems like a good fit," Roe says.

Although they have gained a large following and earned great reviews, success isn't what keeps these women together.

Surrick and most of the women write music as well as perform, and all have a passion for Celtic music. "Some of us had conservatory training, some traditional training. Some had done studio work," Surrick says. "We came together with a love for music."

Ensemble Galilei

When: Tomorrow, 7: 30 p.m.

Where: Shriver Hall on Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus, 3400 N. Charles St.

Tickets: $14; $5 for students; other discounts for seniors and groups available

` Call: 410-516-7157

Pub Date: 12/06/97

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