Andrew Arceci appointed Artistic Director of Arcadia Players
In a recent performance of a program titled “The Migration of Italian Music,” six members of Arcadia Players, the prestigious early music ensemble based in western Massachusetts, were joined by the viola da gamba, the violin and baroque bass player Andrew Arceci.
Arceci, founder and director of the Winchendon Music Festival, performed with and directed the whole. “I lead with one hand. Sometimes with one of my bows. You can do a lot of things,” he said of the game and the steering.
Conducting a performance among the instruments rather than standing on a stage is quite common with ancient / Baroque chamber groups, Arceci noted.
“It’s not directing with a baton, it’s directing with an instrument,” he said.
And Arceci was hoping to make a good impression with Arcadia Players (the number of which may vary depending on the gig and, these days, the conditions of the moment) in several ways.
This included leading a great performance with the fellow musicians he played with and impressing the Arcadia Players board.
Finalist artistic director of the Ensemble
Arceci was one of three finalists to become the ensemble’s next artistic director.
Arceci and violinists Jude Ziliak and Daniel Lee conducted artistic director audition programs which were recorded over the summer and broadcast live on YouTube in October.
The violin and keyboards are more traditional instruments for conducting an ensemble.
“It’s certainly unusual to be a conductor playing violin bass,” Arceci said.
However, it is Arceci who was given, finally, not the relay on this occasion, but the job.
“I am honored to have been chosen as the new artistic director,” Arceci said.
Jon Solins, Chairman of the Arcadia Players Board of Directors, added, “We are delighted to have Andrew Arceci join us as we enter the new realities and opportunities of the post-COVID era. We look forward to working with Andrew to continue our long tradition of delivering performances inspired and inspired by great music history to audiences in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. “
If Arceci rose to prominence locally through the Winchendon Music Festival (he also taught for a year at Worcester State University), his predecessor is probably also a household name.
Ian Watson, organist, harpsichordist, pianist and conductor, led Arcadia Players for 10 years, departing after the 2018 concert season. Although originally from England, Watson was the former Music Director of St. Paul of Worcester and co-founder and former member of the Worcester Chamber Music Society.
Watson has brought Arcadia Players to Worcester on several occasions, most notably opening the Worcester Music Festival’s 155th anniversary season in 2014 with an all-Beethoven celebration with the Worcester Chorus.
“I worked with Ian on and off for a number of years,” Arceci said, including playing with the Arcadia Players. However, “I haven’t been in contact with him recently.”
Founded in 1989
Arcadia Players was founded in 1989 by Margaret Irwin-Brandon and annually presents a series of concerts of chamber music, opera, orchestra and choral repertoire, including highly acclaimed performances of Handel’s “Messiah”.
Arcadia Players says it “embraces the practice of historical performance to illuminate and reinvigorate the great Western heritage of vocal and instrumental music.” This usually means historically accurate performances on authentic period instruments.
Based in Northampton, Arcadia Players is in residence at the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Watson conducted Arcadia Players as a keyboardist. “It’s more traditional to have a keyboardist. (But) you can lead from any instrument,” Arceci said of the bass conducting.
Among the groups Arceci has led in this direction is the Collegium Musicum of Wellesley College.
He said he was grateful to the Arcadia Players board for giving him this opportunity.
“It was a long process with several rounds culminating with three finalists (on a video program),” he said.
Arceci said the board may be hoping for three live concerts in person, but with COVID still an issue, the decision was made to ask each finalist to record a program.
Arceci set up his own program, “The Migration of Italian Music”, which explored the spread of Italian styles across Europe and beyond (to China) in the 17th century and early 18th century. . Among the featured composers were Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), Antonio Vivaldi (1653-1713), Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c.1638), Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746), Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), Francesco Barsanti (1690-1775) and Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762).
“It’s exciting. I like to think my colleagues liked the program that I ran,” he said.
“I like putting these programs together… I was looking for sets that featured my coworkers. There were limits, but it was nice to be in a room making music with live humans.”
Arceci said they treated the program “like a concert and not like a recording program”. The musicians were seated in a semicircle and Arceci spoke between works as he would during a live concert he was conducting.
Solins noted that it was “a long and complex audition process, in which we had to make a very difficult choice among three talented and creative finalists.”
Besides being an internationally renowned multi-instrumentalist and concertist, Arceci is a recording artist, composer / arranger, scholar and teacher. He is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, the Juilliard School and the University of Oxford. He conducted the Collegium Musicum at Wellesley College from 2015-2020 and, since 2016, has conducted the Winchendon Music Festival in Winchendon.
Arceci resides in Acton with his wife, violinist Asako Takeuchi, and their two children. However, he was speaking just before Christmas from Italy where he was doing research.
As Artistic Director of the Arcadia Players, Arceci will take care of the administrative work as well as the direction and performance.
He will look at how to “weave an interesting theme” into programming, “how to rehearse… how to navigate the new world with COVID. It takes a long time to plan a live concert. ”
Family roots in Winchendon
Arcadia Players has not played live and in person since COVID began, although there have been a few offers online. A live program that had been scheduled in 2020, and then again in 2021, is now scheduled for April. Also, “I’ll probably be running a program in the spring, and then I can’t wait to schedule a new season,” Arceci said.
“I think one of the big questions for the industry is what will be possible during the winter months. We have these waves of COVID coming and going.”
Another question that remains is how to incorporate vocalists and wind / brass instruments.
“Maybe we start with bedroom programming,” Arceci said. “I have a draft of ideas but it’s hard to know what is possible.”
Still, “I hope we can have a full season,” he said. “I think most arts organizations are trying to deal with these issues. I hope we get more information. I hope to do as much live music as possible.”
Looking a little further, “I’d love to record with Arcadia players and shoot when that’s an option.” Likewise, “Arcadia has been in Northampton for a long time and we will continue to engage in this scene,” Arceci said.
The Winchendon Music Festival faces similar questions in terms of in-person concert programming.
The festival is well regarded nationally and internationally and Arceci is the driving force behind it. He said he had always felt a strong connection to Winchendon although he never lived there. His parents and grandparents are from Winchendon and he dedicated the WMF to the memory of his late father, Dr. Robert J. Arceci.
The first four years saw the WMF rapidly grow into a world class event in the small northern county town of Worcester of around 10,000 people. The concerts held mainly in June featured artists from various genres including classical, folk, jazz, historical performances and world music. In 2020, the festival would have celebrated its fifth year with 12 concerts in June, featuring local, national and international artists.
Bill Staines had lined up
With the arrival of COVID-19, the idea was to shift the programming from June 2020 to June 2021. Several virtual programs were offered. Last year, WMF again postponed live concerts and turned to 2022.
Sadly, one of those appearances in 2020 was to feature New Hampshire folk artist and singer-songwriter Bill Staines, who died in December. “Bill Staines was one of the artists we hoped to feature as soon as possible,” Arceci said.
“We are on hold mainly because of COVID. The Winchendon sites are quite intimate. We just don’t have the resources to deal with COVID. It is very difficult to know when we will start and what we will look like.”
The intention is that “When we start it will be this 2020 lineup (of 12 concerts),” Arceci said.
And in light of some recent positive developments, there may well be an interesting new lineup note when the Winchendon Music Festival resumes.
“I hope to bring Arcadia players to the Winchendon Music Festival,” Arceci said.
For more information on Arcadia players, visit www.arcadiaplayers.org; for more information on the Winchendon Music Festival, log onto Facebook.