Early Music Singers

This is a joint program with the Collegium Musicum, featuring Spanish music from the 16th and 17th centuries. The music for EMS will include villancicos, motets, and ensaladas by Juan del Encina, Francisco Guerrero, Mateo Flecha, and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

The Case Western Reserve University Early Music Singers were founded in 1978 by Beverly Simmons and are part of CWRU’s nationally renowned Historical Performance Practice program. Since 1999, the ensemble has been directed by Dr. Ross W. Duffin, Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music at CWRU and Artistic Director of the professional ensemble, Quire Cleveland.  The Early Music Singers’ repertoire ranges from medieval chant to Renaissance madrigals and masses and occasionally to baroque operas and oratorios. The group varies in size but is usually about 16-22 singers. The personnel—generally both women and men—includes undergraduate and graduate students (of voice, composition, musicology, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and business), as well as other individuals associated with CWRU, including a cardiologist and a clinical researcher. All of them love making music in a small choral setting.

EMS rehearses Tuesday evenings, usually 6:15-8:30 p.m. (we sometimes make slight adjustments based on members’ schedules). Normally, there’s one concert per semester in Harkness Chapel, the Music Department’s recital hall, and occasionally some smaller events as well. We are also frequently asked to perform at the Cleveland Museum of Art down the block.

The main aims of the EMS are as follows:

  • to perform the great vocal ensemble music of earlier centuries, focusing primarily on the Renaissance but also including the Medieval and Baroque eras
  • to learn to use historical performance techniques such as historical pronunciations and historical tuning systems

The primary vocal requirements are:

  • good reading ability
  • precise pitch (including the ability to sing with a minimum of vibrato)
  • blendable voice quality

The audition normally includes:

  • vocalization
  • tuning
  • flexibility exercises
  • sight-singing
  • performance (unaccompanied) of a short piece of your own choosing

A note on the religious orientation of some of the music:
It happens that a lot of the most beautiful music from earlier times is religious, mostly because the church was the biggest patron of composers back then and because that’s what inspired the great composers to do much of their best work. However, the group typically includes non-Christians and none of them have complained or even commented on the choice of music with regard to religion. I think we all see it as a place to explore beautiful music, both sacred and secular, regardless of our personal backgrounds.

Listen to some past EMS Concert Selections