Carolyn Anderson Surrick is an American master of the viola da gamba, an older string instrument rather like a small cello that is held in the lap. A resident of Annapolis, located on Chesapeake Bay, Surrick is a pioneer in innovative programming that links Baroque and Renaissance music (particularly dance and popular music) to traditional Celtic music, including the oldest Euro-American folk music. This path, she says, began the first time sheRead more had an opportunity to play a borrowed gamba, when she was 16. She immediately decided this was the instrument for her and studied with a variety of teachers.
Becoming a gambist necessarily meant learning about ancient music history and interpretation, so she obtained a master of arts in musicology at George Washington University.
She was the founder of Ensemble Galilei, a unique ensemble named after Vincenzo Galilei, the composer, mathematician, and musical theorist who was also the father of the great astronomer Galileo Galilei. She explains that Vincenzo was concerned that in the late Renaissance music had lost its passion and become distant from its audience and that she finds a parallel in her own time.
Ensemble Galilei's unique quality, as Surrick has said, is a result of its being a "Celtic/early music crossover group," as the Ensemble is most commonly described. Surrick sees the group as being somewhere in the middle ground among a classical string quartet, an original instruments period ensemble, and the Irish group The Chieftains.
The five women who are the members of Ensemble Galilei among them play viola da gamba, violin, and Celtic fiddle, Renaissance and Irish/Celtic harp, oboe, and pipe and fiddle and often has a guest artist as percussionist.
Surrick is the leader of the organization, although she uses the term "ringleader and navigatrix." She and the other members delight in finding connections, such as a common use of modal melodies, so the transitions from Renaissance airs and to straight-ahead Irish dance music and the like are not jarring.
Surrick has also been a member of Voices of the Golden Age and The Smithsonian Chamber Players. She appeared on-screen as a musician in the film The Pelican Brief. She has made seven compact discs with Ensemble Galilei on labels including Telarc, and solo albums with Dorian. The Ensemble's publicity says, when she is not composing, talking to the press, or "...thinking up new cool things for the group to try, you can find her talking to trees from horseback or bicycle or kayak, or whispering encouragement to a baking pumpkin pie." Read less
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