Baroque organizations merge to continue to make beautiful music in Pittsburgh

May 18, 2018 -- benaiah

MARK KANNY | Friday, April 27, 2018, 11:57 a.m.

Pittsburgh's two major early music organizations – Renaissance and Baroque and Chatham Baroque – are merging. They take complementary approaches to a common mission: to offer concerts that are historically informed in performance practice and employ period instruments or modern copies of old instruments.

But Renaissance and Baroque, formerly the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, is a presenting organization which brings touring shows by top early music performers from around the world. Its operating budget for the current season, its 49th, is $135,000.

Chatham Baroque offers its own concerts, often inviting guest artists to join them. It also has collaborated extensively with other organizations, including Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, tours nationally and internationally, makes recordings, and has extensive community outreach and educational programs. Its budget for the current season, its 27th, is $415,000. It has five salaried employees, including executive director Donna Goyak and the musicians, and provides full health benefits. The musicians are Andrew Fouts, baroque violin, Patricia Halverson, viola da gamba, and Scott Pauley, theorbo, lute and baroque guitar.

“We're delighted to have this opportunity to join with Chatham Baroque,” says Richard Stern, a Renaissance and Baroque board member. “There's been a lot of overlap in the past. Many of our seasons featured performances with Chatham Baroque musicians. Their guest artists have frequently appeared on our series. We see this as a way of maintaining a big scope of offerings for the local community.”

When Renaissance and Baroque's executive director resigned suddenly in December, it turned to Chatham Baroque for administrative assistance.

“We thought, if at all possible, the best situation for us was to share resources managing our concerts,” says Stern. “We knew our executive director position was a less than full time, full salary job. When we looked at local organizations to seek alliances, some kind of joint operating structure, Chatham Baroque was far and away the best. We went to them and are grateful and relieved that they took over the second half of our season because we were in the lurch. We had concerts that needed publicity and mechanics to be handled. We are pleased with what they accomplished.”

“The more we worked with them, the more we thought ‘what a great match,'” says Bill Semins, Chatham Baroque's board chairman.

Although Chatham Baroque examined its new partner's revenue streams, that proved not to be the driver of the decision to merge.

“We were looking at the sustainability of Renaissance and Baroque's model itself,” he says. “We considered whether the interest in the community for this kind of music remains strong enough to sustain its offerings and what we could do perhaps a little differently to grow it.”

Chatham Baroque's board chairman acknowledges that its own fortunes haven't always been as strong as they are now but says they have been increasing over the past five to eight years.

“The Chatham Baroque brand is growing,” he says.

Both organizations will announce their 2018-19 seasons in June.

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.