In the drought of the Corona months, the soul thirsts for beauty. Symphonie des Dragons, an orchestra of oboes emerges after a long period of quiet to refresh the soul with lively music for a worldwide audience. St. Catherine’s (G.F. Telemann’s church) in the heart of Frankfurt, Germany, is the birthplace of a cultural delight that began in New York and Boston and has now found a second home in the middle of Europe.
With the support of St. Catherine’s Church and the event organizer Count Michael Münster, Symphonie des Dragons (from “Dragoons,” light cavalry soldiers whose weapons presumably breathed fire) planned to perform on the concert series “Bach zur Nacht” in Frankfurt on April 24, 2021. Due to the corona pandemic, these concerts are now not allowed to take place in front of a live audience.
Despite the cancelation of the “Bach zur Nacht” concert series as such, Count Münster and the church council have worked with the Dragons, enabling their program “Dragons‘ Delight: Regis Iussu” to proceed in St. Catherine’s Church with open microphones, running cameras and plenty of health preserving measures.
The exciting program traces the influence of the 18th century oboe band on military, ceremonial and stage music from simple marches and field music to more sophisticated courtly works.
The pandemic may cause temporary suspension of the Dragons` live concert activities, nevertheless, they remain true to their music and their message of belonging, vitality, enthusiasm and joy. They carry on with the power of music to heal. What value is bodily health unless spirit and mind are also thriving?
Since March 2020, the Dragons made use of the “freedom” forced upon them by the pandemic to develop new programs and, among other things, to delve intensively into works by one of the rare female composers of the Baroque era, Jacquet de La Guerre. Their endeavors soon gained backing from the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art: A grant gives the Dragons – together with additional private sponsorship – space and scope for new creativity.
About the orchestra
Symphonie des Dragons celebrates the lively spirit of Baroque winds in the world of today. Emphasizing cohesion and belonging, despite distancing, and touching all facets of being human, the Dragons play for the refreshment of the soul.
The ensemble consists of 15 highly qualified specialists in the field of historical performance practice. The international musicians come from the USA, Great Britain, Moldavia, Japan, Italy, Holland and Germany and many of them have a residence in the Frankfurt area. A full selection of oboes and bassoons – doubling on recorders – rounded off by guitar and percussion make the orchestra an ensemble of rarely heard color and timbre.
Founded in New York: 10 year anniversary celebrations!
The Dragons celebrate their 10th birthday this year and reflect back on the original artist initiative, which took place on the US East Coast in 2011:
Gonzalo X. Ruiz, one of the most well-known historical oboists, performs with ensembles worldwide, teaches at the Juilliard School and makes his home in New York City.
In 2011 he brought together some of the world’s finest oboists and bassoonists to explore the repertoire of the great Versailles wind bands.
In 2019, the Dragons grew. American oboist and founding member, Jeanine Krause established the European Division of Symphonie des Dragons in Frankfurt, Germany.
As pandemic ordinances grew ever stricter in Germany during the spring months, the ensemble deemed overseas travel from New York to Frankfurt not feasible. As such, the European Dragons postpone the much anticipated joy of working directly with founder Gonzalo X. Ruiz. The leadership of this project falls into the capable hands of Jeanine Krause. Living in Frankfurt, Germany and inspired by her experience as a founding member of Symphonie des Dragons in 2011, she established the Rhein-Main-Hautboisten which then became the European Division Dragons.
Historically informed practice
Highly regarded for his artistry as an oboist, Marcel Ponseele from Belgium is also a sought-after instrument maker. The Dragons engaged his skill and he worked feverishly, even over Easter, to provide the Dragons with copies of rare historical instruments such as “Tailles de hautbois” and “Haute-contre de hautbois” in time for this project.
Meanwhile Krause fashioned performance material from the surviving music sources which, in many instances provided only the outer lines (equivalent of soprano and bass). With the harmonies implied, she “composed” the missing inner voices (equivalent of alto and tenor) to achieve the four to five part texture, a common texture in music from the early Baroque period. Of course no oboe (or bassoon) is complete without reeds. She and her Dragons diligently scraped and fashioned their double reeds, the mouthpieces which ultimately connect the player to her the instrument, allowing intense musical expression.
The Dragons consider it their mission to celebrate the lively spirit of baroque winds in the world of today for the refreshment of the spirit!
Appearance takes a front seat. The camera’s eye can see with a detail and nuance seldom accessible to the concert goer staring at a distant stage. The Dragons are now fitted with new threads that embrace and honor the Baroque era yet stylishly and comfortably meet modern demands. In dragon red and royal blue, the iridescent fabric lets each rhythmic movement of the musicians shimmer and shine in the light of the festive halls and in the eye of the camera.
Fashion designer and Frankfurter Allgemeine BUCH author Katharina Starlay (“Stilgeheimnisse”) studied the needs and demands of the musicians before creating and tailoring the Dragon’s new clothes. In a global world, this ensemble learns to value local resources. The seamstress in Wiesbaden (near Frankfurt) used fabric woven on German looms especially for the Dragons. Even the buttons and lining from from German production.
Equipped with new music folders, new instruments and new clothing, the Dragons are ready to bring their art to the world with live concerts or via streaming. And as with any artist movement, the Dragons welcome support from fans and sponsors.
Get involved! Inquire about sponsoring a part book or waistcoat in memory of an important contributor to historical wind playing.