Long Beach Baroque chamber orchestra Kontrapunktus ‘brings new life’ to 18th-century compositions

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Long Beach’s nine-member Baroque chamber orchestra Kontrapunktus returns with five performances of “BACH & HANDEL: Soli Deo gloria,” a series of early 18th-century musical compositions written “in praise of God alone” by two master composers of the Baroque era.

The classical music ensemble will be performing in Long Beach on Friday, Jan. 13, at the Grace First Presbyterian Church – the third concert of its winter concert season.

Kontrapunktus (Latin for “counterpoint,” a structure in music composition) was formed in Long Beach in 2015 and began recruiting musicians for live performances in 2017, under the leadership of Executive Director Raymond Jacobs.

The nonprofit orchestra performs a “unique repertoire of Baroque music intended to inspire people from all walks through their exemplary execution and sublime artistry,” the Kontrapunktus website says.

“You don’t have to be a classical music lover to enjoy our performance, which is what makes our concerts so unique,” said Jacobs. “You really just have to appreciate music and be prepared to be swayed by the emotional power of our performances.”

Led by concertmaster Hannah White and featuring soloist Aubree Oliverson, “BACH & HANDEL: Soli Deo Gloria,” will comprise works from contemporary German composers George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, who are arguably two of the most influential composers in Western music, according to a Kontrapunktus press release.

Each production is created to  bring new life into 18th-century masterpieces and turn them into contemporary Baroque treasures, according to the press release.

“Our technical ability combined with our artistic prowess as a chamber orchestra is engaging and sublime on so many different levels,” Jacobs said. “This fact is what sets Kontrapunktus apart from other classical groups, big or small.”

Some of the numbers Kontrapunktus will be performing include Handel’s “Trio Sonata in G Minor, HWV 1041,” and Bach’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041” – a piece Jacobs said is excited for audiences to experience.

“We want to bring something fresh to the table – taking the music and turning it into our own with a little flare of Baroque music taste to it,” said Hannah White, 23-year-old acclaimed Sphinx Competition First Place Laureate and concertmaster.

At age 7, White took up the violin and grew a passion for performing. By age nine, White performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and she has become a featured performer on stages across the globe ever since.

As a featured artist at Carnegie Hall, White performed twice to sold-out audiences. She has since soloed with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra Noir among many others.

She graduated from the Colburn Conservatory and is pursuing her graduate studies with renowned teacher, Robert Lipsett, with whom she presently studies at the Colburn Conservatory of Music.

White joined Kontrapunktus in May 2022, this will be her second season with the ensemble.

Jacobs said he “took a risk” in appointing her as concertmaster – which is essentially the leader of an orchestra or chamber group – but her talent and the way she brought the group together as a family more so than a music unit made her the right choice.

“She’s the soul of Kontrapunktus,” he said.

White is excited for audiences to hear each one of the orchestra’s compositions, especially Handel’s “Admeto Overture” which Osheen Manukyan, cellist and co-artistic director, did a special arrangement for to make it work for the group to play, she said.

“I’m mostly enjoying and looking forward to performing with the group again,” White said, “because everyone pushes each other and the energy is good and fun.”

She also hopes people who attend take away what they need to better their day from the Kontrapunktus performances.

“I think music is so personal,” White said, “I’m hoping that the audience has their own personal needs that this music we’re bringing to them can help them with.”

Tickets are available for the Long Beach performance at the Grace First Presbyterian Church on Friday, Jan. 13, on Eventbrite or at kontrapunktus.com.

General admission tickets start at $24.95 and are discounted to $19.95 for senior citizens, veterans and students.

Kontrapunktus will also be performing on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Laguna Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach and on Sunday, Jan. 15 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Pasadena.

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