In the autumn of 1999, a group of professional string players invited Margaret Faultless to Devon to direct a workshop devoted to baroque performance style. Some sixteen years later Devon Baroque, the result of this first meeting, is a highly respected chamber orchestra, performing on baroque instruments, with a reputation for exuberant and polished performances of baroque repertoire. It matches scholarship with a strong musical personality, bringing music alive to contemporary audiences.
Devon Baroque has established itself as an important addition to the artistic landscape of the South West, performing over 120 concerts of repertoire from Biber to Bach and Boyce in cathedrals, churches, concert halls and small, private venues. It has worked with international soloists such as Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance and Sebastian Comberti and helps to promote young musicians at the start of their careers. In addition to performing from its large repertoire of instrumental music, Devon Baroque collaborates with vocal ensembles and choirs.
A special highlight in 2006 was a remarkable weekend at Dartington, ‘The Vivaldi Experience’ which brought Vivaldi’s music to a large audience and demonstrated the imaginative programming and high artistic profile of Devon Baroque. Similar weekends took place in November 2009 and March 2012 when Handel’s music was featured in the former and English music of the Golden Age in the latter. In 2007, Devon Baroque launched it’s first Subscription Series, which was a great success with three programmes played in nine concerts across the county. Further series took place in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In the spirit of a true Baroque orchestra, the size and composition of Devon Baroque varies. This reflects the demands of the repertoire, from a small chamber ensemble to a larger orchestra with wind players. The Baroque stringed instruments used differ significantly from modern ones in their lighter construction and angle of neck to body. This, coupled with the more convex and flexible bows of the period, enables the orchestra to produce a quality of sound considered close to that heard at the time.
Photographs by Johnny Fenn