Arts & Culture

Kansas City Baroque Consortium’s show highlights music commissioned by two queens

Trilla Ray-Carter established the Kansas City Baroque Consortium as a nonprofit in 2016.
Trilla Ray-Carter established the Kansas City Baroque Consortium as a nonprofit in 2016. Trilla Ray-Carter

It’s a rare thing for a city to have its own period instrument ensemble, but thanks to cellist Trilla Ray-Carter, the founder and conductor of the Kansas City Baroque Consortium, area music lovers can enjoy baroque music as it was meant to be heard, with a devotion to historical practice and instruments of the era.

As part of its summer series, which this year is titled “Women of Note,” the consortium will present “Power, Rhetoric and Royalty,” a concert devoted to music commissioned by two female monarchs. The show will be July 26 at Village Presbyterian Church.

Ray-Carter is the local reigning monarch of early music. Born in Joplin, she is one of seven children, all of whom began taking piano lessons around the second grade. It was Ray-Carter’s fourth-grade teacher who suggested she learn how to play cello, and her fate was sealed.

After moving around a bit in her undergraduate years, Ray-Carter completed her undergraduate degree at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin.

“From Appleton, I spent a few years in New Orleans and then went to California to do a master’s degree program at California State University in Fresno and studied with Michael Flaksman, who I consider my greatest cello mentor,” Ray-Carter said. “Then I spent about six or seven years in Los Angeles freelancing, playing in several of the local orchestras and doing some studio recording work. But I grew weary of the intense life in Los Angeles, and headed back to the Midwest. That’s when I arrived in Kansas City.”

Ray-Carter completed her master’s degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance and started to connect with Kansas City’s vibrant classical music community. It was in 2006 that she discovered a recording that completely redirected her musical career.

“I came across Phoebe Carrai’s recording of the Bach suites on the baroque cello, and I knew that I had to go there,” Ray-Carter said. “There was something so beautiful and so clear about baroque music being performed on period instruments that it was something that I really wanted to experience and explore. So I went to Boston to study with Phoebe for two summers at the International Baroque Institute in Cambridge.”

After her discovery of early music, it wasn’t long before Ray-Carter acquired a period cello of her own.

“It’s an 1836 instrument made by Martin Stoss,” she said. “He was a Viennese maker, and although it’s not quite from the baroque era, it’s pretty close. I purchased it from a woman here in Kansas City who had not played it for nearly 50 years. As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it.”

Ray-Carter soon gathered a group of other local musicians interested in period performance, and they presented their first recital in June 2009. In 2016, she established the Kansas City Baroque Consortium as a nonprofit. It is now in its third year of presenting a summer series.

The concert on July 26 will be devoted to music commissioned by Queen Christina of Sweden and Queen Anne of England.

“I chose these two for their love of the arts and for the historical importance of the music that surrounded them during their reign,” Ray-Carter said. “I think their lives offer a portal into the period and allow us to explore the remarkable music that represents some of the most pivotal moments in the baroque era.”

The concert will also be something of a going-away party for countertenor Jay Carter, who has been an important part of Kansas City’s music scene, both as a performer and as co-artistic director of Arnold Epley’s Musica Vocale. Carter will be featured prominently on two works on the program, a cantata by Bononcini and a birthday ode by Handel.

“Jay is a remarkable musician,” Ray-Carter said. “My happiest musical moments have often been playing continuo for him. It was serendipitous that I wanted to feature him on this concert, as he now prepares to leave the area to join the faculty of Westminster College of the Arts in Princeton (New Jersey). It’s wonderful that we have a chance to send him off with a special performance.”

7:30 p.m. July 26. Village Presbyterian, 6641 Mission Road, Prairie Village. $30.

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