Tempesta di Mare: A PCCH Group in Residence

Tempesta di Mare, one of the groups in residence at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, is gearing up for its tenth concert season. Their first appearance at PCCH this year will come in mid-October.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary this upcoming concert season, Tempesta di Mare will be making their usual appearances at the   

The Philadelphia Baroque orchestra and chamber choir, numbering 20 members and up depending on the pieces they’re performing, first took up residence in PCCH’s sanctuary a few years ago. They moved at the suggestion of friends Piffaro, another of PCCH’s groups in residence. 

Artistic director, Gwyn Roberts said the group couldn’t be happier with the move from their old grounds in Swarthmore.

“There’s a lot to be said for a concert venue that makes itself a center for music in the community,” said Roberts when discussing the church.  “The audience knows to go there for good events and knows what they’ll get when they go through the door.

“Oh and there’s parking too,” she added with a laugh.

Sure, a great audience is important.  But how about the venue itself? 

Again, Roberts is loud in her praise.

“It’s probably our favorite place to play,” she said.  “It’s both resonant and clear at the same time which is beautiful – it gives a really warm glow to the sound.  The venue has excellent light and sight lines: a great place to see and to hear.   Everyone in the orchestra can hear each other really well which isn’t always the case in such a large venue.”

And for Roberts and Tempesta di Mare, hearing and seeing each other is of critical importance.  Traditional in every aspect of the word, the group performs their baroque pieces as authentically as possible. 

“One of the things that I think is really distinctive about us, that’s unusal, is that we are a self-led orchestra,” said Roberts.  “We never have a conductor because there weren’t conductors back when this music was new.  Everyone is engaged in playing the music together rather than following someone waving a stick.  It gives an engaged quality to the music which is what we really like about it.”

The authenticity doesn’t begin and end with the presentation however.  Roberts and her co-director (and husband), Richard Stone, really do their homework as far as the music selection goes.  With an emphasis on performing “the best Baroque music you’ve never heard”, Roberts said her and Stone tirelessly cull through pieces from the period, searching for the best possible music for their audience. 

“We have a real specialty of finding high quality pieces that haven’t been heard since they were new,” said Roberts.  “These are pieces that haven’t been heard for the past 300 years and that’s really exciting.”

Discovering and transcribing all that music is certainly a lot of work for Roberts and Stone(they also lead the performances and do all the grant, program, and copy-writing) but for this pair, it is truly a labor of love.

“It’s our artistic project,” said Roberts.  “We found this group in order to play the music we find interesting with the people we like to play it with.  Even though we don’t have enough programming in a year for it to be anyone’s full time job, our group really is an ensemble.  It’s always the same people – not a pick-up group.  These people get together again and again to perform.  It develops a really cohesive sound to the music that makes us really happy.”

Tempesta di Mare’s next performance at PCCH will be on Sunday, October 16.

Honoring their anniversary, “Tempesta Turns Ten” will feature pieces by William Boyce, Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Friedrich Fasch, and Jean–Philippe Rameau.

More information about the ensemble, as well as concert dates and tickets, can be found on their website:http://tempestadimare.org/


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