Early Music Festival begins with farewell 

For the Festival Music Society of Indiana, it is the end of an epoch. After 34 straight years of engaging early music groups for FMS’ annual June-July Indianapolis Early Music Festival, hosting and introducing them at each concert, proactively leading in FMS fund drives and presenting — within each festival — a lecture series on the art, history and politics influencing music before 1800, FMS Musical Director Frank Cooper is retiring. He will host this year’s June 29-July 15 early music series, and his already appointed (and announced) successor, Mark Cudek, will be introduced.

Cudek is the director of the Early Music Department at Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. FMS board President Gail McDermott-Bowler said, “All our applicants were from out of town, but we are very happy to have obtained Mr. Cudek’s services. His credentials are outstanding.” Cooper himself has been a U of Miami faculty member and a Coral Gables, Fla., resident since leaving Indianapolis in 1978.

Some highlights of this six-concert festival beginning this Friday:

FMS will be presenting its first-event geared-to-families concert Friday. Mime artist Mark Jester, a protégé of Marcel Marceau, and narrator Robert Aubry Davis will bring to life the panther, the lion and various other animals, real and fabled, from medieval and renaissance texts and music in “The Wild Kingdom,” as performed by Hesperus — a popular, often-appearing FMS group.

This Sunday, Boston Camerata performs the original 13th century setting of Carmina Burana — culminating a season that featured Carl Orff’s very popular, early 20th century setting of these medieval itinerant priests’ heretical verses as played by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and choreographed by Dance Kaleidoscope, separately but on the same weekend.

On July 6, Musicians of the Old Post Road (not the one here in Indy), featuring mezzo Pamela Dellal, will perform a program of Bach and his “virtuosic” contemporaries. Sunday, July 8 sees the return from last summer of Jewish, Muslim and Christian music from medieval Spain — this time featuring a four-player group called Voice of the Turtle.

After many past attempts, Cooper finally succeeded in engaging the Montreal-based group Ensemble Caprice for the final two concerts, July 13 and 15. It will feature yet another recorder virtuoso, Matthias Maute — one of several Cooper has brought to Indianapolis over the years.

A Florida State University graduate, Cooper, a native of Atlanta, came to Indy as a Butler U music school faculty member. In 1968, Cooper launched the Butler Romantic Festival, which became nationally renowned for reintroducing forgotten symphonic, chamber and recital music of the Romantic era. In 1973, he assumed FMS directorship. In both endeavors, Cooper became a commanding, sought-after persona in his own right as a keyboard performer, lecturer and polymath of the visual arts, music and how they’ve been intertwined over the centuries.

All FMS concerts will be held at the Indiana History Center. For general festival information, visit www.emindy.org. For ticket info, call 317-251-5190.

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