Musical Partnership: Andrew Arceci and Elizabeth Hungerford

Musical Partnership: Andrew Arceci and Elizabeth Hungerford

The recording process and keeping early music alive. 

Andrew Arceci and Elizabeth Hungerford
Baltimore, United States of America

Musical Partnership: Andrew Arceci and Elizabeth Hungerford

The recording process and keeping early music alive. 

This record features a stunning selection of duo repertoire from the late renaissance and early baroque periods, with each piece centring in some way on the themes mentioned in its title - love and lust. How did you go about programming the album, and what was your research process for finding repertoire?

AA: Elizabeth and I overlapped at Peabody Conservatory-Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Mark Cudek, the collegium director, gave us Amarilli mia bella and suggested we "do something interesting with it". Several years later, and having explored much repertoire just the two of us (soprano and viol accompaniment), we decided on early English and Italian repertoire; much later came the title, solidifying the particular tracks, etc.

EH: The basic idea for the disc is already pretty unique in that we had to come up with custom arrangements for soprano and viola da gamba, and wanted the music selections to reflect that uniqueness as well. We had a few pieces we knew we wanted to include such as the incredible “Conzonetta Spirituale sopra alla nanna” by Merula, which is about the Virgin Mary, and pieces such as “Beauty Since You so Much Desire”, in which I fake an orgasm at the end of the song. A theme that could accommodate both of these pieces could really only have been one of “love and lust”!

You have a rather extensive discography that features your work both as a soloist and an ensemble member. What was the recording process like for Love and Lust, and how does making a recording differ from live performance?

AA: Risk makes live performance exciting; anything could happen! For me, the recording process is about capturing a process when together with colleagues, the recording engineer, and/or the producer. I think the album (Love & Lust) captured the performances - the sessions in London - quite well.

EH: The recording process for Love and Lust was pretty exhausting. Andrew flew to London from Boston for the week and we rehearsed as much as we could before the recording started. My house in South London is quite a distance from the church we hired to record in in North London, so at one point we decided to crash at a cheap hotel nearby in order to avoid some of the traveling. The hotel was actually converted horse stables so it was pretty bare bones, but we were just relieved to get a decent night’s rest! (I was also very newly pregnant when we recorded this disc, so between that and the jet lag, we needed the rest!) Andrew and I are both very much perfectionists. We are both happy to do the same take over and over again until it is *just right* where a lot of other people may have moved on. That being said, it was very helpful for us to be working with a producer whose opinion we trusted. If he said we had gotten what we needed, we were usually happy to leave it.

It has received fantastic reviews from a number of publications already! Can you tell me about what the purpose of reviewing is to you as a performer, and how you deal with the reviews you get, whether they be positive or negative?

AA: We've enjoyed a number of reviews from publications in the UK, the US, and Australia. If one "cherishes" the good reviews, then one should accept the bad reviews. However, it's important to remember that any review is one person's opinion. (An institution is never giving you a review, but 1 writer from that institution, and should be quoted/referenced properly.) An artist must move forward, with or without glowing reviews; that said, it's certainly nice to be lauded!

EH: As performers, we often do our best work when we make ourselves vulnerable. Andrew and I are very compatible as performers as we both aren’t afraid to put it all on the line. We’ve made some strong choices in this disc that won’t be for everyone, and we are okay with that. Ultimately, as long as we are happy with the product we produced, that is more important than any review, good or bad.

I have read that you crowdfunded the production of this CD, which is becoming more and more common for musicians and artists across the world. How did your campaign work, and what are the benefits of crowdsourcing projects for musicians?

AA: Yes, we secured the funds within several days! The majority of contributions were $25, $50, and $100 USD. We built a network of patrons through concerts, and enough people were enthusiastic about the repertoire. We've acknowledged the patrons, but would like to thank them again. We could not have recorded the album without their support!

EH: Andrew and I were definitely nervous about the fundraising process as the platform we fundraised on would not release the funds to us unless we hit our (very optimistic) goal. We knew we had a lot of support, but we were definitely overwhelmed by the response: we raised over $10K in less than a week! It was a very humbling experience that made the production of the disc even more special for us. Since we were then able to fund the disc ourselves, we were able to make all of the decisions ourselves. While this could be overwhelming for some people, Andrew and I really appreciated the opportunity to make this disc exactly what we wanted it to be. All decisions - from the repertoire, to the edits, to the cover design - were up to us. While it would be nice to have less work to do on subsequent discs, we really enjoyed the freedom we were allowed for this first disc. I would also like to thank all of the donors. We simply could not have done it without them!

Is there a similarity between your preparatory approach to contemporary music and early music? How do the two complement one another, in your experience?

EH: I never got into singing much contemporary music as my career has been almost entirely in the early music genre. However, I have sung quite a bit of jazz in my day and I find that early music and jazz are quite similar. In my experience, both genres are more about story telling and interpretation than technique. I also really enjoy the approach to both early music and jazz. While you could get in big trouble for changing even one note in an opera aria, if you sing exactly what is on the page in jazz, it is simply wrong. You are meant to make it your own thing. Look at the music, pass it through your humanity, then sing it. The notes on the page are just a guide. I try to bring the same approach to early music.

Both you and Elizabeth are alumni of The Peabody Institute - did you begin playing together during your studies? Can you tell me about your journey as musical partners, and what you've learnt about ensemble work from playing together?

AA: We performed together quite often when we were both in the UK, less the last several years due to the distance, but also familial deaths, births, etc. I was born in Boston, but lived in Cincinnati for several years, Baltimore, New York, Oxford, then between Oxford, London, and Boston; I currently live in Concord, MA. Bethie is from Seattle, but currently lives in London, England.

EH: As Andrew mentioned earlier, the head of Peabody’s Early Music Department, Mark Cudek, assigned us to work together on a piece for a school concert. He essentially put us in a room together and told us to figure it out on our own. Andrew and I had met before that day, but really didn’t know each other vey well at all. As it turns out, Mark knew what he was doing when he put us together as that day was just the beginning of a lot of music making between the two of us! It can be difficult to find collaborators with whom you can freely share ideas and experiment with in a fun, productive way, so when you find someone you can work with in that way, you don’t let them go! (Bonus if you also enjoy their company over a beer or two after rehearsal!)

What is it about early music for the voice that inspires and engages you?

EH: I don’t have a natural vibrato in my voice (really!) which is often a preferred sound for early choral music. It wasn’t until later that I learned to add vibrato (though I mostly use it as an ornament) and was then able to more confidently sing more early solo rep. However, this didn’t happen until I was well into my twenties and so I was a bit late to the game. Had I begun to formally study voice earlier straight out of high school, I would likely have ended up in a more traditional music school that focuses on opera. I am lucky I didn’t because my voice simply isn’t suited for opera! It is, however, well suited for early music. Much of this rep was written for my exact voice type and so I find it very enjoyable and comfortable to sing. I also happen to find it achingly beautiful and endlessly inspiring, so what’s not to love!

Love and Lust is now available to download and purchase here