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Interview with Renaissance musician, Oakland’s Vincent Ho

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Vincent Ho resides in Oakland’s Fruitvale district and plays over fifty instruments. In Oakland fourteen years, he specializes in Renaissance choral music, performing at local churches. He has been a harpsichordist and organist for more than a quarter century, but for the past three years, he has concentrated on Eastern European Renaissance music, becoming the artistic director for Ansámbl Luython.

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“In our group’s case, we commission research and the building of instruments, and frequently, neither the luthier nor I will know how the instrument will sound once it is finished. An enormous amount of financial investment is required. Ensembles like mine cannot exist without private or public patronage,” said Mr. Ho.

“We try to present from academic music, what Renaissance music really is, and what it really sounded like. That is the study of musicology. Almost all of the music we have is from Eastern European museums, transcribed into modern music notation. It is my job to transcribe, as the music director, and direct my choir and orchestra to play the music the way it is supposed to be according to research.”

Like many local musicians in his field, looks forward to the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival and Exhibition, taking place between June 1st and 8th, 2014 at UC Berkeley.

“Every two years, all of the world renowned classical musicians who play music written before 1750 will gather together in Berkeley for academic conferences and musical performances, and instrument sales… hence, the exhibition part.”

The music festival, like many musical showcases for Renaissance period Eastern European music, is located north of Oakland, but many of the music makers live here.

“Many artists in my field reside and teach in Oakland, however, due to the academic and economic environments, the performances are inevitably in Berkeley or suburbs north of there. Ironically, artists are often unable to afford to live in the cities we perform in, because usually only soloists are able to make any profits at the performances.”

“Those with students are able to barely make enough to pay for their rent and living expenses. The only people who actually make a good living in my field are full time organists and music directors for large congregational churches.”

“Touring, including touring for an orchestra or a choir, is more of a marketing thing.”

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