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Alexandra MacCracken, the founder and director of Ensemble Gaudior, has performed as a baroque violinist with the Washington Bach Consort, Opera Lafayette, and Modern Musick, as well as with other period-instrument ensembles in Richmond, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York. After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Ms. MacCracken taught for several years at the University of Virginia, where she also played in the Piedmont Chamber Players, a faculty ensemble. Other highlights of her extensive experience as a chamber musician include membership in the Squareknot Quartet, whose repertoire ranged from the classics to innovative arrangements in popular, folk, and jazz styles, and more recently in the baroque groups La Stravaganza and Harmonia Nova. Ms. MacCracken currently freelances on modern as well as baroque violin and in addition occasionally finds time to play Renaissance consort music on the treble viol.
Marta Howard, violist, performs throughout the Washington area in groups as diverse as the Washington Bach Consort and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra and in venues ranging from the National Cathedral to Signature Theatre. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Dr. Howard attended the Interlochen Arts Academy and holds degrees in viola performance from the University of Wisconsin, the Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Iowa. She has participated in summer festivals around the US, Canada, and Italy, including the Aspen Music Festival and Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute, and she has studied chamber music with the Cleveland, Tokyo, and Stradivari Quartets. She has taught at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Georgetown University.
Harpsichordist Elena Tsai has performed throughout the United States and Europe. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Frank Huntington Beebe Grant, the Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship, and the Rislov Foundation Grant, which enabled her to study harpsichord in Paris for a year. She was also selected as a finalist in the Pro Musicis competition in New York and was a semi-finalist in the 5th Jurow International Harpsichord competition. Recently, she has performed with the Bach Sinfonia, the Handel Choir of Baltimore, the Hopkins Symphony, La Rocinante, and at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. She attended the University of Michigan where she earned degrees in political science, piano, and harpsichord, which she studied with Edward Parmentier. She also teaches piano at the Friends School of Baltimore.
Doug Poplin, violoncello, performs regularly in venues throughout the metropolitan Washington area as a recitalist, chamber musician, and ensemble member. Never content with standing still, he has pushed his artistic flexibility to include both early music—performing and recording on baroque violoncello with The Bach Sinfonia as well as concertizing with The Washington Bach Consort—and experimental music on electric ’cello with the avant-garde ensemble BLK W/ BEAR and his newest collaboration with singer-songwriter Rich Morel. Mr. Poplin received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Minnesota and undertook graduate studies at the University of Maryland, where he was an Orchestral Fellow and worked with the Guarneri String Quartet.
Thomas MacCracken performs in the Washington area on historical keyboard instruments (harpsichord, fortepiano, and continuo organ) as well as recorder and baroque flute, with groups including the Washington Bach Consort, Bach Sinfonia, Ensemble Gaudior, and The Friends of Fasch. While earning a doctorate in musicology at the University of Chicago he was active as an early-music performer in that city and has been a founding member of several ensembles both there and since moving to Virginia in 1985. As a scholar, from 1996 to 2006 he was editor of the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, and since 1991 he has been involved in documenting all surviving antique viols worldwide, a project whose early stages were supported by a research fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution.
William Simms, theorbo and baroque guitar, appears regularly with such groups as Opera Lafayette, Apollo’s Fire, Modern Musick, and Olde Friends Concert Artists, and is also a founding member of the ensemble La Rocinante. Active as a continuo player, he has performed numerous operas and oratorios, including performances with the Cleveland Opera, New York State Baroque, and Tempesta di Mare. Having earned degrees from Peabody Conservatory (M.Mus.) and College of Wooster (B.Mus.), Mr. Simms currently serves on the faculties of Mount Saint Mary’s College; Hood College, where he is founder and director of the Hood College Early Music Ensemble; and the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He has recorded for the Dorian, Centaur, and Eclectra labels.
Harpsichordist Vera Kochanowsky has performed with numerous Washington era groups including the National Gallery Chamber Players, the Bach Sinfonia, and the Washington Kantorei, and her solo appearance at the Phillips Collection was praised by The Washington Post as “a first rate recital…poised, pristine, luxuriant.” A graduate of the Oberlin and New England Conservatories and Stanford University, Dr. Kochanowsky was also the recipient of a Fulbright grant for harpsichord and early music studies in Europe. In addition to teaching harpsichord and chamber music privately, she
is the founder and director of two Washington-based chamber choirs, Carmina and Illuminare, and is a helpline volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.