REMA (Réseau Européen de Musique Ancienne or "European Early Music Network") was founded in 2000 in Ambronay, France, and since then has added a presence in Versailles. Today, REMA comprises 78 member organisations in 20 European countries, its strengths lying in the running of conferences (several times per year) and support for broadcasting (a well stocked video library, a regular newsletter, a web radio station with high quality programming. Since 2013, REMA has been running European Early Music Days, of which the fifth will take place on March 21st, the first day of spring and the birthday of Johan Sebastian Bach. Under the remit of this important day, no less than 80 events have been announced, of which 20 in France. The procedure for taking part is open to any ensemble wishing to take part in this joyful initiative, whether or not they are a member of the network. Dozens of these conferences, workshops and concerts will be broadcast live on the Internet at page, as well as on Bachtrack, on March 21st.

© Sarah Tehranian
© Sarah Tehranian
At the heart of the project lies the desire to discover European heritage. For Daniel Bizeray, secretary of REMA and director of the Ambronay Regional Cultural Centre, an essential component is the process of bringing this music to a wider audience: “The majority of our initiatives have been made possible by the support of Creative Europe, which has enabled us to break out of a closed dialogue which was fertile but barely visible to the outside world” . Ambronay remains the network's spiritual home, since REMA was created there as a result of a meeting organised in the context of its annual festival, a meeting which Bizeray remembers, having been appointed the moderator by Alain Brunet, who is today honorary president both of REMA and of the Ambronay centre.

Daniel Bizeray, secretary of REMA and director of the Ambronay Cultural Centre © bertrand-pichene
Daniel Bizeray, secretary of REMA and director of the Ambronay Cultural Centre
© bertrand-pichene

Born of this desire for different organisations to meet and exchange repertoire, REMA now boasts a significant presence in other European centres, notably in Basel, where the Early Music Awards ceremony will take place in March 2017, rewarding “the artists and projects which have contributed to the renown of early music”, the most recent laureates being the project and Benjamin Bagby, who will receive their prize on March 17th. Another centre is Prague, which hosted the latest occurrence of Showcase, a biannual event which give young talent the chance to be seen by promoters, and which will take place this month in The Hague, in parallel with a conference and a general assembly. Major institutions like the Paris Philharmonie and the Concertgebouw in Bruges are also supporters of REMA, which lays the foundation for a promising future for the project outside its usual venues, as does the number of events in the European Early Music Day, which is already a significant increase on previous years.

The 2017 edition, according to Bizeray, “demonstrates the deliberately huge range from small to large scale, from free concerts to paid ones, from musicologically demanding programmes to the best known repertoire, everything at a considerable level of excellence”. There will also be important concerts in Copenhagen dedicated to Monteverdi, the usual celebratory programms in Cologne dedicated to Bach's birthday, to Bach and Handel in York, or the Festa Vivaldiana of the Ghilieri Choir and Consort at the Auditorium de Lyon on 19th March and then on 21st in Pavia, at the opening of their festival. Add to that the Improptu (and free) concert of the young ensemble Nexus Baroque at Ambronay on March 21st, Concerto Soave's rediscovery of Luzzaschi, Peri, Caccini and D'India in Marseille in the contest of the Mars en Baroque festival, or the extraordinary programme from Lux Musicae London dedicated to the Renaissance and the early baroque.

Giulio Prandi, director of Ghislierimusica at Pavia © Giulio Akomi
Giulio Prandi, director of Ghislierimusica at Pavia
© Giulio Akomi
The sheer number of ensembles and events speaks for the diversity of the Early Music repertoire, be it across the centuries or across Europe. From the mediaeval plainsong of Hildegard of Bingen to Bach's Goldberg Variations, passing by Renaissance French-Flemish polyphony and the birth of opera, under the pen of Monteverdi at the dawn of the 17th century, the language and genres of music have evolved under the influence of ever more intensive exchanges between the various European musical traditions. Early music is an inexhaustible source of discoveries, with the responsibility for its exploration resting on the shoulders of the young artists that REMA supports. 

Guilio Prandi, director of Ghislierimusica at Pavia, is a key player in the eeemerging project, whose mission is to support the appearance onto the professional scene of new ensembles. For Prandi, “A key priority must be the promotion of projects for young artists”. Today, it may seem that the promotion of the aesthetic, the manner and the philological attention to scores is an accepted fact thanks to the work of the “pioneers”. However, that leaves the danger of forgetting the principal objective, the “impulse towards research and experiment, and especially the idea that we have not yet learned everything, that in every musician and in every work, there lies a secret that we must take pains to reveal”. From this comes the bridges built by his festival Barocco è il mondo between baroque and contemporary music, as well as between concerts and other forms of event. It's an intent shared by Daniel Bizeray, who considers the crossover points between different genres to be ever fertile. For Bizeray, when allied to the most important work in recreating scores, especially for the mediaeval era, REMA's principal objectve remains “enrichment via friction and fertilisation”. A fine intention!


Translated from French by David Karlin

This article was sponsored by REMA.