Arcadia Players name new artistic director: Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Arceci has played with the group before

  • Composer and teacher Andrew Arceci is the new artistic director of the Arcadia Players. CONTRIBUTED/ANDREW ARCECI

  • The Arcadia Players, who specialize historically informed performances of Baroque and early classical music, hope to play live in April for the first time in over two years. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Monday, January 17, 2022

The Arcadia Players, the Valley-based ensemble that specializes in playing Baroque and early classical music, have tapped a past performer with the group as its new artistic director.

Andrew Arceci, a multi-instrumentalist, teacher and composer based in Acton, officially takes over leadership of the group March 1 — and if conditions allow, he’ll be at the helm for some live performances by the Arcadia Players this spring and summer.

He replaces harpsichordist and pianist Ian Watson, who led Arcadia Players for 10 years before leaving in 2018.

Arceci, who plays the viola da gamba, violone and double bass, was one of the three candidates for the director’s position, all of whom were asked to lead online concerts of Baroque music last year with members of the Arcadia Players as part of the auditioning process. Arceci’s program, “The Migration of Italian Music,” examined the spread of Italian styles across Europe and beyond during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Jon Solins, head of the board of directors of the Arcadia Players, said all three candidates — the other two were violinists Daniel Lee and Jude Ziliak — are extremely accomplished musicians and instructors. “We had to make a pretty tough choice among three very talented and creative people,” he said.

What tipped the balance for Arceci, he said, was his personality and varied skills.

“Andrew is just a really gregarious, outgoing person — he really engages with people,” Solins said. “And like any organization, when we look to the future and ways to grow our audience, we think he’ll be a great person to do that, out meeting people.

“He’s also a multi-faceted performer,” Solins said. “He brings a lot of organizational skills to the job. And the fact that’s he played with us and knows some of our performers, that’s certainly something in his favor.”

Arceci, who’s currently working and studying music in Europe, said he’s excited to join the Arcadia Players, as he’s especially drawn to the group’s history of what’s known as “historically informed performances”: music that aims to be faithful to the approach and style of the era in which a composition was written.

As Solins explains, that can take the form of instruments that vary in construction and tone from their modern counterparts, and in music — a concerto by Bach, say — that’s played and sung at a different tempo or volume than a modern take on that same music. With the Arcadia Players, these concerts can have as many as 35 performers or as few as four or five, depending on the music being played.

In an email, Arceci said he began his college-level music training at the Peabody Conservatory “in orchestral and jazz bass, but I quickly became interested in the history of the double bass, early repertoire and art history. Naturally, those interests led to historically informed performance.”

Arceci later earned degrees at The Juilliard School and the University of Oxford, and he has since gone on to play with a number of groups that specialize in period music, including Boston Baroque and the Handel & Haydn Society (also located in Boston). He also previously directed Wellesley College’s Collegium Musicum, an ensemble devoted to the performance of early music on original instruments.

In a podcast last month, he discussed the challenges of balancing playing and conducting in early music performances, rather than conducting from a dais for more modern music: “You have one ear with what you’re doing, and you try to have another ear with the ensemble.”

Arceci is also the founder and director of the Winchendon (Massachusetts) Music Festival, an annual event that showcases classical music along with a range of other styles including world music, jazz and folk.

“The fact that Andrew has that kind of broad musical background and interest was another thing about him that appealed to me personally,” Solins said.

In addition to working with the Arcadia Players, Arceci said he’ll continue to oversee the Winchendon festival, which like so many other musical events had to be postponed the last two years due to the pandemic. “Within the arts,” he said, “it’s quite common to have several jobs — I perform, record, teach, arrange, compose, etc.”

In fact, he’s performed and recorded with a number of organizations, including the BBC, in Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland.

Both he and Solins say they hope the Arcadia Players, which has been limited to online or livestreamed performances for the past two years, can return for live performances this spring. Solins says the group plans to present “St Matthew Passion,” an oratorio by the German Baroque composer Johann Theile (not the more well-known “St Matthew Passion” by Bach), in April.